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March 10th, 2019
The dance instructor turned to face the mirror and said “Ok now, everyone, if I can do it, you can do it: follow me!” and began to move through the sequence as everyone else in the room followed along. Some faltered, but Lucilius did not notice them as he paid close attention to the teacher, moving as well as he could in sync with the movements he saw.
When the class was over, he walked out side into the dreary rain. The sky was grey and nearing dark. The wet street bouncing up warped light from the neon signs that lit the drag. Lucilius turned and walked down the sidewalk, passing storefronts and bars. A sign stood outside on bar that had chalk scribbled writing. It said “Heaven is here!” with an arrow pointing into the bar. Lucilius stopped and looked in. Music was pumping and the faces of people laughing and smiling filled the joint. Lucilius smiled weakly and moved on. He stopped at an intersection and waited for the lights to turn. Across the street a ragged bearded man stood with a blank expression holding up a cardboard sign that said “Follow Only Him” and below it “John 14:6”
The light seemed to be stuck so Lucilius decided to duck into another bar on the corner for a quick drink. He ordered brandy and bitters and stood at the bar, thinking back to the dance class, trying to go over the moves in his head.
“You gotta stop being so nervous” Lucilius over heard one guy say to another. “You gotta be just like me, honestly, forget about you, and maybe just try pretend to be me for a little while. I mean even if you are nervous. Hell, we’re all nervous, but I don’t show it cause it’s gonna freak a girl out, make her uncomfortable. You gotta look confident, you know? Like how you can scare off a bear if you yell at it, but you still wanna be so cool and calm you could walk up to a deer and pet it without scaring if off.”
Lucilius looked at the two young men. The talker was smiling as he spoke while the other tried to nod encouragingly in response.
“Honestly, you just gotta try, and as you do it, you’ll get the hang of it, and before you know it, you’ll be just like me. Here, follow me.”
The one followed the other as the leader walked over to a pool table and started chatting with the two girls playing. Within a few minutes all four of them were playing a game and the girls were laughing.
Lucilius finished his brandy and walked back out into the rain. The cross walk was lit and the ragged man was still there holding his sign. He did not look at Lucilius as he passed.
Lucilius ran to catch his buss and as he boarded and paid, the bus driver was pointing at a map and talking to a passenger.
“You’ll have to get off and wait for the next one. See that green line that cuts through downtown? You have to follow that all the way to the end. Ok?”
The passenger thanked the driver and got off. The doors closed and soon enough the bus rumbled on into the night.
When Lucilius got home he put down his bag and flopped down on his bed. He looked at the biographies on his nightstand, all half read and waiting for more attention. He clicked on the T.V. and flipped to a movie channel.
“You were looking for a way to change your life. You could not do this on your own. All the ways you wish you could be? That’s me…..sometimes you’re still you. Other times you imagine you’re watching me. Little by little, you’re just letting yourself become—”
Lucilius clicked to another channel and found a nature documentary about Tigers. A raspy British voice narrated about the youngest cat in the litter. “Soon, she will have to follow in the footsteps of her mother and break off from the family and go on her own way.”
Lucilius clicked off the T.V. and simply laid in bed, staring at the ceiling. He thought about how the ceiling was just an expanse of light that was hitting his eyes. How the light was creating tiny reactions in the cells of his retina. He wondered, was the ceiling really up there, or was it just something occurring in his eye. He thought about how he could be dreaming, which would mean that none of it was happening with his eye, how it was just all somewhere in the back of his brain, pinging around, mish mashing memories.
He closed his eyes and breathed slowly. Thoughts bubbled up, but as each did he noticed it, let it do it’s thing and watched it fade. He felt his chest rise as he breathed in again slowly. He noticed his attention slowly shift to another thought and he entertained it.
The thought was about happiness and what it was. Some particular frenzy of neural activity, he figured. A memory flooded into his consciousness and he smiled at the time. However it fires up, it’s some sort of structure in this brain that’s thinking this thought. He refocused on his breathing and felt the air fill his lungs. I guess that means I carry around that neural structure all the time, he thought. It has to be the case, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to feel it. He decided to think about a few things in life that he was grateful for and a smile appeared on his face again. He wondered if he was consciously poking that neural structure that might involve itself in happiness. He felt his body exhale and felt himself further relax.
Then he opened his eyes and rolled over to grab a pencil and a notebook from the nightstand. He turned to a blank page and wrote:
Happiness is always with you.
donating = loving
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