The Writer and The Word (02)byAdrian Leverkuhn©
Angela White sat in an expansive business class seat just ahead of the Boeing 777's wing, and having passed on the heavy meal and taken only a few sips of water after take-off, had dropped off into an anxiously light sleep as the jet made it's way westward across the Atlantic. Being an employee of British Airways, she had managed to get a vacant seat that would allow her to sleep comfortably and deplane rapidly. She had brought along only a small rolling carry-on, the standard BA issue for Flight Attendants, and a handbag. She planned on staying in Boston this Friday night, all day Saturday, and return to London on the Sunday evening flight. She did not, however, have to be back at work for a fortnight.
She had met Sumner Welles only last Sunday, and only briefly when she had checked him in for the late morning flight to Boston, but she had been shocked and embarrassed by her transparent attraction to him. And all the more so when she had briefly held his hand over the check-in counter at Heathrow Terminal 3, and he had handed her his card, and asked her to, in effect, come to Boston and visit him. But what had shocked her the most, when she looked back on the incident later that day, was how she so readily assented to his invitation. 'How about next weekend' she had blurted out in the almost hypnotic adolescent state she was in when she had looked into those eyes. She had never seen anything like those eyes before in her life!
And then he had said practically the same thing to her - that he thought her eyes - well, special was the only word she could recall. Then she had melted into a puddle of pubescent joy, and gone completely bubble-headed as he walked off to his flight. But as that day had passed, doubts intruded on the spell he had cast, and she had resolved not to carry on with the affair any further.
And then Sumner had called. From flight 481! And what was all that nonsense about getting her telephone number from Santa Claus or the Prime Minister's office! But when all was said and done . . .
. . . He had said that he wanted her, wanted her to come to Boston, and that while he couldn't put his finger on just what had passed between them, he thought their mutual attraction important enough to risk being thought a total fool by her, that he wanted her to know where he stood, where his heart was coming from. And he had, thankfully, repeated his assertion that he was lousy at talking on the telephone! They had talked for several more minutes, and it had been easy to talk to him, it felt natural to talk to him, and he had actually listened to what she'd had to say for a change . . . not like the typical football types that haunted the nightspots and pubs around London. He seemed different. Magnetically so.
And then she'd emailed him - probably while he was still airborne - and she'd repeated what they had said on the telephone only minutes before. She had ended that first email with a simple assertion: she said that ever since meeting him earlier that day, while holding his hand in her heart in the hours since, she had simply gone weak in the knees at the very thought of him. Writing that - seeing those words on the screen of her little white iBook - had taken her by surprise. It took seeing that sentence on the screen to make all of the feelings she had encountered that day resolve into some kind of sense. Her finger had hovered over the 'Send' button for a few moments - as she pondered the import of those words to her, and, perhaps, to him - then she had sent her feelings winging into binary code to emerge on the far side of the ocean. To finish their journey in the eyes of a man she didn't know, but all of a sudden felt like she had known all her life.
Nancy Greenbaum had left Sumner Welles at the Harvard Square T station, and she was in a huff! Her three weeks on the trip to Scotland in such close proximity to him, and her instant attraction to him, had been an overwhelming experience for her. She had always been a stranger in a strange land, a Jew swimming in a Gentile sea, the culture of 'Generica' an ever present reminder to her of everything that could go wrong in a democratic society, and had. America was, to her, the homogenized land of Wal-Mart and MacDonald's, of movies extolling the virtues of non-conformity by conforming to the arbitrary dictates of fad and manufactured illusion. America was a culture that worshiped violence as the way to settle conflict - any conflict, then it's peace loving citizenry paraded to churches and proclaimed that Jesus was the way and the light. Amerika - as she now spelled out the name - had become the land of hypocrisy and warped values. And Sumner should very well have personified all she loathed about her country; he could very well someday be it's King.
Her parents had provided her with a comfortable - though still very Jewish - home to grow and come of age in. But, both her parents being physicians, they became a distant force in her life as she reached adolescence, and she had grown up - in the truest sense - in an exclusive New England boarding school. But her father always had been - and perhaps always would be - the dominant factor in her life. When she had a problem, he was the one she turned to, he would be there with love in his heart, and no strings attached.
Over the course of her high school years, Nancy had become increasingly more liberal politically, and she soon grew to detest the rich, young, and often mean-spirited boys she was in school with. They were anti-father figures to her - men she would never trust, boys, really, who loved to play games and shred hearts. Many of her teachers had been lesbians, and one had seduced her, and introduced her to the feelings and experiences of intimate love and trust for the first time in her 'adult' life. She had, as so many girls in America had in the 90s, fallen in love with the antiestablishmentarian non-conformity of the lesbian lifestyle. Would she have been able to appreciate the irony of her conformity had time been kinder to her?
And then she had met Sumner Welles. She had been attracted to him, though she couldn't understand why. He was the antithesis of everything she had come to value over the past four years, and yet the more she was around him, the more she listened to him, the more convinced she became that he represented the one true course of her destiny. She had listened with her heart as he had thanked her for her friendship after they had talked on the flight home from London. He had agonized about that Westhoven woman a little bit, and how she had tried to seduce him, and that had made Nancy more angry than mere words could describe. The more Sumner had talked to her, the more she became convinced that he loved her. Almost as much as she loved him, she thought now.
The irony of her feelings - that the utter gentility of Sumner Welles and the air of monied aristocracy that surrounded him would have wounded her very Jewish parents to their core - never seemed to enter her consciousness. The fact that this Westhoven woman had humiliated him, well, too bad for her. She planned to take care of that . . .
Nancy Greenbaum had watched as Sumner had talked to the Westhoven woman on the plane as she had disembarked. She had waited near the jetway exit then followed her to baggage claim, and on to the line to get a taxi. She had entered the line behind her, struck up a conversation with the writer, mentioned that she knew Sumner Welles. With that, the woman's interest had picked up, and she had offered to take Nancy into town. They had struck up an increasingly friendly conversation, and gone to dinner together. Nancy knew that this Westhoven woman was a sexual predator, and she wondered how Diane would respond to being the prey. Nancy had begun to seduce her at dinner that first night, and she could feel the Westhoven womans interest pick up as the evening progressed.
They had taken a taxi together to Nancy's little apartment over by the Museum of Fine Arts, and Nancy had invited her up. Almost as soon as the door had closed behind them, Diane had fallen into Nancy's arms and into a heated embrace. Nancy had moved her hands between the woman's legs, and thrilled when she felt stockings and garters, and no panties. Diane had been wet down there, and ready; Nancy had drifted down on her knees and thrust her tongue between the older woman's legs and assaulted her clitoris.
After Diane had gone weak in the knees, Nancy had pulled her to the floor, then sat astride her face. She had ground her now soaking crotch on Diane's face until she had cum and cum again. Nancy had assumed - quite unknown to her - a very dominant place in Diane's scheme of things. Diane had shattered in the course of the evening - turning from dominance in the wake of Sumner Welles' visceral unmasking - and she had fallen into the, for her, uncharted waters of submission.
Then Nancy had tossed her out of the apartment with a cruel, almost mocking manner, and Diane had walked out into the night.
But Nancy had called Diane almost every day since their return from London; and she kept baiting her trap. She read most of her Westhoven's books that week, and knew the woman be her words - her needs, wants, and desires - that were poured out on the pages like the ravings of a tormented soul. Nancy had intuited that Westhoven's weakness was simply an inability to commit to love; this she had learned simply by examining Westhoven's many heroine's ultimate dissatisfaction with the hollow affairs described in each of the books, and these affairs seemed quite obviously to Nancy simple permutations of Westhoven's real life sexual encounters. What a hollow wreck this woman was. Nancy began to understand Westhoven better through the week as she read her works, and Nancy found herself being drawn to Diane in a very unexpected way.
As Nancy drew closer to the Westhoven woman, she confirmed that the writer still had designs on Sumner. So Nancy had resolved to intervene. Her own feelings and emotions clouded the landscape of her designs; confusion reigned supreme here.
Nancy had resolved that this was one affair Diane Westhoven would never write about.
Diane Westhoven sat in her downtown high-rise condominium late that Friday morning looking out over the River Charles toward MIT and Cambridge. She had tried to write a few times over the past few days, but she felt dry inside. Not merely burned out, but burned up, devastated by Sumner Welles' wholly justified words to her after her hastily orchestrated seduction had fallen into the dust of broken dreams. She had felt in the days since flight 481 that a basic flaw in her humanity had been uncovered. And now there was Nancy. Her surrogate Sumner!
The Greenbaum girl, with her conversations about Sumner and the trip to Scotland in June, had provided her with precious insights to his character, and these insights into his total decency had only served to drive her deeper into the despair that had taken hold of her heart. His complete honesty - she almost needed to say purity - had been as the stake through the heart, the precondition to the conversation that had opened her up, revealed her weakness. . .
Diane had tried to call Sumner, but every time she picked up the phone her will failed, and she would fall into a morbid depression. Once she had dropped to the floor and cried! She knew this reaction to Sumner was totally out of all proportion to events as they had transpired, but that only made her sense of confusion more acute, and much more disorienting. She had compensated by turning to the opiates of her long established lifestyle, and gone to a few scenes at elegantly underground Newbury Street S&M hangouts. She had listened as men and women groveled at her feet, licked her shoes and legs, promised to obey her every command, and pledged their souls to her. All of these words and actions left her feeling more empty than she could have ever imagined. She returned to the word that had accosted her as Sumner had walked away from her after their arrival in Boston last Sunday afternoon. It drummed in her ears -
Lost. Lost. You Are Lost.
She would putter away for hours, free of the torment of that word, and then it would return to her - assault her with its drumming insinuations of failing humanity. Then . . .
. . .She would move to write, and it - Lost - would assault her.
She would try to reconnect with some long ago discarded male-supplicant, and the voice on the other end of the phone would reinforce the delusory nature of her - Lost - soul.
Chained within the soft prison of her eminent domain, watching longboats sculling up the Charles, she took out Sumner's card and willed herself to call the number. She knew her life would remain - Lost - within inconsolable bouts of self-loathing and doubt until . . .
. . . Diane knew that until she could reconcile her life up to the point in time when she met Sumner Welles with the long repressed feelings of lovelessness unleashed by his recognition of some deep-seated inner flaw within her, she would not, indeed could not, embrace any meaningful future. Nancy Greenbaum had driven that thought deep into her heart.
She knew that without his voice, she was - Lost. Oh, Nancy, what have you done to me?
She dialed the number, held the phone tightly, afraid to lose her grip. A grip slipping away that was so rapidly leading down into the pits of some unknown and richly deserved Hell.
Sumner Welles picked up his cell phone as it buzzed gently on his desktop, and saw the Caller ID readout. He had expected the call all week. His memory burned with the inexcusable injustice he had done the woman, how wounded she must have been to fall so swiftly to his words. What truth about her life had she denied confronting to lead her to fall so quickly? She had mentioned feeling unlovable, thus, he reasoned, unloved. She had talked at length about the emptiness of her activities with men and women, the 'will to control' she spoke of contaminating all of her relationships, condemning her human contact to little more than an aimless series of power exchange dramas. Was she out of control? Had following her written dramas into her waking life wrecked her?
She had yet to experience the full range of human emotions, Sumner expected, that come with falling truly, madly, and deeply in love. He suspected he knew where her desires would lead her . . .
He answered the call; he felt ill at ease as he did so.
"I . . . I don't know . . . oh, I'm so sorry . . . I called you . . ."
"Diane. You want to tell me something. I asked you to think about what it is you want. Have you?"
"I want you, Sumner."
"Is that what you want to tell me, Diane? You want me . . . and I suppose I have no say in this matter?"
"Oh, that's not what I meant to . . ."
"Ah, well, then. What did you want to say?"
"That I seem to have so few tomorrows ahead of me. I want to spend them with you?"
"I know. It seems so unreal to me, too. I don't know you, at least not in the way I want to know you. But, there it is . . ."
"Perhaps, Diane, it was that I was the first person to call you on something - some way of being that you now find uncomfortable . . . Diane? Perhaps you have been waiting, waiting all of your life for someone to point out that you have chosen a wrong path sometime - somewhere - in your life, and that person - me - would be confirming what you've already known, but were afraid to admit."
"I . . . I - Sumner - I don't know."
"Did you ever consider that you've been waiting for someone to tell you these things? That this conversation, hell, this conversion, stands as a precondition to admitting that you need to feel love?" You need someone as much as they might need you?
"I . . . can't say that . . . I . . ."
"But have you considered this? I think you've recognized that pursuing your present manner of relationships any further will lead to the death of your soul. And I think that by questioning your past, you're trying to come to grips with what you perceive as some basic flaw in your humanity. And now you feel, hell, I don't know, maybe Lost."
"What! . . . How can . . .?" Diane was almost choking on that word - Lost - as she grappled with the precision of his insight.
"How can I see that so clearly?"
"How can you possibly know me so well . . . what I feel?"
"Because I listened to you, Diane. I listened to you as one human being should listen to another. I tried to listen to your words as you meant them to be said, hopefully not just through the filters of my experience. You could not will me to listen, Diane. That is the fallacy of your position; that you can will another human being to act as you wish. Those are games Diane. Not the kind of game that a honest people play. Love isn't a game. But . . . Diane?"
"Do you know who Arthur Schopenhauer is? Read his work?"
"Please call me back when you understand why I asked you that question. If you feel like it."
"Sumner. You don't understand. I want you. I need you, now. . ."
"And this is what I am prepared to give you - now. I am willing to talk with you. But understand something, Diane. You must accept that I am not, and will not, control you. Nor will I allow you to control me. I am not willing you to take a course of action. The most precious gift I can give another human being is the will to learn. I'd like to help you, Diane, but please understand: I relate to the world as any other human does, through experience. My experience tells me to help you learn. Learn from your mistakes. . ." He thought of another woman. So recently gone. He still burned inside from the pain.
"Sumner? What if I want more?"
"More? More of what?" Life is so short, he thought.
"Diane, there are people who have honest knowledge and experience to share. Do you? You offer to, what, to make me submit to your will? You seek to control other people, to feel safe, but love is a reckless, often terrifying plunge into unknown waters. You can't control love! What you don't understand, Diane, is that the human will does not follow a blind path. It does not seek, if I may speak in metaphor, false prophets. Do you, Diane, have knowledge of truth, of the truth that comes by seeking honesty from within? Could you give that of yourself to me - to anyone?" 'Oh, God,' he said to himself, thinking of the one woman he had once loved. 'Oh, she could see so deeply inside me, and I miss her so.'
"How could I know what you . . . I . . . don't understand you?" she said.
"I have to go now." Could I be so tired of living without her?
"Please, not yet, Sumner. May I ask you one question? Please?"
She could hear his breathing on the far side of the world. She could imagine him sitting, exasperated, eyes closed in acceptance of some distant, odious fate.
"Could you accept, not now, not today, but could you understand it if I told you that I was in love with you?"
"Sumner, is it beyond all comprehension that at some time in the future you might . . . Sumner, could you ever love me?"
He had known this question would come, yet he struggled with the reality of her need and his understanding of the infinite capacity of love to guide human understanding. He wanted to tell her no, that he could never love her. But he understood something very elemental. He had responded to having caused her pain, to awakening her need to love another human being, and this had puzzled him. As he listened to her voice, he only grew more puzzled. How many dimensions could love have?