“Mommy, why is that man crying?”
“Leave him alone, Juno. It’s not polite to stare.”
The underground stone chamber is well lit, illuminated with subtly placed halogen spots, soft ambient light in pockets behind the rough hewn stone pillars, dividing its expansive area into warm dim pockets, other spots brightly picking out the grey walls. At the foot of the stone steps there are red velvet ropes on brass stands to cordon off the damp walls where condensation still trickles down among the moss. The low voices of people milling about and chatting echoes around the cavernous chamber in a low indistinguishable murmur.
I am on my knees, my tears are of joy, absolution. I am alive, complete, full. Feeling the soft warm familiar flesh of my human body is like coming home from a long and dusty trip. Clean soft corduroy against my legs; It is impossible to express the elation at the sensation of the cotton-spun thread of a simple button up shirt lightly tickling the skin of my chest.
I don’t care that some people are looking at me strangely, I couldn’t explain how good it feels just to be crying these simple salt tears. They are polite, and respectful, they know or feel the history of this place and its monuments, and it means different things to each who has come to view the movie premiere and it’s exhibits. In twos, threes, mostly older cultured people and some young artists, a few who have brought children, they circulate the chamber and the exhibit tables, pacing in slow steps with the reverence and reverie that comes from digesting so much history and documented event.
The boy pulls away from his mother anyways and comes and stands directly in front of me. His mother reluctantly lets him go and politely turns her attention to a nearby table with some posters and pamphlets.
“Mister, why are you crying?”
I thought about something I had once read about an ancient 20th century author, a quote about children: I don’t believe in children. I don’t believe in childhood. I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation. ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that. You mustn’t tell them that.’ You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true you tell them. What was my truth? Why was I crying?
“The movie really touched me.” I said. “I’m happy to be alive, I just feel so happy to be human.” I wiped my cheeks with my sleeve and laughed. I had to laugh: sitting on my knees crying in the middle of the lobby with all these people walking around me, and this curious boy standing in front of me. “Did you like the movie?” I asked.
“I guess.” He said. “It was weird.”
I laughed again. “What was your favorite part?”
“I liked the robots fighting at the end.” he said. He balled up his little fists and made some made some excited punching motions. Then he slowed and grew silent, and pulled at his shirt absently. “I didn’t like when the girl died. It was sad.”
“I know.” I said. I smiled at him again. He looked down and kicked at the stone floor. My shoulders were drooping in and I felt my chest with my hand. Felt for my heart beneath my breast. I took a deep breath and got to my feet, and brushed myself off.
“I’m surprised your parents brought you here. Aren’t you a bit young for this? There was a lot of violence. Weren’t you scared?”
“Doesn’t bother me.” He shrugged. “My mom said it was important for me to see.”
“Well you’re very brave.” I said. “Is your family here?”
“Just my mom.” He said. “Do you have friends here?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I’m going to go see them now.”
There is a table with wine, and I found Gene, Peter, and Thau. I embrace each of them, smiling, though I still can’t keep the tears from rolling down my face, and we all share a laugh about what a mess I am. We talk for a while about the movie premiere, then I wander around the chamber a bit, looking at the exhibits.
Where the Controller had been killing me there now remained a pile of jelly, almost in the form of something, like a small statue. It is walled off by a little low square of glass, and surrounded by people standing and examining it at a wary distance. To the surprise of the crowd I reach over and poke a finger at the leftover material, and it rolls gloopily like a ball of tapioca. Harmless.
I leave the chamber, back up the stone steps, and up into a little book shop. A friendly woman in stylish horn-rims is sitting at a table sorting stacks of hardcover books. She looks up at me as I emerge from the cellar stairs.
“How did you like the premiere?” She asks me.
“It was incredible” I say. “What an experience. I can’t really describe it.”
She smiles understandingly
“Before it was a movie, it was a book.” She says.
“Is the author here?” I ask, “I would love to meet them.”
She just shakes her head sadly, no.
I leave the shop and make my way home.
The houses are set up in rows, quite a human style block, not much different than your typical bohemian row housing, each one has multiple floors. They are not homogenous, each is a different size, different style. This is housing for young people not unlike near a University, each group of roommates lives in one floor of each division, creating a tightly packed community.
I walk home by myself, slowly, through the treeless streets, under the artificial sky.
I didn’t feel like being alone, so I stopped by a friends place a few doors down to see if they were in. The lights were on, and I heard sound from upstairs, so I opened the unlocked door and went inside. My friend and a few guys I didn’t know were hanging out in the small bachelor apartment strewn with spray cans, markers and sketchbooks, and bits of electronics, listening to beats through a vintage stereo. My friend was a graffiti writer, who’s name ‘T. Watson’ had left him with the somewhat unfortunate, if widely recognized, handle of ‘Twats’, which you could find scrawled on any and every available surface around the area.
“Brampton!” He yelled as I poked my head around the stairs.
“What you doing?” I said.
‘Hivin out”, he said, “making arts.”
One of the other guys glanced up from his touchslate and gave me a nod.
“Oh man, I’m glad you’re here,” Twats says, “I gotta show you something.”
I followed him into his room and he pointed to some small canvasses tacked to the wall. They were spraypainted with some chunky old-school looking robots in bright funky colors. The paint registered my presence and the painted robot on the canvas raised it’s arms in a crude and choppy motion sequence, then danced a little jig.
“It’s nano in the paint.” Said Twats.
“Oh cool, I’ve seen that,” I said. “Nice job.”
“Yeah but look at this,” he said.
He pointed to a part of the painting that was written in paint markered block letters: ATTN: BOT; CLOSELIGHTS()
The robot on the canvas raised and lowered its cartoon head, and the lights in the bedroom flickered and turned off, then rose slowly on a dimmer back to bright.
“Wow!” I said, “some low-level bot programming.”
“Yeah,” he said. “mean, huh?”
“You should have seen this movie I saw tonight,” I said. “Really wild, futuristic bots…”
I tried to explain it to him, but I couldn’t remember all of it, and I couldn’t remember the name of the movie. Did I ever know it?
“Before it was a movie, it was a book.” Something jogged in my memory, and I suddenly remembered that my sister had a copy of the book. “Wait here,” I said, “I’ll be back.”
I ran out of Twats apartment, and past the rows of houses to my place, and up the stairs. I went to my sister’s room and looked around on the desk and the shelves near the bed.
The worn copy of the softcover book was on the floor open face down, and I looked at the cover. It said: ‘WYLHIL’.
Then I was back home.