A Jewel of a Jewel
I must say I was quite sad when our journey ended. As he had promised, we were back at the ship in time for supper. I could have gone on and on, with perfect ease. The last step, therefore, seemed somewhat difficult. He practically had to push me through the hull of the ship again.
Once inside, I realized that I was breathing air again and was feeling hungry too. Also Natalia came back to mind again when I saw her at the supper table.
What could I tell her about my adventure, or even to the captain?
As I came closer, I noticed that the captain was sitting at her table, locked in some intense discussion with her. He always waved his arms about when he gots exited.
When I was close enough to get her attention, something caused me to stop. My own words startled me that I had spoken to Martin, that I would explode if I moved into outer space. Did I have a right to force the captain into an environment in which he was unable to exist? He would explode. His blood would boil. He would suffocate in a vacuum.
Indeed all this was already happening. The realization came like a shock to me.
When Natalia noticed me I must have been standing for some moments in the restaurant. Slowly I began to notice that she waved to me. I waved her off, and pointed to the captain. She nodded gently, but did she really understand?
This short excursion into space had a much greater affect on me than I realized. Things that I touched, that I came in contact with, appeared different. The restaurant hadn't changed, although it was quite empty that night for the time it was. But I had changed.
It wasn't that I had a problem with finding a table or had lost my appetite. No, to the contrary, there were plenty of free tables and I was looking forward to dinner as I had seldom done before. Three different dishes were offered that night. I loved the Hungarian goulash that the ship's kitchen offered, even though it was made with simulated meat. But it was made with real vegetables. It was always done to perfection. Only now, there was something extra about it all. After having seen the raw majesty of the universe, there was something very special about this meal and what it represented. It had majesty of its own. The red peppers, the potatoes, the centuries of tradition in fine cooking, were all drawn into one. They were drawn together into a work of art that projected an image of a world that is wholly different from the universe of space; a separate sphere with its own separate reality standing as far apart on its own as any planet inside a black hole.
We had built this ship to explore the universe. Now that I had gained a glimpse of it, it began to dawn on me what a marvelous universe lay right inside this ship. I suddenly relished this human world. As if someone had thrown a switch, its wonders became alive, a world of marvelous things. Their depth can never be measured with references to material law coming into view. These things pertain to what humanity is, to what it has built, to what its efforts represent, things of exquisite care, delicate balance, gentle benevolence.
I could feel the burning of the red peppers of the goulash all the way down to the bottom of my stomach. What a feast! What wonderful complexities were embedded in this simple meal, served with a glass of red wine that was ingeniously produced aboard ship?
I knew how the vegetables were grown, how the agro-plant operated, but not how the wine was made. The agro-plant, a marvel in itself, functioned on a rather simple principle. Meal planing was done four months in advance. A computer generated from it the appropriate orders to the nurseries. From there on, the process continued automatically in an assembly line fashion. A long string of machine seeded flats are passed through brightly illumined growing areas, through watering stations, feeding stations, etc. etc., until at the right moment, the required plants arrived at the harvesting station at their absolute prime, ready for immediate use. In this respect, the meal represented a marvel of ingenuity.
The ship itself seemed no longer to be just a machine. It represented much more than that. It became alive with meaning as an extension of our humanity, something that grew out the very depths of what humanity is: a monument to something wonderfully rich and immensely substantial. Our humanity came to light in this dimension as something that I too had for far too long grossly taken for granted so that it had been left largely unexplored and unappreciated. It represented a jewel of a universe within a universe. Its central sun was a God of Love, its light infinite Mind, its force a boundless Truth we had barely dared to touch, its atmosphere - the atmosphere of an infinite Soul - that we all expressed in our rich and all-embracing humanity aglow in beauty and life. What is a super nova compared to that? What stellar complexity compared to the infinite complexities involved in making goulash? This pot of goulash before me represented a mental and biophysical technology of near unimaginable dimensions that I was just beginning to fathom, something that only humanity was capable of expressing to the full as far as I could tell. It seemed absurd to place limits on it of any kind.
Between the main meal and the dessert still another one of those near unfathomable dimensions popped into view with an intensity that demanded attention. Two tables in front of me in a direct line of sight sat a beautiful woman. I don't think I touched my dessert that day. I must have stared holes through her as though I had never seen a female human being before. She noticed my staring, smiled and then blushed. I don't know whether it was her hair that struck me, or the shape of her face, or the way she wore her blouse. One word came to mind. A jewel! She was a jewel of a jewel of the universe. I drank in this sight with the same thirst and eagerness as I had done only moments before when the great carpet of stars of the Milky Way galaxy had been stretched out beneath my feet on our way to the black hole.
When I came to my senses again, I noticed that she had left. She was near the door already.
"Go and run after her!" I heard a voice say within.
I couldn't move. I was too shy to even stand up.
I did stand up, though. It took all the strength I had.
The thought came almost like a command, "To hell with your shyness. You must do this!"
I looked around. At this moment I noticed the captain. I would catch his attention if I were to run after her.
"To hell with the captain!" said the voice within.
"What about Natalia?" I asked myself. "What if Natalia will see me running after another woman?"
I couldn't do this.
"You must do this," said the voice again. "Natalia is too intelligent to be hurt."
That's when the Bohr/Miller effect came to mind again as a tempting alternative. Oh God, will it work?
I closed my eyes as tight as I could.
"I'm sorry! How clumsy of me?" I heard someone say to me before I opened them. It was at first as if the voice in my thoughts had spoken again. Except the voice sounded different, clearer, gentler, and less urgent.
That's when I noticed that the someone I had bumped into was her. I opened my eyes fully. There she was, right in front of me. The Bohr/Miller effect had worked. I was suddenly blocking her way. I simply stood there like a stone, immovable. I was flabbergasted, and of course didn't know what to say.
"I wasn't looking where I was going," she added.
I said that it was entirely my fault. I said that I had tried to catch up with her, but hadn't done a good job of it. I wanted to meet you.
She smiled. "Yes, I believe that. I had noticed you staring at me," she added moments later. She spoke with a smile that belonged to a world of its own, a world that no mathematical formula could ever describe.
I remained in a daze. A door had opened that moment to a New World and to a New Dance. This was a different dance than I had danced before. Had I already become the master of my dance and moved with it into this new sphere of boundless wonders?
I vowed to be careful not to put any limitations on what this dance might present. I certainly had never felt something like this.
"You are a star among stars," I whispered to her, to my own surprise. "That's why I couldn't keep my eyes off you. If one blinks, the wonder is all too often lost and the star is gone."
I think we both blushed.
"Oh, now you are trying to flatter me, or entice me," she replied gently. Her voice appeared so very clear, as though I had never heard the likes of it before. It had a quality that no electronic imaging system could ever map out in true justice.
"No, no!" I stuttered. "I just.... Well, I just tried to put words to a reality that I seemed to have perceived for the first time in my life."
To judge by her look, she didn't seem to believe me. How could she?
"You are very kind," she said politely.
At this moment the elevator arrived.
"I must go to work," she said. The open elevator must have seemed like an escape-opportunity for her. Still, she hesitated for a split second and smiled.
"Oh how wonderfully complex a human being is?" I said to myself. A computer makes absolute choices. It answers, yes, no, but never anything in between. No machine is yet capable of scanning a near infinite range of implications and come up with an answer that is a sixty percent Yes and forty percent No.
"Allow me to accompany you," I replied as swiftly as I could get my reasoning in order to formulate a sentence.
She pressed the button for level six. "Let me warn you, I'm a sewer worker," she said.
I looked at her clothing. A black evening dress and a blouse made of silk seemed inappropriate. A row of silver buttons were narrowly spaced in the front of the blouse, put through perfectly stitched buttonholes. A delicate chain of gold graced her neck, made of a pattern of tiny links woven into a design that resembled the texture of reptile skin.
"A sewer worker?" I heard myself say with amazement. "I had never had much to do with the sewer station. I had seen it once a long time ago, before it had been put in operation. It had been originally designed to employ water hyacinths as I remember." That was all that I knew about it.
She nodded slightly and smiled.
"Yes, I would love to see the sewer station," I answered.
"As you wish," she said gently and smiled again.
"I have ten minutes," I heard myself say to her as I looked at the clock in the elevator. The next moment I heard myself mentally correcting this statement. "NO! Time is an invalid concept!"
"You work on level six, that's near the forty-percent gravity mark, isn't?" I said, just to break the silence.
"It's actually just under forty-percent," she said, "but you guessed very accurately. Are you an engineer?"
"Forty percent is better than zero-percent," I replied. "Forty percent seems like heaven compared to weightlessness."
"You've worked in zero-percent gravity, haven't you? This means that you are an engineer?"
"Worked? No, that's not the word," I interrupted her. "I struggled. I fought. The toughest job I've ever done in my entire life was done in zero gravity, but not as an engineer."
"In this ship here?" she asked. "At level zero?"
I nodded. "My involvement resulted from a vendetta," I said. "Have you ever done anything at zero gravity? If you lift a heavy object off the floor, it's almost as hard to get it off the floor as in normal gravity. But once the thing is moving, it is very hard to stop it unless you're anchored to the floor. It's more likely that it hits one on the head. Have you ever done anything in zero gravity?"
She shook her head. "Have you at forty percent?" she added.
I said that I hadn't. "If I could accompany you..."
She blushed almost instantly.
"I have been in training for six weeks," she said as we entered the station. The elevator opened to the station. My surprise caused her to grin. She looked at me to judge my response, and evidently found it amusing. "I'm replacing a person that was needed at the biology lab," she said as if to hide her grin. "It wasn't easy to quality. In order to qualify for this job, I had to take a crash course in bacteriology, plant growth biology, micro virology...."
"My God, all of this to become a sewer worker?" I interrupted her in a serious tone.
She still grinned.
Well, she didn't have to say more about herself. The complexity of the station was amazing. This wasn't just a sewer station. This was a science station, and by all that I could see she was a full-fledged, top-notch scientist. She showed me the lab area first and introduced me to her coworker. Her own workstation was the most complex in the lab, in terms of strange looking instruments, none of which were familiar to me.
Outside of the lab, lay the vast multistage purification system. That's what she called it. In real terms it was a sweet smelling garden, immersed in a soft pink light. Inside the laboratory that was of a considerable size, the lighting was subdued. Her coworker barely looked up as we entered. My newfound friend explained that her coworker was occupied with a Circular Intensity Differential Scattering device, which she said was the latest in biophysical spectroscopy.
It was easy to see by the way she spoke that she was proud to be a part of a team of that stature and was working in this atmosphere that truly matched her fine clothing. I felt proud of her myself. I also felt proud to know someone like her, and to be a part of the kind of world in which this was possible. The advanced technology that she worked with, which filled the lab, didn't come from the moon. It was an extension of the depth of mankind, and I was a part of it. We all were, and so was the science that motivated her, which in turn made it possible for this ship to function. All of that had become a part of her life and my life, which altogether added a wonderful hue to our existence now.
She offered me a place to sit outside in the garden, then took a rather large sample from the pond and placed it on an induction heater on a nearby counter.
"I take it that you do like coffee," she said with a smile.
I would have choked and said no, had she not mentioned her courses in bacteriology and micro virology before. I knew I could rely on her judgment that the water was pure.
"Yes, I'd love some," I replied.
"Oh, you do have great courage!" she said and smiled.
"No, but I trust you," I replied.
We took a stroll through the 'garden' moments later, as she called the pond area, while the water was heating. The garden appeared to be a vast array of hundreds of ponds. She also pointed out that there were three more sub-levels below us with numerous tanks for "bacteriological preprocessing." She told me that collecting and analyzing samples from the final stages of the purification process was on the shift-roster of duties to be performed that evening. She performed the task with the same care with which her coworker had studied whatever it was she had under investigation. Her coworker hadn't even looked up when she had greeted her. She had merely moved a hand and said, "Hi-there, Jill!" Also, there appeared to be no one else on duty at the sewer station as far as I could tell.
"You're are a star among stars," I said to my newfound friend Jill when we were in the garden on the lower level collecting those samples, "you both are," I added.
Jill smiled in reply, but didn't say anything. At the close distance between us, while collecting the samples for which I was allowed to hold the tray, Jill appeared to me even more beautiful than she had back at the restaurant across the two empty tables.
Natalia came to mind. I hoped that my being with Jill wouldn't hurt Natalia.
At this moment the ship's constitution came to mind, and most of all my friend Martin's words, that I was the master of my dance. Only, did I have the right to invite another person to join my kind of dancing?
"If the dance is enriching her as a human being, then perhaps you may invite her to dance with you," said the voice within me, gently.
I looked up confused.
This must have puzzled her. Her smile had faded into a concerned kind of look.
"Forgive me, I'm not much in control of myself today," I answered quickly.
This comment about stars and her being the most precious didn't seem to be the right thing to say. I wasn't happy with it, and if I wasn't, I figured, neither could she be. But how is one to repair that kind of damage?
"I've come through a lot of strange circumstances today that I can't explain in any rational manner," I said quietly, "so I won't."
"No, don't belittle yourself," she said gently. "You are a star too, a courageous and beautiful star. I love to hear you say those sparkling things about me, seeing that you're honest about it. It happens much too seldom that people dare to be honest in this way, almost never."
"I'm merely trying to be honest to myself," I said.
"Are you an artist, then?" she asked.
"I don't know," I said quietly, "I really don't know."
We walked back to the upper-level lab. She suggested that the coffee-water might be heated.
"I really should be going now," I added.
We came closer at this moment, near enough for a kiss. I was frightened and exited all at once, and of course filled with the most wonderful feeling all of a sudden. I held her gently, just for a brief moment. At this moment I realized that I wasn't so much in love with her specifically, as I was in love with all mankind, which we were a part of, which she represented in the loveliest way as a woman.
Being in love with her was like being in love with myself. What a strange and wonderful feeling this was! She didn't appear in any way less special in this broader focus, if not more special because of it.
In this trance the inner voice spoke again. "You fool," it said. "You had asked her if she had ever done 'something' at zero gravity, and she had said, no. Then you had asked her again if she was comfortable at forty-percent gravity. You knew what you were asking, and she didn't throw you out by your ears. Instead she blushed. Only a fool would consider leaving after this promise of a coming paradise! James, don't be a fool!" said the voice within. "Don't put limits on this!"
The next thing I became aware of, was her asking if I wouldn't want to stay for coffee. The words were sweetly spoken.
"I'd gladly stay for a century," I burst out and began to laugh. "Thanks for the invitation. To be honest, there's no place I would rather be than right here. The hack with what I had planned to do. There's nothing planned that can't wait till tomorrow. Being here with you has the highest priority that I can think of." I began to laugh. I even bowed and said, thank you, once more.
Jill blushed again and grinned. "Am I that important to you that you would gladly stay for a century? What a wonderful thing to say!"
"It's true," I said and smiled. "Maybe a century is too short!"
Indeed, we traversed a century of traditional barriers over the cup of coffee that she had made and had served outside of the lab in this garden of pink light and sweet smelling air. A group of white garden furniture was set up near one of the ponds. They seemed arranged as a casual rest area, but also for studying. I noticed a stack of books on a table. But mostly I kept looking at her as if I had found a great treasure and might be in danger of loosing it if I kept my eyes of it for even one moment. Hadn't the metal object disappeared that way at the Jacuzzi?
"Why are you so fascinated by me?" she asked me at one point over the second cup of coffee.
The coffee was great. It was real coffee, ingeniously grown on board the ship in a planter at the back of the garden. It was roasted in the lab, as she had explained. Except, that had nothing to do with what fascinated me about her, if indeed I knew the answer.
"Why do you work at the sewer station?" I replied.
"Me? The ship couldn't function without it," she said proudly.
"May I kiss you?" I added instantly.
She nodded and smiled. "The sewer station signifies life," she said, as if it was for a diversion, reacting as if she hadn't heard. "Everything that is essential for life gets recycled here," she added.
"That makes this station the most precious domain in the entire ship," I answered, "and the people who work here the most precious in their humanity."
"Is that why you want to kiss me?" she asked.
"Yes, for a start, and also for a lot of wonderful other reasons that you cannot imagine and I can barely grasp. Enough to kiss all of your lips."
"All of my lips?" she repeated. "What do you mean?" she said slowly and blushed again.
"Because you are a human being," I answered quickly. "That makes you most precious. However, as I said, that's only the beginning, because even as a human being you are very special. Have you ever seen yourself smile? If you had, then you would know. Have you ever loved yourself as I do, for your looks and your wonderful gentle heart, your whit, your caring for life? Then you might begin to glimpse something precious. Who in the world wouldn't want to embrace you and kiss your lips? Who wouldn't dream such wonderful dreams?"
"Maybe there is one person that I know who would," she said, "someone who dares to build bearings for generators out of platinum and zirconium to save the life of everyone on this ship." She began to grin as she said this, almost laugh.
"Do you really mean that?" I asked. "How did you know? The captain never announced anything about that."
"A friend told me. So you see, what you did is not unappreciated. A few people know that you exist. That also makes you the most beautiful man on this flying planet of ours," she said and nodded. "I always wanted to meet this man, to find out what he would say. And here you are!"
"To find out what he would say?" I repeated. "Like, talking about lips and gravity?" I couldn't hold back a grin any longer. "That's not what you expected, right?"
She shook her head. "No James, but have you ever looked into a mirror yourself? Did you ever see you smile? You won't find the likes of it anywhere in universe but here. Did you ever see a star smile? There is no such thing, of course, as a smiling star. A smile in the light of a great Spirit that we are a part of. Its an expression of a different reality than the material. It's a spiritual expression. You a living being that is existing in a spiritual universe. Have you ever seen yourself that way in a mirror?"
"Actually no," I said, "not in that way I have?" I said. "Have you?"
She nodded. "I thought about it when you were talking about lips?" she added, speaking more softly now. "Are you an expert on lips too? Remember you mentioned the subject?"
"Oh, I thought we were talking about life and the sewer station and everything that springs out of life?" I said and grinned some more.
"Ah, I see," she said. "We are having a dialog that involves multiple voices exploring the same theme like a great bel canto singing."
I nodded. "And the main theme here is lips, and love, and embracing and kissing and all," I affirmed.
"Is the term, all, a metaphor?" she asked quickly. "Or does it relate to something specific?"
"Something specific, I'd say, relating to lips of course," I replied. "It might also be related to this wonderful environment here, surrounded by acres of flowers, soft light, sweet fragrant air and a gentle stillness. It all opens up boundless possibilities in which the term, all, can have many significations. Life and its beauty can have so many facets and be without limits. Some of these are found in lips and in love, at least some people may think so, maybe even all people do so without acknowledging that they do."
Her face became a radiant smile. "Which girl wouldn't want these to be drawn together?" she said and began to grin. "Maybe some wouldn't, but this girl is not one of them," she added.
She came close to me at this moment for a tight embrace. "All lips you say?" she added before we kissed. "Right here?" she said many moments later with the same radiant smile.
"What other place on this ship can compare to this garden?" I asked. "What greater metaphor can be found? We are all beautiful flowers in the garden of life. Some are men, and some are woman. Do you know what a wonderful woman I saw in the lunchroom when I saw you, as if I had never seen a female human being in all my life? It was that kind of miracle, seeing you. I was almost too shy to say hallow, and all that, because you're a woman. But I also did find the courage for this very reason to stand up and meet you. If I hadn't had this courage the loss would have been too great. So I dared."
"I love to be loved as a woman, because that's what I am," she answered before our lips met again. "I'm not just a woman by name. I'm a person and a woman."
"Oh, you are a woman of a beautiful soul," I said, "and with beautiful lips. All of them."
"All of them? Oh, how would you know?" she said and invited me to dance.
We danced, although there was no music to be heard. She invited me to dance with her the tango.
"I presumed," I said, "when I said all of them! I presume a lot of things," I said while we danced the tango to the tune of our own melodies.
We danced well, as much as there was space for dancing between the ponds and the dancing was still manageable at forty-percent gravity and reduced traction.
"Am I presuming correctly in what I'm presuming?" I added. I loved the Spanish fire in her eyes as we danced.
"That depends on what you are presuming," she replied and grinned. "Are you presuming that there are other possibilities at forty percent gravity, involving other lips?"
"There may be possibilities that no one has yet discovered," I said while we continued the dancing. We were moving deeper and deeper into the endless seeming labyrinth of flowering ponds.
"Lips at forty-percent, who knows?" I said during the dancing. "Something like that might open up a whole new discipline of science to explore."
"With lots of studying being involved," she answered, "and lots of homework, which may drag on for years."
"Why talk of years when a single moment can be an eternity?" I replied. "There is so much to be studied, it may become an eternity."
"Ah, this may also be a study that one never tires of," she replied and stopped the dance. "Of course, we'll never know if we don't start," she added.
"My scientific mind tells me that at forty-percent gravity the floor feels nine times softer," I said in reply. "It also tells me that it is rare that so many elements come together at one time, so that one simply cannot ignore the logic that is unfolding."
"Like what?" she asked.
"A, there is you," I said. "No one could be lovelier to behold. B, we are surrounded by a sea of flowers, a scene that would be hard to match even on Earth. C, we live in a micro-gravity world that makes one as light as an angel with white wings, afloat on a silver-white cloud. D, the whole world that surrounds us is bathed in a lovely pink light, matching the pink of lips, panties, and many other things."
"Ah, but you're wrong on item, D," she said. "There are no panties, pink or otherwise. Why would a girl need them? Why should we emulate you boys, where it's a part of the package? We dance our own dance. We call our own tune, and if it is the heart that sings, then the melodies will always match the melodies of other hearts, and the freer the song becomes, the greater the joy will be."
I agreed with this assessment, and I could see why.
"Actually, you are wrong about the clouds," said Jill a while later. "You are wrong about the micro-gravity too, that you say is making the floor appear nine times softer. I think it is actually nine-and-a-half times softer, and the cloud is pink that I am floating on, and it has the number nine written on it in golden letters."
"Is anything else wrong that I said?" I added a while afterwards.
"Actually no," she said. "No matter how hard I try, I can't think of any complaints. Can you?"
"Yes, I do have a complaint," I broke the silence a long time later. "The complaint is against myself."
"When I took my heart in hand and dared to come after you to say hallow, I wanted to say to you, thank you for being in the world. I failed to say this," I said. "So here it is: Thanks you Jill, for being a part of this universe."
"Oh, I think you have been saying this in more ways than you can imagine," she replied.
"And you too," I added.
"But you are right, we can't say it often enough," she said, and then she said it again with another hug and another kiss.
My love for Natalia was as if it stood centuries apart from my love for Jill, as if each belonged to a different sphere or time. Martin would have called this separation an invalid concept. I realized that. I also realized that my love for each was actually the same in principle, but individual in expression. That glorious spark of an idea took away the division, separation, and any sense of isolation between Natalia and Jill. This wonderful multiplicity in unity quickly became almost a paradox for me that I nearly couldn't figure out, but eventually did. The paradox seemed related to an invalid concept. The concept of separation was invalid, while the concept of an all-embracing individuality was not. Its universality was uniting. We were all human beings and spectacular in our own way.
Nevertheless, a trifle of the old notion remained. The idea of closeness was related to the concept of separation as negation. That concept too, had to be scrapped. The idea came that the concept of closeness can stand on its own as a manifest of our common humanity that we all share, which had rendered our human world so unspeakably rich. The challenge, thus, became one of letting go of even that, and to embrace the truth that there exists no principle for separation which would make this closeness appear special rather than normal and universal. Jill became intertwined with this endlessly challenging project that we had no intention to define a limit for.
I didn't meet Natalia until two days later. We met by chance, as we often do. I saw her in the Atrium looking down from the ninth level. All paths within the ship converge at the atrium. I had just come off duty that day. I waved when I saw her, and took the elevator up. I had no idea in what manner my latest adventure of our universal human embrace would evidence itself with her, which had evolved at first out of my daring adventure with Martin into space, exploring the universe, and then had reflected itself onto Jill.
Natalia smiled when she saw me coming out of the elevator. We embraced each other as usual. "I like your choice of partners," she said. She said this with a smile that turned into a grin. "I saw you at the ten o'clock breakfast with Jill Lacayo! You looked great together. A word of caution though, if I may be as bold. When everybody catches on and new trends come out of it, the environment in the ship will become so filled with light that we will all have to wear sunglasses. The captain wouldn't like that. He likes things dark and dim." She began to laugh.
I could have embraced her for this lovely comment, and I did, and the kisses that followed did make the world brighter indeed. She could have been cruel. She could have said, I've seen you with your new lover, or other woman, or whatever. But she didn't. She didn't say these things. I knew this wasn't by accident. She always took great care in choosing her words when matters were important. This time her words reflected what I, too, felt deep in my heart and soul, that nothing had taken place that was in any way abnormal or extraordinary, so that it would be excluding her.
"Your mental horizon has grown to include another dimension," she said moments later. "Nothing of value has become lost. To the contrary; something that we've come to know as being of great vale has become expanded!"
Oh boy! How I loved her for this! She must have felt the truth of it, too.
"You're great!" I replied and gave her another long drawn out kiss, and this time I hoped that the captain would plainly see us.
"I'm glad for you," said Natalia after the kiss, "and I'm proud of you. What makes people special to me is this wonderful ambition we human beings have to improve our world, to find ways to improve our life, to broaden our base of living. That's what I have always valued. That's why I am on this ship. That's what I admire in you. I find it terribly sad when people let their dreams stop! Humanity can't afford that. Humanity nearly died when it stopped living. That's why our world had been in such great danger and still is to some degree. I think what it is happening here may be the answer that this ship was built for. It carries an example now that, when follow up, could breathe new life back into humanity. And if I'm not mistaken, you had started this fight for a brighter world already on Earth. Our ship would never have been built had there been no one like you with great, but realizable dreams and the courage to be chasing after them. I would even say that if it were not for grand dreams and courageous dreamers, humanity would have died out irreparably. That's why I love you, and always have, and always will, you beautiful man." She said this and grinned and offered a kiss at the end.
"Oh heavenly days!" I said to myself after our embrace ended. Her words were music to my ears. To say that I grinned in reply would be a gross understatement.
"Meeting Jill changed my life. It made it brighter. I think it made yours brighter too. Wherever love blossoms the world becomes brighter," I said. I couldn't help smile.
"That must have been some event to have changed your life," said Natalia.
"Oh it was, Natalia, it was," I replied happily. "It was one those rare things that fairy tales are made of. It was like magic. I began with a smile. But behind that smile unfolded a beautiful mind and a kind and gentle soul. They shone like a light. It took but a fraction of a moment to be touched by that light. Wow! I said to myself. There actually seemed to be somebody home. I knocked at the door and said hallo. What followed really did change my life, Natalia. It made it so much richer, a great deal richer, and that won't go away again."
"Wow! is right!" said Natalia, "and I am glad for you. That is wonderful."
"Except you don't know the half of it yet," I said, "nor would you likely guess what happened deep within, what changed the world for me in a way I never thought possible."
"And what might that be?" she asked.
"I made a discovery," I replied, "a real scientific discovery."
"No, because of Jill. I discovered a scientific basis for quantifying love."
"That's getting interesting," said Natalia.
"No, profound, would be a better word," I replied.
"Did you say that something profound happened that night?" she said and began to grin from ear to ear.
"No, Natalia, not just that night. It lasted for three days."
"Wow, you had a three day sexual encounter! Is that what you are saying? That must be a world-record. No, that's nothing less than a galactic endurance record, I would say," she said and continued grinning.
"No, Natalia! It's the other way around," I said and began to grin too. "That part didn't last half an hour, probably mush less. It was interesting and nice, but it really didn't measure up."
"So, what was it then, James, that lasted for three days?"
"Can't you guess? I was in a tizzy for three whole days. I was floating on air. I was feeling all fuzzy inside. This fuzzy tizzy felt rich, wonderful, and bright. Compared to that, those twenty minutes of sexual intimacies didn't amount to much. I find this contrast amazing, don't you? For three thousand years we've divided the whole of humanity along sexual lines. Sexual division goes deeper and is more universal than any other form of division we've invented. Then, when one finally takes this horrendous step and tests those axioms that have divided the whole world, and one really dares to look for the truth, there isn't much there to crow about."
"It took you that long to figure this out?" she said and kept on grinning.
"It should have been obvious," I said. "The fact is, one really has to work at it to stretch this sex ecstasy out for twenty minutes, and I don't think I am alone in this predicament. I certain have never met anyone who could stretch it out for three days on end. In contrast to that, this fuzzy tizzy that seemed like heaven happened all on its own. I didn't have to do anything for it. To the contrary, it simply wouldn't fade away. It lasted for three days, and hasn't stopped, really. Doesn't that tell you something about where love really lies? This fuzzy tizzy still continues to some degree. I think this contrast makes it pretty clear what is really of value."
"And you attribute it all to Jill?" she asked.
"In a way, yes. Sure, Jill had something to do with that. It took me half a minute when I first met her, to realize that, wow, there is somebody home here. We talked only for three hours after that and had the loveliest dialog. It seemed as though we spoke for centuries."
"I remember that it was something like that when we first met," said Natalia. "I can still remember the fuzzy tizzy days."
"I think it was in Kiev where we met, a long time ago, wasn't it?" I asked.
"Except we never had a single sexual encounter until we got here on this ship," said Natalia. She no longer smiled. "I had dreamed about it, back then, but it never came to be. It looks now that we didn't miss that much. I kind of figured that over the years."
"Guess what was missing when Jill and I had our intimacies," I said to her and couldn't help a smile. "You won't believe this," I said. "I missed our dialogs. I missed the ideas we had shared and enriched one-another with. I was too quiet. Still, I'm glad it happened. I see now that a barrier was put out of the way."
"I never saw it that way, back then," said Natalia.
"Neither did I," I said. "However, just for that, we should have had sex in Kiev. We wouldn't have felt then, that there had been something missing between us. We would have known with certainty, that what we already embraced apart from sex was that greatest thing in the world that sex wouldn't have made any greater. We would have been happier than, not that we weren't happy to know one-another."
"Oh, that had bothered you too?" she said.
"Of course it had," I said, "but meeting Jill in this wonderful way illustrated to me that we can leave those regrets of our history behind, because we had embraced in those days everything that mattered. I think what made Jill so special to me now that I got my eyes open, is the simple fact that when I look into her face, I see a light there. There is somebody home. In such circumstances, who really needs sex? Just look at us. We need so little of it that if the captain found out, he would get another fit of anger realizing that he made such a big fuzz over such a small thing."
Natalia seemed to agree fully. She just smiled and said nothing. "There is one more thing that I find wonderful about what has happened here," she added. She spoke with the same smile still, after a few moments of silence. "I find it wonderful that you haven't chosen just anyone to expand your world with. I had my eyes set on Jill a long time ago, for you, hoping that you would recognize her, and recognize her as someone quite precious, someone I felt you would love to know. Except, you had kept your eyes closed. It made me almost uncomfortable to be the only woman in your life. It made the world so small. But how would you react if Jill went a different road tomorrow and never wanted to see you again? Would you cry? Would you run after her?"
"I've been blind, I know," I said in response. "You are right on this one, and Jill helped me with that. She opened a door for me to our humanity. That door is open now. She has her place in my heart for that, and always will. What happens from tomorrow on will not change that, Natalia. Her life is her own. If she chooses to come though the door tomorrow that she helped open, I will rejoice. If she stays away for a week, or thousand days, or forever, I will still treasure her. I won't run after her and try to change her mind. I won't be like the captain is who tries to run everybody's life. I am sure others will come to this door sooner or later, that she has helped to open. Of course I think she will come back to this door too. She may even knock on the door and invite me to her own world, or somebody else will invite all three of us to other worlds of a kind we cannot even yet imagine. I think this is more likely to happen than not."
"I think you may be right," Natalia interrupted me. "It may well be that all of us haven't opened our eyes wide enough yet. You certainly hadn't for a long time."
"Ah, but you are at fault for the delay, more than I was," I countered her. "I couldn't embrace just anyone, you know. You had set too high a standard." I began to laugh. "You've been incomparable by a long way, so I stopped comparing. The field had become too narrow. Then a strange fellow appeared and talked to me in the observatory. He invited me to look at the universe. He showed me how vast and how empty it is. Suddenly I realized how infinitely precious we all are as human beings, and beautiful and complex. That realization widened the field of my vision by more than you can imagine. And then, suddenly there was Jill, two tables from me in the lunchroom. I wondered why I had never seen her before. I hadn't even known her name then. And you know what, I was scared that my being with her would hurt you. I was probably as scared about hurting you as I was shy in introducing myself to Jill."
"Oh you!" she interrupted me.
"Hey, honestly, I meant what I said, Natalia. I meant all of it! I also believe that the greatest treasure we have as human beings is our infinite individuality that is blending like so many words of a poem, or the flow of sounds that blend into a symphony. That is how I found Jill, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if you were to became a part of this symphony since you had your eyes set on Jill long before me. Does that thought scare you? Does it scare you to become a part of a grand symphony in which we all have our own dance to dance, directed by our heart, while our voices mingle into a majestic whole where countless instruments and artists produce a sound that no one can produce alone? Does that sound too profound to be possible?"
Natalia shook her head. "No, it sounds wonderful. The beginning, apparently, has already been made," she said and began to grin. "The world looks a lot bigger now. But what does this make me in the orchestra?" she said and began to laugh. "Does it make me a Piccolo?"
"Oh, yes, indeed Natalia. Your voice is as clear as a Piccolo, your mind soars like a violin that signs, your wits is like a trumpet that calls to attention, and your honesty like a bassoon that sets the mood. You're a saxophone, a French horn...."
"Eh, a French horn!" she grinned. "Is this a compliment?"
"Oh it is. To me, you're the Horn of Plenty!" I said with a twinkle, while I tapped the top of her leg three times in quick succession.
"You fiend!" she said and grinned and invited me for a swim after this.
From: Flight Without Limits