Monday, October 31, 2005

The Difference-a Fragment

As someone has probably already realized, I have not been updating this lately.  There are two reasons why I haven’t written: first, I’m taking three graduate class right now which are demanding a lot from me, and second, I’m talking to someone about writing for a magazine with similar themes as those I’ve been discussing here.  Since my inspiration in the last few months has been sucked dry by school, I decided to save those few ideas I do have until I know what will happen with this writing opportunity.  

Before school got into full swing I was able to start the following fragment on Hip-Hop and music in general.  I decided to post in here, unedited, since I won’t be able to write anything new until some time in December.  On that note, the Chapter Five that I posted before this is also for the most part unedited.

I have recently been spending some time on that great life-taker the “Internet Forum.”  In particular I was involved in a lively debate over at—a great site.  The topic got around to what makes good Christian Hip-Hop.  I pointed to my previous blogs on the subject wherein I argue that there should be certain difference between secular and Christian music—a difference that must transcend lyrics.  It is this idea that I am going to explore a bit more here.

One of the things that have historically held popular music in general from being treated on the same level as other Art is the fact that many musicians do not consider their works as a whole. (A Marxist would disagree with me here, suggesting that the only true separation is along class lines.  Elitist members of society create Artistic rules and structures in order to systematically renounce pop music as useless.  Oddly enough it is pop music that helps make the rich, richer and to establish materialistic philosophies as the norm in our culture.  But that is for another post…) It is not uncommon to here a singer talk about how a lyric expresses or says this or that, but rarely do they attempt to explain what the music expresses or says.  This is due, in part, to a belief that music does not have tangible communicative properties.  Lyrics can speak, music can only make people “feel.”  Therefore, many musicians fail to even attempt to communicate through their instruments.  Another reason for this is that most popular music is made by people who do not think in artistic terms (a fault of our world’s retreat from intelligence and critical thinking).  Most rock bands are made up of young teenagers, whose goals are more often than not to let out aggression, be popular, and meet girls.  

For most pop music this problem of uniting the themes of the lyrics and the power of the music is very difficult.  The ability to have a four piece band all understand and agree (even in a general way) on a theme and work together successfully to express that theme is daunting.  The few bands that are able to do this are often headed by diabolical singers or the members communicate exceptionally well: I.E. Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins….etc.  Making a song with four members of a band, where each member has an instrument, and each instrument has a part, means that there are many opportunities for the theme to be diluted.  

Imagine if the theme of the song is love, as it often is.  The lead singer writes the lyrics to the song and a basic chord progression on guitar and takes it into the band for them to learn.  In his lyrics the focus is upon the difficulty of finding true love.  Lets assume that he tells the band that this is the theme (something that in my experience is rarely done---most of the time the singer just plays and sings the song and the band ignores his words and pays attention to the melody and the music…but I’ll give our fictional rock star the benefit of the doubt.), and they each begin learning the song.  Even if they are conscious of the theme, they will each have their own interpretation of what “true love” means.  Thus the process of interpretation has begun before the Artist has finished the work.  Sometimes this can be helpful, by “pooling” their visions of a theme together they can make a work that better communicates to the listener.  But my point here is that there are several points where the theme can become watered down and diverted.  In the case of Hip-Hop this problem can be minimized simply because it does not require so many people in order to produce the song.  In reality, all that is necessary is a producer and a rapper, and often times these are one in the same.  

Chapter 5

Chapter 5
     When U received the message that he could return to work at the station he felt both relieved and anxious.  It was two weeks after his meeting with Mr. Hughes.  He had spent most of his jobless days brooding over the integrity of the System.  Whenever a genuine doubt would stab its way into his consciousness, U would quickly look at his PDA to see if there would be a punishment for his doubt.  But, every time he looked the time of day was all that would glare back up at him.  Imagining himself back at work, watching the movements of the new supervisor, became U’s new obsession.  He was still leery of Mr. Hughes’ story, but the possibility drove him into almost constant contemplation on the topic.  But when he actually read the message on his screen, ordering him to return to work, he’s obsession took on a fearful preoccupation.  Enemies
     Walking into his office U scanned the room from signs of the unordinary.  Having been gone for two weeks meant almost everything felt a little off to U, but nothing was foreign.  U kept his old schedule of arriving before anyone else in the compound and leaving after them.  He hoped that these extra hours would give him a better chance of coming into contact with the new supervisor, but it was another week before he even heard mention of him.
     U. was uneasy, not because of what he had been told of the new supervisor, but of what he had not been told.  Going back to work at the station had brought U. through several states of mind; from a gnawing anxiousness to an ignorant peace which could only last a few moments.  The office felt unsettlingly the same, considering that here U had killed a man with visceral brutality.  Had this place been as he had idealized it in his lofty thoughts, then he would have felt the need to remove his shoes for fear of desecrating hallowed ground.  As it was however, the sterile, poorly lit room seemed to U to suggest a once sacred relic which had been denounced as a fraud and all those who were healed by its ethereal qualities had reverted to their previous states and completely forgot about the relic as a sacred object.  This emotion began to subside in U as he gave himself over to work.  A new fleeting thrill filled him, to discover the truth, or lies, of Hughes.  It seemed to U that the only way he would ever be allowed close enough to the supervisor to really ascertain the truth would be to return to his previous work ethic.  And so U poured himself into his job.  
     It was two weeks after he had returned to work before U caught any sight of the new supervisor, and when the time did come he hardly knew what to do.  U had been arriving early to work as he had done before the murder, now, however, no one was ever seen by U as he walked down the long hallways of the station.  The walk would often give U time to wonder when or how he might meet the new supervisor that day.  This thought was upon U’s mind as he entered his office early on morning.  He had left his apartment a few moments earlier than usual on this particular morning and this brought him to the door of his office and to a sight which only confounded the preoccupations of is mind.  Seated at his desk, with his back to U, was a man in a deep gray suit.  The man turned around as he heard U approaching.  He was young, not any older than thirty five, or six.  Face, clean cut, very well kept over all, in fact.  The man’s body seemed to freeze as he beheld U.
     “Well, good morning, you must be U.  I’m the new supervisor for this quadrant.” the man slowly turned back around to the computer which he had been facing.  U could just make out the supervisors hands as they worked feverishly at a PDA.  The computer screen on U’s desk shuttered and then turned black.  
     “I’ve just been going over your work.  I liked to arrive before the programmers so that I don’t have to disturb them…unless of course something is wrong.  I have to say that your work here is very impressive  By the way my name is Dr. Hardenbrook.”  The doctor quickly put his PDA away, stood, and moved towards the still silent U.  
     “I hope you find everything in order,” said U as he shook hands with the new supervisor.  The other man’s palm felt damp and yet it gripped U’s hand firmly.  He began to regret having offered his hand in the first place, only there didn’t seem to be a way around it.  
     “Oh, yes!  In fact I think I’m about finished here.  It expedites my job so much when you workers keep such ordered records.  It was wonderful meeting you Mr. U.  Have a great and…uh, keep up that great work.”  And with those short, quickly executed sentences the supervisor was gone.  U was left staring at his office and his now turned off computer.  His mind was filled with the dark possibilities of the supervisor.  At the end of his five second revelry U turned quickly to try to catch the sight of Dr. Hardenbrok.  The supervisor was walking uncomfortably into the eveloping hallway and soon was covered in the darkness only to be seen in flashes from the dancing picture frames which would light up an arm, or his coat, or his face, but never the totality of him.  Mr.  Hughes’ words came flooding back to U.  He allowed the door to swoosh shut, watching it all the while.  And then he walked over to his computer, staring at it as if to take it all into his consciousness, to search for something wrong.  Turning the computer on U listened intently at the room itself, as if to ascertain if something in the very substance of the room had been altered by the new supervisor.  
     Why had he been so nervous?  A feeling of panic griped U and he began to search through his computer to see if he could find if anything had been tampered with.  But even if Dr. Hardenbrok had done something, changed something, or whatever, U wondered to himself, what good would my workstation have done?  What could I possibly have that a supervisor does not have access too?  But then, why would he be afraid of me seeing his work?  Maybe he was just unnerved by my abrupt entrance.  All these possibilities went coupled with a thousand counter thoughts in U, but no resolution presented itself.  U was again struck with the fact that all these seemingly irrational doubts were allowed to go unjudged by the system; his PDA was silent.  
     As U began his work for the day every keystroke seemed to distract him.  “Was that button always there?  Was that title on this page yesterday?”  U thought to himself.  Everything appeared foreign but nothing was tangibly altered on his computer.  When his break came instead of remaining in his office like he usually did, U pulled on his deep gray coat, locked his computer with a code and walked down the hallway towards Miss. Gram’s office.  U’s break came at 10.25 and lasted until 10.40 at which time U had to be at his computer typing or else suffer a dock in pay at the equivalent of one hour’s work.  In addition, visiting with other employees during your personal break with likewise result in the loss of one hour’s pay.  With a full understanding of this U quickly moved across the long hallway to his coworker’s office.  A tension rested upon his chest and when he breathed, a sound between a quiet grunt and deep sigh came from his mouth or nose.  Miss. Gram had been given an office along a short corridor that ran across the main hallway.   When U turned the corner onto the corridor he hesitated for a moment, looking around for the supervisor, who had left U’s office hours ago.  U was surprised to find Miss. Gram’s office door open.  As he approached he could make out his coworker as she sat facing her computer.  Gram’s feet were pulled back underneath her chair and she leant forward as if she was lost in the flow of characters that went across her screen.  This most not have been to far from the truth because U was able to get inside her office before her trance was broke and she turned to notice him.  A tuft of dark auburn hair was tucked behind her left ear and as her head came to a halt in front of U.  
     “Mr. U…” a deep, anxious exhalation left Miss. Gram’s mouth, “why are you here?”  
“It’s my break period,” U said simply, and then realizing the insufficiency of his he added, “I needed to talk to you about something.” After he finished, U watched as Miss. Gram’s face drew a perplexed look.   Regretting having used such suspicious language, U searched himself for a believable excuse: “It’s about the new supervisor…did stop by here?”
“Mr. Hardenbrok? Yes, I think he was here this morning.  When I come in today I noticed my computer had been accessed.  I assumed it was the supervisor since he is the only other person with the ability to that.  Why do you ask U?  Are you feeling ok?”  Her eyes had been darting around the floor while she was speaking, as if she was looking for her words which had been scattered to the ground.  When she finished, Gram looked up at U again.  He wondered himself why she would ask him if he was feeling ok.  What if she was worried that he might kill the new supervisor?  
“Oh, well I just wanted to see if I could catch him…I had to talk to him about some of the work I’m doing.  You said he did access your computer, I think he might have had some difficulty when he accessed mine.  Was there anything odd on your system this morning? Anything out of place?”
“No…at least not that I can remember. What happened to your computer U?” But U was lost in thought.  A few moments latter he awoke and answered Gram.
“I don’t know.  Maybe nothing.”
“Nothing? It sure sounds like it must have been something for you to come here during your break.”
“Well, when I came into my office this morning he was there.  Maybe I startled him or something but he looked very surprised to see me, scared even.”
“So he wasn’t expecting to see you.  Look Mr. U, if this isn’t important I do have work I should be doing…” She turned back to her computer.
“I think he was doing something”
“Of course he was,” Said Miss. Gram as she started typing, “he was doing his job, which is what should you be doing.”
“I don’t think he was doing his job.  At least, not his official job.  He was doing something he didn’t want me to see.  After I came in he quickly packed up and left, but not before he closed down the computer.”  U had to raise his voice to compete with the rising sounds of Miss. Gram’s typing.  He reached over to her shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
“Will you listen to me,” he implored, “I think this Mr. Hardenbrok is up to something”
“I can’t talk right now U, I’ve already received several warning buzzes to return to work.  I suggest you listen to your own warnings and go back to your office yourself.”
“My PDA is not buzzing Miss. Gram.  It has not buzzed once, in two months.”  And with that dramatic declaration, U walked out of the office, down the corridor, through the hallway and back into his own workspace, the whole time day dreaming about the affect his exit had on Miss. Gram.  In general, he felt quite pleased with himself.  He sat down in his office chair and sat staring at his screen, not contemplating what he saw, but what he had done.  As U was about to return to work he saw a red flashing light emitting from his hip where his PDA set.  
“Mr. U.  Please contact me immediately concerning your recent conversation with a Miss. Gram.  Do not speak to anyone else regarding the actions of Mr. Hardenbrok until we have spoken. Mr. Hughes.” Thus read the PDA.  U clicked the confirm button and felt a feeling of panic creep over him.  What was I thinking, he thought, she knows I’m after the supervisor now.  And why was she so calm?  Does she know what he’s doing?  Maybe she’s with him.  How did she know that there was something wrong with my computer?  All I ever said was he had trouble accessing my system.
U reached back down to his PDA and sent a message to Mr. Hughes:
“I’m sorry I told Miss. Gram too much, but you must listen to me.  The new supervisor is doing something.  I don’t know why yet, but I believe he is sneaking onto my computer.  I only talked to Miss. Gram because I thought he might be doing the same thing to her.  I found out that not only is he using her workstation, I believe that she knows it and may be helping him! Please tell me what I can do! If I’m right the Gram will tell Mr. Hughes and he will try to stop me some how! U.” As U mentally dictated the message his own words began to settle in upon him and he paused for a moment to look up and see if anyone was around.  After being assured of his safety U sent the message.  His heart was beating heavily and images of Gram whispering to Mr. Hughes filled his mind.  A thirty-second eternity passed before his PDA again flashed with text.
“Do not worry.  We expected as much.  Please return to work and act normal. If you see Miss. Gram again do not mention anything about your earlier visit.  More instructions will follow. End.  Mr. Hughes.”
It was not until long after U had gone home that he again received any communication.  He had been given plenty of time to worry about what he had done, and wonder what Hughes had meant by saying that they “expected as much”.  Luckily for U he did not see Miss. Gram again that day but the possibility of running into her the next day plagued him.  
“Mr. U, I am sorry that made you wait so long before this communication.  Due to the earlier events of today I was compelled to meet with the other associates and discuss our next plan of action.  I was able to convince the others that you can be trusted.  Despite the fact that you possibly divulged your suspicions of the supervisor, the association has decided that you will be a welcome addition.  I regret that I was unable to tell you about the association before, but until I knew whether or not you could take orders and be trusted I could not reveal the extent of our operation.  I hope you will not hold my caution against me.  A lot was at risk. Mr. Hughes.” U read the message and was immediately filled with excitement.
“I don’t really understand.  How many more of us are there?  And what about Mr. Hardenbrok?  If Miss. Gram tells him about me won’t there be trouble?  If my life is in danger please tell me. U.”
“I already told you not to worry Mr. U.  The situation is under control.  Even if Miss. Gram tells the supervisor, he can do nothing to you now.  You are safe.  But we must see you in person.  Tomorrow, instead of proceeding to work, you will take your shuttle to the Hydrogen 3 mines 60.13 meters south of Minerva.  You will be gone for the whole day so plan accordingly.  There will be no need to notify the Station, we will see to that. End. Mr. Hughes.”

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Afraid of Death

It had occurred to George before that she was pretty, but seeing her made-up and smiling like this almost crushed him. It took a lot for him to ask Jana, 4 months of longing, 3 weeks of dreading, 5 days of planing, and 6.25 hours of doubting and sweating.

He loved the way she would only pour skimmed milk into her coffee and eat the salad for lunch, it made him guilty but at the same time happy, knowing that if he every married her, she would make him change his diet and all that stuff—he always wanted to live healthy. George got her at right after her trip to the bathroom after lunch and before she made it to her cubicle, he wanted her to feel satiated and clean.

“Ugh...back to work eh? Seems like lunch goes by way too fast...” George fell in beside her as they both walked from the hallway that housed the bathrooms and lead from the cafeteria to the offices.

“Yeah...that's true...” She said slightly, allowing the words to drift out unaffected.

“Oh um, my name is George.” He stuck out his hand.

“Jana, nice to meet you” She turned to face him and allowed herself a little smile that she hoped wouldn't encourage him to much.

“Jana?” He said, veiling his intimate knowledge of her name, “Nice to meet you too. Have here long? I kinda like to think I know everyone here but--”

“Well I've been here since June, but I guess I haven't made the rounds much. I tend to keep to myself.”

“Hmm, I know what you mean. I do that sometimes too.” He felt stupid and worried as they both neared the end of the hall. Time was running out.

“Say, we should eat lunch together, us 'loners,' I mean you’re not doing anything, I'm not, I tend to eat alone--” Jana silently groaned and broke in:

“The thing is lunch is kinda my down time. I use it to relax and think and stuff. Its what gets me through the day. So--”

“Right, I know what you mean.” His voice dropped as a sudden wave of embarrassment overcame him. “That's alright maybe another time, or something. Well, this is my row, I've got that cubicle furthest away from any of the windows.” Even as he finished complaining he regretted it. He gave her a faint wave and walked briskly down to his space. The next day, however, providence had pity on George and things got a bit better.

“George?” The voice startled him from his typing revelry, drawing him towards the open wall in his cubicle.


“Uh, hey, umm...did you..still want to have lunch?” George didn't bother to ask her about her sudden change of mind, but managing a weak affirmation he agreed to meet her for lunch. Unfortunately, a mandatory staff meeting kept the couple from the lunch date, so Jana broke down and agree to have dinner with him.

“So.....when did you want to order?”

“Soon...I mean now. If you’re ready, or we could wait.”

“Well I'm getting hungry and I know what I want so whenever you’re ready--”

“Oh sure, I'm ready, lets see here...I'm just gonna have this chicken dish with the side of vegetables. Waiter!” George asked Jana what she would be having for dinner—a salad, which just about killed George—he ordered the chicken dish with the side of vegetables and they both had iced tea to drink.

The conversations that arose that night were unnaturally meaningful, both George and Jana found themselves fluidly digressing from one topic to another, exposing the expanses of their lives and thoughts in passionate effusion. They began with the simplest of things—favorite movies and music—and quickly shuffled through desires and beliefs, books and families, each of them set upon reaching the goal of disclosing past loves and the inevitable discussion that would follow on the nature of love and the struggles of relationships. Before they arrived at that pivotal talk, he excused himself and headed towards the bathroom. He could have been nervous, but he wasn't.

He used the urinal and washed his hands at the sink. They only had the wall-mounted machines that air-dry your hands which always annoyed George. Since no one else was in the bathroom he gave a little prayer while he washed his face and rubbed his neck which was sore-particularly the left side. As he rubbed he thought about going back out there, he already missed her. He kept trying to imagine her face in the mirror in front of him, but he couldn't. He wished there was some way to get a picture of her. Then he found the bump.

On the left side of his neck, half way down, a small, hard, round bump protruded out. At first he didn't know what to do, if he should touch it or not. But then he remembered that all the rubbing hadn't hurt him so it couldn't be sensitive. He began to wiggle it around and feel it. The last time he had been sick was 3 months ago, or so, and he couldn't think of anyone who had been coughing around him. No one he knew had been sick. A young boy walked in the bathroom, reminding George of the outside; he realized that he had been gone for a long time already.

“Hey, sorry 'bout that, where were we?”

“You were just telling me about high school, something about being bored I believe?”

“Oh yeah, thats right. Well it was mostly boring, just like it is for everyone else but--”

“So did you ever date in high school? That must have made it at least a little interesting!”

“...I saw one or two girls but it was all stupid, you know how it is at that age. I think you date in high school just to talk about dating in high school.” She laughed and he gave a slight chuckle that—he thought—made him seem humble.

“I totally know what you mean. I must have had five relationships between my sophomore finals and my Junior midterms. And I hated them all!” Her laugh cut straight through George.

“That's high school. So what did you do after high school? Did you date a lot in college too?”

“No, not really. I stayed away from relationships for awhile so I could focus on studying, but I did go out once or twice I guess.”

“Nothing serious?” George asked, worrying that he might have been too blunt. Jana took a drink of the iced tea.

“I did meet my husband there, yeah I guess there was that...” The air collapsed around George, quietly suffocating him.


“He's gone now. I lost him three years ago to cancer.”

“Oh, oh I'm so sorry...I didn't know. I'm really sorry to hear that--”

“No, no don't worry about. It's been three years and we didn't have any kids or anything so I guess that was a blessing. It could have been worse I guess. I mean it wasn't that bad, just the first year was really tough, but God's helped me and I'm ok now. I am.”

“Wow, that's amazing that you pulled through that and all.” He knew he sounded awful, but she had stopped talking and so he had to say something. It suddenly occurred to him that he was sweating, and that he hadn't been eating much. He took a bite and watched her hoping that she wouldn't see the anxiety and discomfort in his face. She didn't.

“Yeah well, like I said, that's pretty much the past now. I mean, as much as it can be...” This time he jumped in before she stopped talking.

“Is that why you came to work for us?” He attempted to summon a deeply interested expression. He didn't.

She nodded as she chewed her salad, “I went back to school for a couple years and then almost got hired right away.” He twisted in his seat for a second. “I really poured myself into school that first year, it gave me some direction and motivation. I guess if it hadn't been for that I would still be mourning.”

“Will you excuse me for a moment? I'll be right back.”

Inside the bathroom, George headed straight for a stall. He wasn't sure why, but the thought of being walked-in on frightened him, even though he wasn't doing anything. He felt the bump on his neck and walked the length of the stall---it was one of those large stalls.

Married, (he thought to himself) she was married. At least if she had divorced he would know that she didn't like her old husband. But a widow? Who can compete with a dead man?

He stopped in the corner of the stall, on the far side from the toilet, and prayed quickly and quietly. But his chest continued to pound in him and his thoughts continued to swim rapidly through his mind. I can't leave her out there, (he thought to himself) she'll get suspicious. He wasn't even sure why he felt so disgusted and frightened by this dead man and his wife--his widow. He had been through this before, only last time it was a woman with a job, before that a blond with a skirt, before that a heavy-set girl with a smile, before that there was no one.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” She asked with such a tone of sincerity that George felt like dying himself.

“Yes, yeah I...I feel fine,” sitting down, “my hands got sticky from the salad dressing and I just wanted to clean up before I started to stick to everything.”

“George,” it was the softest sound her voiced had made that night; she let his name drift off into infinity, “I want you to know that I really like this.” As Jana spoke her eyes slowly crawled upwards, meeting with his in a moment of debilitating honesty-a moment he would forever romanticize beyond all hopes and possibilities. Unable to break the stare, George felt the bump on his neck with his left hand and spoke:

“I have to go.”

George paid the check quickly and quietly, occasionally reaching up to his neck to feel if it had grown or shrunk. He wondered if he was imagining it. It was hard and lumpy, it felt unnatural. When he entered his car he was overcome with an incredible urge to get something that would cure him of whatever it was that he had. So, he drove to the nearest supermarket to peruse the drug aisle. During the drive, the thought struck him that he might be dying, maybe a tumor or something like that. All he could think of was dying, and that made him think of Jana's dead husband.

There were a few scattered cars in the parking lot when George pulled in. The lot was poorly lit by rows of lamp posts, some of which hardly seemed to penetrate the dark night. He knew where the medicine aisle was and so he wasted no time finding it. He grabbed a package of something that claimed to, “...ease soreness, swelling, and pain in the neck and back....” it hardly seemed to fit the bulge he felt, but he had to get something.

As he walked back to his car the vast loneliness of the parking lot hit him, the artificial lights which hardly worked anyway seemed to paint everything as weak and phony as the lights themselves. The thought occurred to him again that he might be sick, really sick, and he might die. This wasn't the first time this thought had come to him, but for whatever reason this was the first time that it felt real. After the thought settled in on him he couldn't ignore it, he felt his chest sink down into defeat. He wanted to tell himself that it was unlikely that he had anything deadly; but every time he was close to convincing himself, he realized that if it wasn't this lump, it would be something else. He was going to die and it might as well be now as later. He wanted to cry. He did.

When he got home, he immediately turned on his computer and spent the next several hours searching for symptoms, focusing on terminal things. It wasn't until his eyes could hardly stay open that he decided to go to bed, he reached some level of peace by planning on seeing the doctor first thing in the morning. Lying in bed, just as the creeping feeling of surrendering to unconsciousness swept over him, an image of Jana came to mind and the anxiety returned. The memory of how he had just walked out without any explanation woke him completely, and he soon was back to obsessing over his own death. He rolled over in his bed, unto his stomach so that his face was buried in a pillow and tried to relax, but he couldn't. Looking over at his clock on the nightstand he saw that it was nearing 3 am, he put his head back into the pillow and prayed.

God. I can't sleep. You know my thoughts but. I feel out of control. I don't want to die dear Lord. I don't want to die. save me. Let me sleep. Don't let Jana hate me.
Let me sleep.

Each word seemed incapable penetrating his skull and floating to the beyond. He wasn't even sure why he kept praying other than he knew he should. It felt both pointless and important to him and he couldn't tell which emotion was right. He had always believed, had faith, but the hollowness of his prayer made him question even what he had believed. When he finally fell asleep it was only after an hour of feeling infinitely and unfathomably far from God and everyone.

When George went to leave for his doctor's appointment the next morning, his nervousness reached such a feverish pitch that he felt quite numb, as if everything was unfolding in another world or on TV or in a book. This numbness followed him as he filled out various forms at the doctor's office and as he was moved to a examining room. He sat on the table in the middle of the room and looked forward towards a mirror, the sight of himself in the medical gown forcefully pulled him from the netherworld into the stark florescent light of the room and he felt like he was going to die and he couldn't stand it. He wanted to leave more than anything and never find out about the stupid bump. If he had to die, better to die ignorant, better to die outside of white walls and syringes and yellow gowns. Why waste away before helpless strangers in a foreign building, spending hours waiting in suffocating rooms and filling out eternal forms? He stood up and walked towards the door and would have made it had his phone not rang.

From his pants, which lay along with the rest of his clothes in a small pile on a chair behind him, George's cell phone rang. Turning away from the door, he quickly found the small phone and answered it:


“George, this is Jana...” Her voice was small and thin through the cell's speaker, but it still fell like a familiar melody on his ear.

“...hey...I...I'm sorry about last night I had to take care of something and I...” He wanted to tell her about the lump and about the tumor and about cancer and death and everything but he felt so melodramatic and fake he just couldn't make himself.

“You left because of him didn't you. George, I meant it last night when I said that I liked the dinner, it was good. I didn't think I was going to enjoy it at all to tell you the truth, but I did, and I want to do it again. I'm not saying that I love you, I don't know that. But I do want to have more nights like that, if you can.” Her words seemed to cut straight through all his worries, he forgot death and he forgot the white walls and he forgot his gown and everything.

“I do too...”

“You can't just say that George, my husband's dead, and I miss him, and I will always love him, but if I ever marry again, I will love that man more and I can't see you if you are afraid of a dead man. I can only offer this once, if you want to get to know me, you can't let him stop you. But if you can't do that, let me know now, please.” Her words came faster and faster, each one drenched with exhaustion and passion, and resoluteness.

“Are you still there George?”

“Yes, yeah, I'm here. I want to see you again. As soon as I can.”

“Are you sure? You can't leave me like that again George, if you ever do that to me again I won't talk to you, it will be over.”

“I know, I'm so sorry about that, I was stupid, I was just afraid, but I'm not anymore. I really want to see you. I just have to finish up something here and I'll call you up ok?”

“Ok. Thank you George.”

He hung up the phone and walked back to the table. Pulling his knees up against his chest he buried his eyes in his arms and prayed and he knew he wasn't as far from God anymore and he didn't care about death anymore.

George met Jana latter that same day for the last time and then he died, but he wasn't afraid.