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29. Epoche

" Who am I? Did you hear that, Lila Kodzi? The Sphinx spoke." Sarvaduhka shivered.

"It was one of the camels. Hamad snorted. He snorts, thats all."

Sarvaduhka persisted. "Oh Great One, I will convey your question to Izzy: Who am I? I myself am but a poor, small person in the hospitality trade. I have two, three motels jointly with my cousins, although they hardly do anything but watch TV and drink alcoholic items. I will ask Izzy, who knows many things like that. But can you get Johnny Abilene, Wondrous One? Izzy wants to know, will you do it A.S.A. of P.? He would do this himself, but he is indisposed."

"Maybe Abu can give us a sign." Lila nudged Sarvaduhka.

"Exactly, but please be quiet, Lila. I am doing this Great One, can you give us a sign?"

My selfhood was significantly in disarray. I was being addressed by creatures whose formation I had initiated some seven hundred million years before in an attempt to disembark from the Milky Way, where I found myself stranded. On the other hand, I was being held in a Texas highway rest stop cafe a good ways out in space toward the Large Magellanic Cloud. Besides which, I was some sort of tourist attraction.

Shaman wanted to eat me. I wanted to go home. Yet I couldnt find my center. To me was lost that Archimedean fulcrum from which the soul can act.

"A sign, oh Great One! Please, a sign!"

It was like trying to sit up when your back is out?Where are those muscles? My desperation drove me deeper and deeper away from my senses, deeper and deeper away from thoughts and feelings too. Sinking in, even the desperation dwindled above me like bubbles rising away from a skin diver.

Through murk and roil, I squinted as an artist squints, bracketing the details to understand the whole. Fish and weed of mind tumbled by, denuded of names and relations, continually devouring one another, blurring boundaries. This wasnt the swill of Shamans hole, for now I was the diver and the pearls I found would be mine.

But then the word "I" grew goosefeet. It emptied. "I" was just a mark, a convenience of thought, vacuous outside the quote marks.

The voices of Shaman?Im you!?of Sarvaduhka, Lila Kodzi, the sound and light show?upbeat, mendacious?all merged in a current without source or destination. The moan of the wind, an atom bomb, nostalgia, the planet Mars, the number three, oneself, the South of France, all lines all gone!


Place went. Sequence went. Time was ungetatable. No thought to think and not a thing to think it. "I" kept diving. "I" allowed "myself" to be swallowed further until, dissolving, "I" melted into a dark, pliable mass one could only call the bottom. Sea creatures here, murky, inchoate, that altered as ones gaze changed, inseparable from ones gaze.

A stirring here, continually! Not the blank void of the mystics! Call it an urge, call it Der Wille Zur Macht, call it Tao or Paulis Exclusion Principle, impelling the contractile world back out of its own navel:

Terms may be used

But are none of them absolute,

says Lao Tze of this foetal state.

"I" had unwittingly performed an epoche, and this was its crux. "I" had found the fulcrum. "I" was utterly free. "I" could do anything.

I broke wind.

All at once, the goosefeet fell away. Iwas there, little me and big me, as before: Mel and Abu al-Hawl, the one space-bound in a helpless stupor, the other grounded in a strange galaxy, both on account of Shaman. Yes, Shaman existed and Gypsy and Nora in the Magellanic Stream, Izzy in his lockup, Sarvaduhka and Lila Kodzi holding their noses, the camels huffing and turning away, the tourists oblivious.

I had glimpsed my fulcrum. Used it even. I had witnessed the birth of a world ex nihilo, with me in the middle. Epoche. Incomprehensible! I would bide my time and wait to see what it meant.

Some things were a bit different. I was aware somehow, as information, as something casually read or heard, that Gamal Abdel Nasser was dead. (He had been alive before the epoche.) Also, the Vietnam War was still going on, with American soldiers heavily invested.

And Eugene McCarthy wasnt president. My epoche had shifted a sweaty upper lip into the Oval Office. There it had been, for a hundredth of a second, hovering above a swivel chair, just the lip, a little damp skin above it, and the barest hint of nostril. Then, due to a principle the Magellanics call "Causal Recovery," in order to preserve the causal chain locally, a human being congealed around it, complete with his past, present and future, grade school teachers, mortician, the lot: a guy name of Richard Nixon. Some other things changed as well. The American flag was now red white and blue (and now, it always had been!).

Nobody but me would know the difference, for my new universe came complete with history?retroactively?and memories in synch. Nobody, I suspected, but Izzy.

There was one other change I was immediately aware of. A guy in cowboy boots with spurs, wearing a ten-gallon hat and carrying a guitar case under his arm, was striding into the Sphinx enclosure where Sarvaduhka and Lila Kodzi grimaced: "Feh! Feh! Feh!"

"Mel?" he was saying. "Is that you, son? Is it really, truly you?"

"Gone Joe! Dad!" I said?somehow.

Somehow, he heard me. Effluvium despite, he galloped to my rock butt and embraced the cooling, rough stone, pressing into me with all his might, kissing me and weeping for joy.

28. Who Am I? | Izzy and the Father of Terror | 30. Passport Photo