Interlude pt. II p.3

Maria snorted unexpectedly and drops of juice dribbled down her chin. “O K” she said with a hint of irony, wiping her mouth. ‘More like the tasty power of manual labor…’

Immediately though, she was inclined to agree. Fine layers of richly familiar flavors—sweet onions, mushrooms, and peppers—melded together succulently. And while she could get quality food at home, she knew she at least appreciated it more this way.

“Omph,” she replied enthusiastically through muffling bites, “jish ish delishush.” She held a hand over her mouth in an attempt to be polite.

Lana was clearly pleased, and beckoned her to a circular table laden with a dark green cloth. They sat in wooden chairs across from each other, Maria sticking her long legs out to the side as she ate. She was hungrier than she realized.

“So tell me Maria, how are things? Are you still working at Genesys?”

“I am. But… Something happened…” She hesitated, toying unconsciously with a napkin. “We had an accident in the lab. Some people are still pretty shaken up about it.”

“And you? Are you okay?”

“I’m having to visit a sculptor twice a week, required by the company. The sessions aren’t doing me a lotta’ good though, I don’t think. It’s hard to take advice from someone who’s more dysfunctional than I am, but I unfortunately have to get his approval to continue my research.”

Lana laughed. “Well, I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

“Yeah,” she half-smiled. “But there was one thing…” She chose her words carefully. “After the session I had this sort of… breakdown. I couldn’t stop crying; and there was this hard, dark feeling in my chest. Like nothing would ever be good again. I’m fine now though… it’s just… it’s like the feeling is stuck right here,” she said, pressing a hand against her sternum, “waiting for me to be weak enough for it to take over again.”

‘So that’s what was going on last night… How long has she been this way?’ Lana wondered. “And have you been feeling well? Aside from this?”

“Lately? Well, I feel fine with life… with my life… but ever since what happened in the lab it’s like I’m suddenly in the backseat, watching the world go by as some mysterious driver chaperones me to an unknown destination.”

“Well it sounds to me you’re just changing, sweetheart. Sometimes, jarring events can do that to a person… You know, when you and Ella were little and I decided to leave you with your father, I remember going through something similar—it was like the whole world had suddenly gone dark; I even started to wonder whether the light had ever been there at all, after a time.”

‘Yeah, I can feel that… but it doesn’t change what you did,’ thought Maria. “So how did you get over it?”

“I found help. I read books and I went to seminars. It was what worked for me… And eventually, I learned that I had to face myself. I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t who I wanted to be, and that I was tired of telling my sad story for sympathy. I wanted to be free… but that meant changing everything about my life, including how I saw myself and how I saw the world.

“And here’s the thing: every time you change what you believe, the part of you that believed otherwise has to die off. And like death, letting go of your opinions and methods feels like losing a part of yourself; it is painful, confusing, and often terrifying, which is why many people will instead choose to sit in their fortress of beliefs, unchanging, until life forces them to do otherwise.”

Maria didn’t say anything, listening attentively, and so Lana went on:

“I know it’s hard to grasp, but without death, we could never open to the new in life… We would be stuck in our comfortable patterns of existence, of living, of thinking. If we didn’t have death to rejuvenate us and expand our perceptions, then we would be truly dead; empty, expressionless shells unable to grow, unable to change…”

She got up from the table and went to her bookshelf, coming back with a thick, orange paperback. “There is a saying,” she began, flipping about midway through and reading aloud, “ ‘You may climb to the top of Mount Everest. You may cut to the center of creation. You may straddle the bounds of the universe, and you may cheat death at every turn. But mastery of Self is better and more difficult.’ ”

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