The Letter

The Letter

The four blasts from the northbound train’s air horn echoed along the hollow, pre-dawn morning. I had been awake for over an hour but had stayed in bed reflecting on how the day’s events might unfold. The four resounding blasts faded imperceptibly into the empty morning, replaced by three more long, echoing blasts from the train’s air horn that, for the moment, pulled my thoughts away from the letter; I had been thinking back to that night a year ago when I’d reluctantly promised Noah I’d hold on to the letter and, if he hadn’t retrieved it before the year was up, deliver it to his daughter, Beckett. In one way because the year was now up, I couldn’t believe how quickly it had gone by, but if I recounted each day individually, the year seemed to have passed with a torturous sluggishness. This is just the nature of time, I guess: even though it moves inflexibly in one direction, it never moves along a straight line, but rather fluctuates up and down, with one hour climbing interminably, never seeming to expire, and the next falling in a blur, seeming not to have occurred at all.

I still had the rest of today, but I wasn’t holding out much hope that Noah would show up, so I’d prepared myself for the hundred mile drive tomorrow morning to the town where Beckett lived. I wasn’t relishing the task, but I’d be relieved to be rid of the letter.

I’d met Noah on a cold, moonless night in the Dead Goat Pub. I’d noticed him sitting at the bar when I first walked in, but after I’d taken a seat at the bar, I examined him more closely: black eyes set deep in an angular face, a scramble of dark brown hair, muscles knotted and coiled; he was not a man to dismiss. I ordered a beer, resisting the impulse to look over at him again, which proved unnecessary because, before another thought had time to enter my consciousness, he’d moved over next to me, holding out his hand. I took his hand and introduced myself. His hands were hard and cracked like an eagle’s talons; Noah was an argonaut.

“I’ve never seen you in here before,” I told him. Uneasy, I looked at the beer the bartender had set in front of me.

“That’s because I’ve never been in here before,” he smiled. His appearance suggested a hair-triggered, spring-loaded trap that with the slightest pressure would snap with intense fury, but his warm smile and quiet spirit eased my tension.

“What brings you in tonight?” I asked.

“The cold, I guess,” he said. “And I was craving a beer. And some conversation. I’ve been alone for a while.”

“Yeah, you look like you’ve just come in from the wild,” I told him, hoping not to offend him. His face was narrow and hard but his smile was gentle.

“I needed some time alone,” he said. “There’s a place that I know, a spiritual vortex. Whenever I need to reposition myself, I go there. Fortunately, it has remained undiscovered. Besides, they guard it closely.” I took a minute to process what he’d said, not quite understanding its meaning. I believed in a spiritual world, but I’d always thought of it as internal, the channel through which individuals got in touch with their souls. Who were they he spoke of, they who guarded this spiritual vortex?

“Such a place exists?” I asked finally. He nodded. “Is it far from here?” I was prying.

“Yes and no,” he said, mysteriously. “It’s not far as the crow flies, but it isn’t easy to get there.”

“What’s it like?” I asked.

“The wind is strong,” he said. “It howls with a great fury, unlike anything you’ve ever encountered before, but at the same time is noiseless and tranquil, like standing in the eye of a hurricane.”

“But how do you enter this vortex?” I asked.

“You don’t,” he said. “It enters you.” I was dumbfounded, not knowing what to ask next. Noah, noticing my confusion, added, “It isn’t something that we can define through physics because it is an unnatural phenomenon. You can’t think of the spiritual vortex as an extension of the natural world. You have to let go of all the perceptions of the world you‘ve become so comfortable with.”

“But how is that possible?” I asked. “How do we just ignore what is right in front of us, what we have come to believe as real and measurable?”

“Real?” he smiled. “Believe me, nothing is real. Everything is imagined. Even this place, this bar, this wood, this beer, all of it is imagined.”

“But I’m here, too,” I argued. “How can both of us imagine the same thing at the same time, if none of it actually exists?”

“You can’t be sure that I just don’t exist in your imagination,” he smiled.

“But you’re describing the same things that I see and feel and know to be real, things that I can describe in some detail,” I argued. “Why would I need to imagine you, if these things already make sense to me?”

“That’s a good point,” he said. “But it could be that in imagining me, you have given me the power to imagine you. The truth is that each of us needs confirmation. We continually need to convince ourselves that we’re not alone in the universe, that in fact, the universe itself exists, even though it is filled with so much darkness and mystery. A simple argument: if ninety-five per cent of the universe consists of dark matter and energy, things we don’t understand, and can’t comprehend, then we don’t know a lot, do we?”

“I guess not,” I agreed. “But this doesn’t mean that what we do know isn’t real?”

“It isn’t real in the way we believe it is,” he said. “I could say that my dreams are real, too, but I don’t understand them. I can explain them in any way I choose because they are my dreams, but no one else can verify their existence, so do they exist? Without proof, no one can say for sure. The same with my thoughts; I convince myself that I am here now, at this point in time, talking to you, and this seems to point empirically to my existence, and, in fact, to our existence, but I can’t be sure. I can only be sure of my belief in our existence. Therefore, it might be argued that I’ve simply made up the evidence for my existence – and for yours, too.”

“But what if someone else were to confirm it,” I said. “Like the bartender. He’s part of our experience, too.”

“Precisely,” Noah said. “He is part of my experience.”

“But I see him, too,” I pleaded. “He’s real to me.”

“That only confirms that he exists in your imagination, but you might exist only in mine,” he said.  “I can only be sure of what I myself imagine, and therefore the universe might or might not exist. If I happen to be an extension of your imagination, then I exist only at your will, and everything I perceive to be real is a product of your imagination.”

“But what about this spiritual vortex you talk about?” I asked him, hoping to change the direction of our conversation. “Do you believe in its existence?”

“Yes,” he said. “The spiritual vortex exists outside my imagination. And outside of yours.” My head had begun to ache; I took a long drink of beer, turning the words around and around in my head, trying to put them in some order that might make sense to me.

The time I spent with Noah was one riddle after another until I was finally so turned around that nothing made any sense to me at all. I just wanted to have a normal conversation, but he was intense. Only when he spoke about the spiritual vortex was I able to follow the thread of his thinking, even though he was talking about a concept that to me was strange and disconcerting.

His guide meets him just inside the vortex, Noah told me, a dark place filled with strange lights and unfamiliar colors and shapes that are continually changing. Nothing is familiar. His guide also changes, sometimes taking the form of a snake, sometimes a crow, sometimes a coyote, and even once a man. This was the most uncomfortable trip through the spiritual world, he told me, because the man was the least trustworthy. “He seemed to want something from me,” Noah told me. “But he never asked me for anything. The snake always behaved like a snake, twisting and shuddering along the dark passageway, the crow always behaved like a crow, flying just ahead of me, but calling back to me frequently, the coyote behaved like a coyote, beguiling, smiling, moving determinedly through the unfamiliar terrain, his red eyes showing me the way. I never knew the destination, or along which path I’d be led, but I always felt safe and unhurried. Except for one time, I was met by the man. He was a taker, I sensed this right away, and from the moment he met me, I was leery of him. Something just didn’t feel right. He reminded me of someone I had once known, but I couldn’t recall who; it was an intuition, similar to what I feel after waking from a dream, that feeling that stirs in the pit of my stomach, not in my consciousness because I’ve passed from one reality into another.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” I told him. “But why do you suppose that only with the man were you wary? I would think that being guided by strange creatures would give rise to a lot of caution.”

“Man is the most cunning of all animals,” he told me.  “He alone cannot be trusted because he assumes many disguises. He is artful and deceitful in order to get what he wants.”

“Other animals use camouflage in order to fool and trap their prey,” I told him.

“Yes, it is nature’s way of leveling the playing field,” he said. “But man is selfish in his need to fool and deceive. His only purpose is self-aggrandizement.”

I thought about this for a moment. Noah seemed to have a unique insight into the universe, an understanding of which the rest of us have been denied. Or maybe from which we’ve been spared. I wasn’t really comfortable with my mental image of this spiritual vortex he spoke of, but at the same time, I was intrigued. But I couldn’t help wondering if it might not be drug induced. “How is it that you found this spiritual vortex to begin with?” I finally asked him.

“It found me,” he told me.

I waited for further explanation, but none came. “But you told me that they guard it closely. Who are they?” I asked. “And if it is something that requires guarding, this suggests that it’s a place.”

“It is a place,” he said. “But at the same time, not a place. It exists in darkness, in the dark space between consciousness and unconsciousness.”

I still didn’t understand. How does something exist between consciousness and unconsciousness? We can pass from consciousness into unconsciousness, and back again, but there isn’t anything that exists in between. One is either in a conscious or an unconscious state. But a dark space between consciousness and unconsciousness? This didn’t make sense to me. And I told Noah this. He simply smiled, “I guess it has to be experienced.”

And now one year later, I’ll never forget the way he smiled. It made my skin crawl. It was a smile that seemed to express an understanding of everything. But at the same time nothing. I crawled out of bed and made my way into the kitchen to put on coffee. I was restless. I wanted to be done with the letter, I wanted to get Noah out of my mind. Ever since he had entrusted me with the letter, it consumed a lot of my time and energy. I had been unable to concentrate on my writing, which was my livelihood. What would happen if this continued? I had to believe that my creative torpidity was only temporary, a result of my obsession with the letter and that I’d snap out of it as soon as I’d delivered the letter.

I sat down at my computer and pulled up the short story that I’d been working on for the past several months. Usually, I could finish a story in a couple of weeks; this one was taking months, and still no end in sight. I thought about abandoning it and beginning a new one. But something just wouldn’t let me give up on it. But if I couldn’t find the right ending, what good was it to go on? I struggled, thinking about the spiritual vortex. I wondered if it really existed. Or if anything really existed. I sipped my coffee; at least my coffee seemed real: it was hot and burned my tongue. And then I thought about the letter – and Beckett. What was she like? Noah never told me anything about her, except where she lived. I wondered about their relationship. And I wondered about how she had passed the year, not knowing what had become of her father. In one way, it seemed cruel of Noah. I couldn’t understand how he could just disappear out of her life without any word. Would the letter make up for his disappearance? What would it say? Maybe Noah had done this before, so Beckett wouldn’t be alarmed. But I had the strong feeling that Noah was never coming back, that maybe he’d entered the spiritual vortex for the final time. But I still wondered about this spiritual vortex. It just didn’t make sense to me. I was curious, however. And I wondered if I might be able to find it. Maybe the letter had clues to its whereabouts. I went to my bedroom to get the letter, sealed in a blank envelope. I carried it back to my desk and set it next to my computer. I stared at it, but it told me nothing.

I returned to the story, which seemed to mock me now. I had grown to despise it, but maybe my scorn should be directed at the letter instead. I needed to be rid of it once and for all, maybe both of them, the story and the letter. Or maybe there was a story in the letter. Would I discover something tomorrow when I delivered the letter? Or would the day simply pass like every other day, beginning with so much promise, but ending with fatigue and disappointment? Writing was a strange occupation. My whole life was a lie, a fairy tale, a series of unanswered questions. Why couldn’t I be normal? Why couldn’t I get excited about the things that excited other people? Maybe Noah had been right: everything existed only in my imagination. I never really interacted with my readers. Maybe they didn’t even exist. But I slept, I woke up, I fumbled through the day, I went to the store, I cooked dinner, I went for walks, I saw other people out and about. Were they just figments of my imagination? I didn’t think so. I believed in their existence. It didn’t make sense otherwise. No, I couldn’t believe that I was alone in the universe.

I finished my coffee, but my restlessness continued to gnaw at me. I needed to get out for a while, I needed to go for a walk, anything to get away from the letter. The sun was bright in a high sky. As I walked, I imagined how tomorrow might go. I’d pull up in front of Beckett’s house; at first, she’d be confused by my presence, but she’d finally come to understand the nature of my visit and ask me inside; we’d drink coffee and I’d tell her about my meeting with her father. She’d nod, holding the letter. It might be awkward; should I stay around until she opened the letter? Or should I simply deliver the letter and quickly excuse myself? She deserved some explanation, I thought. But what comfort would my explanation give her? I made my way back to my apartment. The day passed slowly. I read Borges. I had recently begun reading Borges again, having been away from his stories since college. His fiction put me in mind of Noah, with his focus on indefinite time and phantasm. What was real and what imaginary? Or were they one and the same? And how could anyone ever be sure? But, ultimately, did it matter?

I turned in early because I wanted to get an early start in the morning. I had drawn a crude map of the route I would take tomorrow to Beckett’s house. I guessed that it would take just under two hours. And just like that, with the delivery of the letter, the year would be over. But would I be able to forget Noah and return to anything resembling a normal life? I guessed it all depended on how the meeting went.

I slept restlessly, so I was up even earlier than I’d planned. I still had another hour to get through before I left for Beckett’s house. I didn’t want to arrive too early. Of course, since I knew so little about her, I had no idea what her schedule was – or even if she had a schedule. Did she get up early? Or did she work at nights, sleep mornings, and get up in the afternoon? What did she do? I had no idea. Noah had put me in an awkward situation. But I shouldn’t be wondering these things since I was simply fulfilling a promise I’d made a year ago. I would get there when I got there, and I’d deliver the letter; it was that simple. I wasn’t going to put a lot of unnecessary strain on myself. Hell, for that matter, I could just simply drop the letter into her mailbox. But that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. No, I needed to deliver the letter to her personally so that I could explain how it came into my possession. She deserved that much. Plus, I was just a little curious about Beckett. On so many occasions over the past year, I had imagined what she would be like. Was my imagination anywhere close to the reality that I’d soon encounter? In my experience, our imaginations usually took us to fantastic places, nothing like what we’d find in real life. Oh well, who knows? Maybe this time my imagination hadn’t taken me to a place so far away from the one that I’d find.

It was a gloomy day, rain had been falling since the night before. Everything was wet. Leaves stuck to sidewalks and streets. Snow would come soon. Driving through the countryside, I remembered how much I used to love this time of year, falling leaves, smoke in the air, cold nights, and looking forward to the first snowfall and then Christmas. But I didn’t get excited about Christmas anymore; I didn’t seem to get excited about anything now. I wondered about this. Where had this excitement gone? And why had it left me? Or, maybe the better question should be: why had I abandoned it? And couldn’t I recall it? Could I ever become excited again about the things that used to excite me as a kid? And then I began to think about Noah. What had happened to him? What drives a man to the brink of utter desolation? In so many ways, and especially now in my memory, Noah seemed like a ghost, a phantom, a shadow of something that had once been there but was now gone. Was any of it real? I looked at the letter on the seat next to me. The gloom overcame me, and I began to feel as I had as a kid on cold, dreary days, all bottled up with my own fantasies, my imaginary world, my feelings of isolation. And these feelings still held power over me now as an adult, and I shuddered in the cold, gray rain.

I looked at my watch as I pulled up in front of Beckett’s house: 7:30. Is it too early? I searched for signs of life inside the small, neat house on the outskirts of town. I saw a light through the open curtains of the living room. I had planned on arriving at 8 o’clock, but sitting alone in my car in front of Beckett’s house on such a gray and dismal day, I convinced myself that seven thirty was even better, in case she needed to leave at eight.

I take the letter from the passenger seat and slide it into the inside pocket of my jacket, open the car door and step out into the cold rain. I walk quickly to Beckett’s front door and knock. I’ve always had an aversion to doorbells, I don’t know why, I just have. I hear footsteps inside and my heart begins to race. The door opens and a beautiful woman of about thirty smiles out at me. She quickly opens the screen door and asks me to come in out of the rain. I thank her and step inside; at once I notice that the inside of her house is as neat as the outside; I smell coffee and toast. Beckett acts as if she were expecting me, even though I know this is impossible. She is very friendly and outgoing and puts me immediately at ease. I introduce myself, rather awkwardly because I’m not sure how to describe my relationship with her father, let alone my relationship to her. I finally tell her that I am “a friend” of her father’s.

“Oh?” she responds. “How did you know my father?” She isn’t prying, but rather just trying to make casual conversation to put me even further at ease. I liked her immediately.

“Well, I didn’t really know him,” I try to explain. “He and I met one night quite by chance, a cold, dismal night kind of like today.”

“Here, let me take your coat,” she told me, helping me out of my jacket. Before she hung it in the closet, I reached inside for the letter. “Why don’t we go into the kitchen? Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“I’d love one, thank you,” I said. I asked her if I should remove my shoes, and she told me not to bother. I removed them anyway and followed her into the kitchen. It was neat and bright and warm. She indicated a chair at the kitchen table and I sat down. She took a cup from the cupboard and poured the coffee and set the cup on the table in front of me. She smiled as she set the cup down. “I guess I should introduce myself,” I looked up at her warm smile. I told her my name. She smiled down at me and said, “I suppose you already know who I am, or you wouldn’t be here.” I nodded and picked up the cup of coffee. I was embarrassed; I liked being there, but all of a sudden, the task I’d been entrusted with had become abhorrent to me. I felt like just sitting there and chatting with her and then saying goodbye and leaving. In fact, I felt a sudden scintillation and excitement. Was I falling in love with her? She sat down across from me. “Are you hungry?” she asked. “No, thank you, I’ve already eaten,” I told her. “I hope I’m not keeping you from anything,” I said.

“No, not at all,” she told me. “Since it’s Saturday, I don’t have to go in today.”

“Oh, what do you do?” I asked.

“I’m a teacher, a professor at the local college,” she said.

“What do you teach?” I asked, hoping that I wasn’t getting too personal.

“Philosophy,” she said. “I’m kind of a dinosaur, a dying breed. There aren’t too many of us left, unfortunately. And we’re dropping like flies.” She smiled. She had a beautiful smile. And red hair. She was gorgeous, nothing as I had imagined her to be. I thought she’d be dark and stern like her father. But she was airy and her smile brightened my mood and brought me a comfort I’d never known before. I wanted to sit there and drink coffee and talk to her the rest of the day, but I knew that that wouldn’t be appropriate since we didn’t really know each other. I was taking up her time, I thought, even though she didn’t make even the slightest indication that I was.

“Philosophy,” I said. “Interesting. Your father was something of a philosopher himself.”

“He was indeed,” she agreed. “He was an interesting character. I wish he were still here. I miss him.”

“I can only imagine,” I told her. I hesitated, wanting to delay my task as long as possible. She was so gracious and warm, I didn’t want to interrupt the moment with details of the letter. But I knew she deserved an explanation. “I met him exactly a year ago. In fact, he asked me if I’d deliver this letter to you.”

She seemed startled, looking at me with horror. “How can this be possible?” she exclaimed. “You must be mistaken; my father died five years ago, on this very day; I remember the day clearly because it was rainy and cold and dark, just like today. He’d refused to go to the hospital, telling me that he’d be all right, he just needed to rest. He had always been so active, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking. He just never could sit around, especially after my mom died.”

“But how can that be?” I asked in confusion. “I met him a year ago, I talked to him, we sat at the bar and drank a beer together; he said that he had something that he needed to do and that he’d be gone for quite a long time; I guessed that he would be going back to the spiritual vortex. And he gave me this letter to give to you.” I held out the letter to her. She looked at me quizzically, not understanding what I was saying. With hesitation, she took the letter from me. She stared at it for what seemed like an eternity before setting it down on the table. She pushed it away from her as if its contents held some dark secret, a foreboding of some evil event or affliction. She looked at me, her eyes asking me for an explanation.

“He’d told me about a spiritual vortex,” I tried to explain to her, “a place where he’d often go whenever he felt out of balance with the universe. He’d never mentioned his wife, your mother, he’d only told me about you, and asked me to deliver this letter to you in exactly one year, if he hadn’t retrieved it before the year was up.”

She looked at me with bewildered eyes. She sat speechless, shaking her head, looking down at the letter, but quickly averting her eyes away from the letter and back to me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. At that moment I just wanted to wrap her up in my arms to protect her from the cold, dismal day outside. She tried to say something but was only able to stutter a few scrambled, nonsensical words.

“Beckett,” I finally said to her. She looked at me with a blank stare. “Listen, I can understand your confusion, but I’m telling you the truth: I talked to your father; he told me too much about you not to be your father. Do you have a picture of him?” She continued to stare blankly at me, trying to grasp what I was saying. Finally, she stood up, left the room, walked down the hallway and came back into the kitchen holding a framed picture of her father. “This was taken shortly before his death,” she told me, holding the picture out to me. “It’s a picture of him hiking in Guatemala.” I took the picture from her and looked at it anxiously. This was the same man that I’d met and talked to a year ago, the same man that had given me the letter to give to his daughter, no question about it. He’d given me her address but had never described her in detail, and now I believe there was a reason for this: he wanted me to be surprised, to be taken with her incredible beauty. But why? What reason could he have for this? I didn’t understand any of it.

“That’s him,” I told her. “That’s Noah.” She sat back down. “But he was cremated, I was there,” she said imploringly, looking over at me. “I still have his ashes.” Her voice had become unsteady. “Listen, Beckett,” I began, “there’s probably a logical explanation.” But I couldn’t come up with one. I was wholly confounded.

She looked at me before she said, “But there isn’t, there isn’t a logical explanation, any kind of explanation, nothing makes sense.” And I had to agree with her. I couldn’t explain any of it. And this made me feel uneasy and out of place here. I wanted to stay with her, but I just couldn’t, unless I could come up with an explanation. But I had nothing, nothing to give her, nothing that would explain this strange set of circumstances. But what about the letter? Maybe it held some explanation. I looked over at Beckett; she was staring at the letter now; maybe the same thing had occurred to her. I didn’t really want to suggest that she open it now because it was such a personal thing, but if it might shed some light on our perplexing predicament, then it was important that she open it right away. I hoped that she was thinking the same thing. She reached down and picked up the letter and studied it for several minutes, saying nothing. I continued to look at her. She hesitated. Had she had a presentiment? Did she know something about its contents that caused her to hesitate? But I knew that she needed to look inside, and I needed for her to look inside. But I still felt as if I were an outsider, and wondered if I should leave.

“Beckett, do you want me to leave?”

“No, please don’t go,” she said. She opened the envelope and unfolded the letter, her hands trembling. I watched her eyes as they skimmed across the words in the letter. She put the letter down and looked over at me. “It says that I need to trust you,” she told me. I looked at her; I didn’t understand. “What do you suppose that means?” she asked me. “I don’t know,” I told her. “I only met your father that one time, and we didn’t talk long. We talked about what was real and what simply existed in our imaginations. Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about that meeting, and I’ve often asked myself what is real and what is simply a product of my imagination? And believe me, Beckett, oftentimes I don’t know the difference. And even now, even though I’m sure I got out of bed this morning, got into my car and drove here through the rain, and along the way thought about my childhood, stepped out of my car into the rain, and somewhat shakily walked to your front door, knocked on your door, and was let in by you, even now, I’m not sure what is real or what is a figment of my imagination. I ask myself, are you real? And what about the letter? And how can you trust me when I can’t even trust myself?”

“Precisely,” she said. “It is precisely because you can’t trust yourself that I can feel confident in your existence, and trust you. This is what my father means. He never could do anything in a direct way; he always spoke in enigmas, and traveled along circuitous routes; I wondered about this my whole life. What was he trying to say? And teach me? And why always avoid the direct path? And even now, if it really were my father, in whatever shape or form, why had he entrusted this letter to you? How could he be sure that you’d even deliver it? Most people wouldn’t have. But since you have, and he must have known that you would, this is why the letter says that I need to trust you.”

I thought about the strange meaning in all this. But I still couldn’t believe that it wasn’t really Noah that I’d talked to that night a year ago, not his ghost. How could he have been dead for four years, and yet sit at the bar as anyone else might have, and carry on a conversation with me? And then actually hand me a letter, the very letter that I delivered to his daughter a year later, just as he’d asked me to do. “Beckett, none of this makes any sense to me,” I finally told her. I looked out the kitchen window at the cold rain. I felt as if I were spinning out of control, and as much as I hated to leave Beckett, I felt that I needed to get some fresh air. She seemed to sense my uneasiness and stood up and carried her cup to the sink. “Would you like some more coffee?” she asked. “No, thank you,” I told her. “I really ought to be going; I’m afraid I’ve taken up enough of your time already.”

“Not at all,” she smiled. “On the contrary, you’re the one who’s been inconvenienced. I’m sorry that you had to go to all this trouble.”

“It’s a mystery, isn’t it?” I said to her. I made my way to the front door and put on my shoes. Beckett got my jacket from the closet. She hesitated before handing it to me as if she were hoping that I’d change my mind and stay. I was unsure. A part of me wanted to stay, but that part of me would never want to leave; and a part of me, confused by the mystery of the letter, wanted to get the hell out of there, to get back to my small apartment as fast as I could in order to verify my own existence. Nothing made sense anymore. And then it occurred to me that this was what Noah had planned: he not only wanted to let his daughter know that he was all right, but he also wanted to tell me that I wasn’t, but that this too was all right, because I shouldn’t want to be anyone other than who I was. I held Beckett’s hand and looked deeply into her eyes, and I knew that I’d never see her again. But wasn’t it better this way? We shared something that no other two people would ever share because it was so unique and mysterious; our relationship, barely lasting an hour, would endure forever in our hearts – and minds. Noah was a master. And suddenly I felt the spiritual vortex. He’d told me that you didn’t enter it, but rather that it entered you. I had often thought about what this meant. And then I realized that it meant nothing. And that was precisely the point.

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