July 15th, 2010 -- 2:15 am
37 52 12.62N 122 16 9.15W
Phil Bensen was not a content man.
He had battled away in the world of academia for a little over fifteen years. Though he still loved physics and astrophysics, he hated the insular and backbiting world one needed to live in to have a career in it. Almost two years ago, he'd finally reached the end of his rope and resigned his associate position at UC Berkeley and signing on with a big silicon valley consulting firm as a programmer.
Though the lines of code he bashed out on a daily basis wouldn't unlock the secrets of the universe or explain the beginnings of the big bang -- he was damned good at it. He took some satisfaction in the artistry and 'tightness' of the code he created. A mercenary of sorts, he went with the highest bidder and could make more in one month of programming than his annual salary at Berkeley -- leaving him free the other months to do whatever he wanted -- independent research, surfing, travel, whatever.
Of course, lately he'd been having a tough time turning down the offers and that free time hadn't materialized -- though his bank account certainly wasn't suffering.
This evening (or more like early morning), he was returning from a marathon session at the offices of one of the big search engines. They'd needed help tweaking some logic in a GPS/Shopping application and had called him in.
"Some accomplishment," he thought to himself as he pulled into his condo's garage. "I've now made it easier for the world to buy more useless crap with the help of their mobile phone."
Trying to shake off the negativity, he emerged from the elevator onto the 7th floor.
A beautiful woman was standing in the hallway with a Louis Vitton bag. She was dressed in expensive clothing.
"Must be waiting for Anton," he mused.
Anton was his Russian neighbor who was a venture capitalist. He'd ridden the wave that started in '97, sold everything off six months before the bubble burst, bought short on the right properties, and doubled his nut again.
There were always hot women waiting around for Anton -- and most of them weren't even hookers. Certainly a lot of them were the kind only interested in partying with someone who had lots of money to spend -- and Anton was always willing to oblige them. Phil had tried partying with Anton for about a week before figuring out that there was nothing real in the wealthy Russian's entire universe. He viewed Anton's clique as living proof that there was antimatter and was just thankful he'd been able to avoid getting sucked into it.
Yes, this woman certainly had the looks of one of Anton's chickz as the Russian said. There was something different about this one, though. She gazed at Phil with open, innocent eyes. There was an intensity; a simplicity about her that was enchanting and almost alarming.
He gave her a polite nod as he walked past her. Upon stopping at his door, he heard the approach of footsteps. She was walking toward him with her suitcase.
"Can I help you?" he asked in a sardonic tone.
"I don't need help, I don't think," said the beautiful woman whose hair seemed to shift colors with the light. "I'm not in distress, but thank you for your offer."
"Okay. Umm...what are you doing here?"
"I am standing. Today I took the bus from Glendale, California -- departing from Latitude 34 degrees seven minutes twenty five point forty-eight seconds north, Longitude one hundred and eighteen degrees fifteen minutes, thirty-one point seventy-seven seconds west. I travelled northward to the Berkeley Greyhound station, which I have yet to find the coordinates for due to lack of access to a computer. On the journey north I spoke with many people aboard the bus. Many of the men paid a great deal of attention to me, but I did not care for that sort of attention. I spoke with an older woman from Castroville who was very pleased that I spoke Spanish. She asked me to call her Abuela, which I did. I have her phone number and I am going to go to her family's house for dinner on an upcoming Sunday. There was one young man who also seemed attracted to me, but not in an uncomfortable way. His name was Justin. We spoke of the Giants which are not abnormally large men, but a team that plays the sport baseball. I hope to go to a game some time. Justin let me borrow his iPhone and I looked up many things on the internet. Justin seemed to admire my breasts -- he kept staring at where they were under my shirt and at the portions you can see. At the end of the journey I let him see all of them and I think it left him quite uncomfortable for he was unable to say anything after that, not even goodbye..."
As she babbled on, Phil mused that this was certainly a new approach for a groupie. There are physics groupies, by the way. Perhaps a better term is genius groupies. There are women (or men) who get some sort of thrill from being close to someone with brains. Get a PhD, a few pretty grad students start hovering around. Win a fellowship to NASA -- you get the models or hot business execs who are closet Scifi nuts and want to spend some time with the closest they'll ever get to Spock .
Phil knew a couple of younger Nobel winners who could have a different long-legged beauty any day of the week. They were the A-Rod's of the science world. Some of the women just wanted the closeness -- the proximity to a 'higher being'. Many wanted a sperm donor -- thinking a PhD was some proof of genetic superiority (they'd clearly never met his younger brother).
He had to admire this one's approach. Going for the savant-Asberger's angle was entirely unique. He figured he'd entertain her for a little while.
"I took a cab here," continued the woman, "the driver's name was Andre'. He dropped me off at the corner and your doorman let me in. Since then, I have been waiting here at Latitude..."
"I know the coordinates of the building," said Phil. He didn't really, not exactly, but he'd looked it up before.
"Oh, you do?" she said excitedly. "I love knowing the coordinates!"
"Yes. Hey, do you want to come in for a drink or something?"
"I would like a beverage, yes -- though I have to slow down on the slush-type beverages, they put pain in my head when I drink them rapidly."
"Sure, sure. How about some white wine?" suggested Phil.
"I have never had wine. That would be lovely. Thank you."
"Okay, just make yourself at home in the living room. I'll be right back."
Phil went into the kitchen and pulled out a nice, neutral sort of wine, one he hoped a stunning nutjob would find okay. He poured it into glasses and carried them into...
She was naked. She was standing naked in his living room looking at his photos of el Capitan.
She turned and smiled at him.
It was an odd sensation. He should have been frightened, but there was nothing inviting in her smile -- nothing seductive. Proof to that end came with her next words.
"I am glad to be at home. Sergeant Melanie Starostka said that I needed to wear clothes in public, but I could do whatever I wanted to at home. You said to make myself at home. Those clothes are uncomfortable after a while. Look at the lines the bra put into my shoulders and under my breasts.
Phil tried to take on the same matter-of-fact candor she was exhibiting.
"Yeah, yeah. That's gotta be annoying."
"Will the lines stay?"
"No. No, they go away pretty quickly."
"I'm glad. Can I have some wine?"
"Sure. Yeah. Here you go."
Phil poured her a glass. She drank it in one gulp.
"May I have some more? One gets very thirsty on long greyhound trips. Abuela told me they have beverages on planes but they don't on buses."
"That's true," said Phil. "Why don't you wait for some wine? I'll get you some water."
"Water is lovely," said the woman. "Earth has a lot of water."
"Yes, yes we do. Hey, what's your name by the way?"
"I would like to be called Halley."
"Okay Halley. Let me get you some water."
Phil went back into the kitchen and tried to gather himself. Everything about this woman was alarming. She'd stalked him and planted herself in the hallway. She'd stripped down to her birthday suit yet made no advances toward him. She was exhibiting some highly disturbing behavior, but she exuded a calm vibe that reassured him every time he looked into her eyes.
He saw the message light blinking on his phone. As advanced as many things in his life were, he still preferred an old-school answering machine. He was about to push the play button when Halley appeared, peeking around the corner.
"What room is this?
"This is the kitchen."
"The kitchen, where you store and prepare food?"
"Yeah. Um, look around if you want. I'm checking messages."
"Thank you," she said, and began flitting around.
Everything was of interest. The feel of the marble countertops; the way the drawers slid; how the cabinets opened; the clink of glasses. It was a great adventure for her.
He pushed the play button.
"Hi Phil, it's Ed Bertschinger. Listen, I know you're taking some time off, but we've got a three-month fellowship we'd love to have you..."
"Heya Bensen it's Jeff over at InfinIT. I don't know what your guys are paying you, but I think we could... Skip
"Pheel, eet is Andre your neighbor. I fly to Canada tomorrow on private jet. Was thinking you come and help me wit dese Australian girls I meet at Martuni's..." Skip
"Hello Phil Bensen, this is Sergeant Melanie Starostka from the Glendale police department."
"Ooh!" squealed Halley. "It is my friend."
"I wanted to let you know that a very -- unusual young woman is on her way to see you. Her name is Halley. She is decidedly odd, but I don't' think she bears you any ill will. I can't believe I'm saying this, but if you see her, go gently. Take care of her if you can -- she's... she's just different, but in wonderful ways."
"She is a nice person, Melanie Starostka," said Halley. "Oh, I am still thirsty. I will have some more wine now."
She took the bottle up and drank straight from it, chugging the rest of the Riesling with barely a pause.
"What are these?" she asked, reaching out to the knives.
"Be careful..." said Phil, but it was too late. She had pulled out a paring knife and slashed gash in her finger.
Tears began welling up in her eyes.
"What happened," she asked, her lower lip trembling. "Why did this shiny thing cause me pain? What is this redness? Is it blood? What is this wetness in my eyes? Am I crying? Are these tears? I have never cried tears before."
She had reached to her face and was now wiping the blood from her gushing finger onto her face.
"Hey, come here. Come here. We'll take care of you."
He tore off a sheet of paper towel and pressed it to her finger before leading her into the bathroom.
"Oh no! Look at me!" she cried upon seeing herself in the mirrors.
"Relax," said Phil. "We'll take care of you in a jiffy."
He washed off her face and rinsed her hand before putting antiseptic and a bandaid on it. She continued sobbing as he fixed her up. Though a bit mollified, tears were still rolling slowly down her cheeks.
It was so certainly one of the oddest nights Phil had ever experienced.
"Come here," he said, guiding her into the bedroom. He sat her down on the bed where she was still sniffling.
"Why do things have to hurt, Phil Bensen? I don't understand."
She was so innocent, so childlike, Phil had no choice but to do the natural thing and pull her into his arms for a comforting hug.
"There you go," said Phil softly. "It'll all be alright."
Instinctively, he kissed the top of her head and she snuggled into him further.
"Would you lie down with me Phil Bensen? It feels good with you holding me. I've never had someone hold me before. It is so pleasant."
Phil laid back and she wrapped herself around him.
"I am so tired, Phil Bensen. I think this must be what it means to be sleepy. Have you ever been sleepy before? This is my first time."
"Yeah, I've been sleepy," said Phil.
Suddenly, he was now. There was something about her -- it was like she was emanating every one of her emotions and they were pushing their way into his own consciousness. She was tired, so it made sense that he should be tired, too. He could barely keep his eyes open.
"Can I ask you, Phil Bensen," said Halley in the midst of a yawn, "is this as pleasant as it was when you were holding Cheri Little and falling asleep?"
Those words would have surprised him, but they barely filtered into his drowsy mind as the two of them drifted off into a deep sleep -- linked together by a curious bond which was growing stronger by the minute.
* * *
Phil awoke in that confused state one finds at times. Even though he was in his own bedroom, he was disoriented and unsure of where he was. Dreams came back to him of a strange woman who appeared in his hallway and promptly disrobed in his living room.
He looked next to him on the bed.
It wasn't a dream.
The woman, Halley, stretched and rolled over to face him. She was still naked.
"Good morning?" he said tentatively.
"It is, isn't it!" she said, more cheerful than anyone had a right to be. "It is sunny and I hear birds outside and I am lying here next to you."
"Yes. Yes, you are."
"Phil," she said coyly, moving closer to him. "Would you show me something?"
"What?" he said, nervously.
"Would you show me how to kiss? I have never kissed and I would very much like to learn."
"Oh, well I..."
"Please?" she implored him.
Her innocent gaze was almost hypnotic. Phil couldn't deny her request.
"Okay. Come a little closer."
The two of them lay side by side, their faces almost touching. Phil in his clothes from the night before, Halley in nothing.
"You just move in and - you turn your head that way, I'll turn my head this way. Now, you press your lips to mine and..."
If anyone has ever had that perfect kiss, that make-your-head-spin, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck, eye-rolling kiss, they might know a fraction of the electricity that went through Phil and Halley at that moment.
"Oh my." said Halley. "Oh my!"
She sat up and then walked to the window.
"What's happening?" she cried to Phil. "What's happening to me? I'm shaking inside and I... my breathing, I can't breathe! My heart is beating much faster."
She started laughing - then she started crying.
"Oh Phil! This kissing is too much. I can't ever do it again. No! I can! I have to! Kiss me again!"
She knelt on the bed. Phil got up and met her halfway. They faced each other, each of them kneeling. If anything, this kiss was more overwhelming. Phil was the one who felt dizzy now and believed if he hadn't been kneeling he would have fainted right there.
"Phil, will you tell me something?"
"Was that as nice as when you kissed Cheri Little?"
The words she'd whispered the night before came back to him.
"You kissed Cheri Little. You were with her for fifteen days back in 1986. Were any of the kisses you shared with her like those we have shared?"
"Who are you?"
"I am Halley. But you are Phil Bensen. You don't want to get laid. You just want to hold someone and kiss them. I will do that with you."
"Okay, now I get it! My signal must've bounced off something and come back. Who put you up to this? You are very good. Who are you? Where are you from?!?"
Phil had leapt up and was pacing around the bedroom, livid.
"I have not been put up. Perhaps I am many feet above the ground, but no one put me there in this up place. I am Halley, I told you that. I don't know where I'm from, only that I came a very long way to get here. I do know that I don't like the way you are talking to me. Your voice is loud and unpleasant. Your face and your forehead are wrinkled. It does not make me happy when you speak like this. It hurts! It feels like it did when that sharp thing cut me in the kitchen. You stop acting like this! You stop it right now! I am not happy with you! This is not a good morning!"
Based on the way she reacted, Phil was certain of two things:
1) She had not been put up to this by anyone,
2) There was some weird shit going on.
"Hold me!" she demanded. "Hold me like you did last night. That made me feel better and since you made me feel bad, it is your job to make me feel better."
He held her and within a few minutes she was asleep and smiling. Phil slipped his arm out from under her head and snuck to the phone -- dialing a number he'd never thought he'd call again
"Well hello there, bailout," said the woman's voice at the other end of the line. "Ready to finally come in and talk about why you resigned from one of the best positions in the country?"
"Carrie, this isn't about me I just figured, you being the head of the psych department -- you could be some help here."
"Help with what?" asked the woman's voice on the other end of the phone.
"With a girl."
"Really Phil? You're calling your ex for some help with a girl?"
"You see," stuttered Phil, "she came over last night and then she got naked and..."
"Phil," said Carrie, "not helping your case here."
"Carrie," whispered Phil into the phone. "This is seriously fucked up. Please, just come over and you'll see what I mean."
After a long sigh into the receiver, Carrie agreed.
Phil kept as quiet as possible, not wanting to have to deal with Halley until Carrie got there. He grabbed his laptop and sat by the door, working while waited for Carrie to ring the bell. He was able to get Carrie all the way into the apartment without waking Halley.
Carrie and Phil had met at a faculty mixer six or seven years before. They'd had a passionate romance that fizzled suddenly. Phil had broken it off, and though Carrie had argued against it at the time, she had soon met the love of her life. She'd said to Phil on more than one occasion how glad she was that he'd broken up with her. She was now happily married and had a two-year old daughter.
Phil brought Carrie into the kitchen and explained in hushed tones the events of the night before. He was just about done when Halley woke up.
"Phil! Are you there Phil?"
She found them in the kitchen.
"Oh, hello. I'm Halley. What is your name?"
"Hello...Halley," said Carrie, grinning. "That's some body you've got there."
"Oh, thank you," said Halley, smiling at the compliment. "I had marks on my breasts and my shoulders from my bra, but Phil was right, they went away. Are you wearing a bra, Carrie?"
"Oh yeah," said Carrie, taking it in stride. "After having a baby, I didn't have much choice."
"You have a baby! Where is it? There was one on the greyhound from Lost Angeles, California to Berkeley California, but it was asleep so I couldn't talk to it."
"Well, Moira is at my house with her father right now. Halley, would you like to play?"
"Oh! I have never played. I would very much enjoy that."
"Good," said Carrie. "Why don't you go into the living room and wait. I'll come in and we'll play."
"Thank you Carrie!"
Halley gave Carrie a huge hug and then skipped to the living room.
"Do you see what I mean?" whispered Phil.
"Oh yeah," agreed Carrie. "Something seriously out of the normal is going on here. Do you still have all of your toys?"
"What? You mean the toys you said I was too old for?"
"Yeah. A) I was wrong, B) I need them to work with Halley."
"I'll get them," said Phil.
He went to his spare room which was filled to the brim with a mix of Star Wars collectibles and vintage tin toys. Trying to pick out the ones that might be the most engaging to Halley, he filled a box and went out to the living room. He was stopped short.