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Chapter 8: Love and/or Sex

Before I talk about this morning, I want to write some prelude:

I have lost interest in everything that isn’t Leo Torres. When he walks into the office, or out of it, I watch him in my peripheral vision. When I’m sure he’s looking elsewhere, I stare straight at him. I don’t know if I can really smell him, or if I just imagine it, but something comes over me when he passes nearby. Phenomes?

When he’s not in the office, especially if I don’t know where he is, I worry! Me! Worrying about someone else! That’s what parents and lovers are supposed to do, not office employees.

Possibly, I’m just a victim of hormones or something. I have no more reason to want him now more than I did before I met him. If anything, I should like him less now that he’s descended to the level of known humanity. He is, after all, just another person of the male persuasion, and he’s not particularly tall.

Some of my problem, I can see, is liberty. At seventeen, and away from home for the first time, and on my first real job, I’m having what would probably be called “typical” problems with figuring out what to do with myself. Any woman, new woman, would have to work these things out I suppose. But my problems are much worse.

They are worse because we just had a revolution. Actually, I should say we’re right in the middle of a revolution, because we haven’t worked everything out. Nobody knows how to act, nobody knows what’s what. Since I’ve been on this job, I’m much closer to the revolution than, say, somebody just working at an ordinary job as part of the economy. Somebody farming or building something, like the growing workforce here at the project.

It’s one thing to condemn the way people used to act. It’s easy to condemn racist attitudes, or any kind of chauvinism as being part of our sordid past. I could spend hours, probably have spent hours, talking trash about how people used to act.

But how should we act now? How should I act now? That’s the question.
And there’s not going to be any answer for me either. There aren’t any role models. There aren’t any older people who have “been through it all” who can say what’s what to us eagerly absorbing young learners. Not going to happen. Everything the older people know is wrong, that much is certain.

The fact is that there are probably more people looking at me and trying to figure out how to act than there are people that I can learn from. Because of my position here and my position in general relative to the revolution, the role model is me. I’m it.

This morning, I decided to beard the goat, or bell the cat, whichever is a real saying. I went straight up to the Commissioner’s desk and sat down facing him. “Where were you yesterday?” I demanded, just for a good strong start.

“Did anything important come up?”

“I want to know where you were!”

“It’s the first day off I’ve had since I got here.”

“Where were you?”

“I’m having an affair. I thought you knew.” Now that’s pure Leo Torres. If you ask him something, you better be prepared for an answer, because he doesn’t hide. Actually, he seemed kind of relieved to confess something to me, and I jumped on it like a shark on bloody meat.

“Tell me about it.”

“I’ve cared about this woman since my first assignment. You probably saw her come in the other day with Dr. Johns. They want to set up a kind of rehabilitation center here as part of our project. His ideas are, ah, extreme.... But that’s not what you want to know. The last time I saw her, things were kind of left hanging. I wasn’t sure, still am not sure, if she wants me or him. Or even if she wants anybody.

‘It’s not one of those cases where she could choose both of us, because our ideas are so far apart. He doesn’t believe in this revolution or in any revolution. He believes human beings have to be “fixed” from the inside. He thinks everything we’re doing is basically… irrelevant.”

“Oh.” I was just trying to egg him on.

“Jane, her name is Jane…”

I really didn’t like the way he said her name. You couldn’t find a more ordinary name, but he said it as if it were filled with supernatural wonder. I wouldn’t accuse Leo Torres of being religious, but this sounded like some soul-searching stuff. Jane. The religion of Jane! Janeism? Jainism? I’ll look it up.

“…was critically involved in his early experiences. He considers her his first and greatest success. She says he considers himself to be his second greatest. Both of them went through some intense physical experience that, they say, sort of “re-set” them. Re-booted might be a better word. It involved being closed off from all meaningful sensation. They experienced movement, everything, randomly, for an extended period. But again, that's not what you want to know about.

‘Jane works for Johns. You could say it’s the only work she’s ever known. They’re setting up their machines, right now, on the site, even though they don’t have approval yet. It’s occurred to me that Jane might be showing some interest in me just because they both want me to help approve their project. It’s possible she doesn’t care anything for me at all.”

Now I’m beginning to understand why Leo Torres is willing to unload on me. His own uncertainty is getting him down, and I’m just handy and easy to talk to. Surely he knows, though, that I compulsively write everything down? Probably, like a lot of other things, the explanation is that he just doesn’t care.

“I think I care for Jane because she seems so calm and so wise, although most people would probably say she’s neither. I’m going on the assumption that she just hasn’t decided how she feels about me. Unlike you, July, and unlike a lot of people, Jane isn’t affected by my phony reputation. I think Jane thinks of me pretty much the same way she thinks of everybody else, everything else. We’re all just puzzles to be solved. Come to think of it, maybe that’s not just Jane. Maybe that’s what all of us are to all the rest of us, puzzles to be solved.

“What phony reputation?”

“July, I’ve tried to tell you this before. I’m not a leader of the revolution. I never was. I was just a street kid that they recruited and who just happened to be in their crew when they tried to confront a corporate Board of Directors --  basically as a publicity stunt. They were never violent, you know that, and they still aren’t. But in the confusion of things, all the real leaders had to leave and one of them told me as he left, ‘Don’t let them leave.’

‘I tried to block the door, but when they assaulted me to get out, and when I realized I couldn’t stop them otherwise, I pulled out my knife. As it turned out, I killed them one by one. It was the only real act of violence in the entire revolutionary takeover. They probably should have kicked me out for being intentionally ignorant or something, but other people thought it was a big deal. I became some kind of a celebrity and the Revolutionary Council just let people believe what they wanted to believe.

'Since then, they’ve given me two assignments. This is the second one. Both of them were far away from the Center and far away from the axis of important events. This project could succeed or it could fail and it wouldn’t make a lot of difference, in the scheme of things.

‘I met Jane on my first assignment. At that time, I was trying to get over being a celebrity with all the free sex and booze it entailed. All I was really thinking about was sobering up, until I started thinking about her. I can honestly say that Jane Early is the first person in this world that I ever cared about. She’s been a real learning experience for me, even if it doesn’t work out. I never really cared before, and I didn’t know what I’m learning now. It hurts to care.”

I don’t know if I could have led him on further or not. It was getting interesting to peek inside the great Commissioner Leo Torres, but I’m realizing that I was never as interested in him as I am in myself. So I turned the conversation toward what I really wanted to talk about all along.

“Would you have sex with me? Would you fuck with me?” I asked him.

 

--July Eason, Project Archivist

 

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