Cogito Ergo Sum (3/3)

He came to where the saints were. They must have reached where they were going by now. He smiled – it looked like one of those, “I should have known better” smiles. Perhaps he thought that he should have been smarter than believing in resurrected saints. Soon his smile turned into laughter and he stood there laughing and shaking his head for an exaggerated period of time, after which he just stared at the ground with his right hand supporting his jaw and left hand resting on his hip. He didn’t usually believe in Saints; he was an atheist after all. Life, for him, wasn’t as black and white as the traditional Christian made it seem; it was filled with suffering, chaos, luck and happiness, all of which had nothing to do with a God. He was sure of it. He’d usually ask his Christian neighbor, Jake, “what kind of God would allow kids to starve in Africa while there’s excess in first world countries?” Jake would usually reply, “some things I do not question.” And it was just the kind of cop-out that Luke hated.

He went back to his room eventually, poured himself a glass of water and sat down at his work table until he finished drinking, then went to bed thereafter, and was beginning to fight for sleep as before when all fell quiet. The clock read 4:05 a.m.

When he awoke the next morning, he was still surrounded by normalcy. He looked around, saw the clock and stared at it – it said 9 p.m. He looked around again and saw his bed. It still had the blue and black covering on it. But things were just there, lifeless, empty. He started kicking his chair, fighting his bed, and throwing things off his night stand, his Bible included. He took note when it hit the ground.

Forty five minutes later, he picked up his briefcase and looked around. His room was in shambles. And he seemed pleased with the mess that he had created. He skipped over a few things then slowly closed the door behind him and headed down the hallway of his Brooklyn apartment.

He walked slowly towards his car, looking around for something. Perhaps I’ll see something that will tell me that, “yes, this is reality.” He went into his car and sighed.

He arrived at his desk half an hour later. His secretary could tell that something was wrong. But she didn’t say anything, she was wiser than that. Years of being a secretary had taught her that when the boss is in a bad mood, it’s best to keep her distance. She could even distinguish how bad a mood the boss was in just by how he wore his jacket, and seeing him without his jacket, she knew that he was having a day that was extremely hard.

“Brenda,” he said over the intercom, “Come here please.”

She seemed a bit dismayed.

“Yes sir,” she said when she arrived.

“Did you stay long at the bar last night?”

“Yeah, I was there for most of the night.”

“Do you remember anything strange happening?”

“Well, not really? I had a really fantastic time. Mr Monroe came and asked me for a dance but…”

“I mean with me. Did anything happen to me?”

“Well, I know you left early. I didn’t see you when you left, but Suzan from human resources said that, you said that you were feeling ill, so you got in your car and drove off.”

“Was anybody with me?”

“She didn’t say anything about anybody else. I can call her and confirm. Do you want me to?”

“Yes!” he said unable to hide his eagerness.

She went back to her desk, called Suzan. She came back to Luke with a puzzled look, which she seemed to be trying to hide.

“Any news?” asked Luke.

“She said you left alone, but you drove around the block at least twice before leaving the lounge area. She said she was sitting outside the bar talking on her phone when she saw you going around. She thought it odd, but believed that you were just a bit inebriated.”

“Thanks, Brenda. That helps a lot.”

“Anytime, Mr. Gilchrist.”

When Brenda left, he sat up a little bit in his chair with a smile on. Thank God nothing happened. He sat in the same position for quite a while, staring at a picture on the wall. It was a picture of his dog, but it’s doubtful if he knew what he was looking at. His brows were wrinkled with pensiveness. And they must have stayed that way until lunch time.

He got his lunch from the usual Chinese place, Little Hong Kong, down the road and came back to his office. He ate only a half of it (he usually eats it all). Wanting no more, he threw the box away and returned to what he was doing before lunch – staring at his dog’s picture. What’s real?

“I haven’t heard anything from you all day,” he heard Brenda say over the intercom.

He pressed the bottom lazily and responded, “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“I can tell,” said Brenda.

“Sorry if I seem distant.”

“Everybody has one of those days.”

If she only knew.

Brenda left it at that, practising the capitalist virtue of minding her own business. He left it at that too.

He sat in the office until it was time to leave, which he did in the usual way, but without the normal enthusiasm. He told Brenda goodbye, he said see you later to the man who held the door. Both of them could see that something was pestering him, but they only looked on with hidden concern and gave him the same dead, half-hearted salutation as he gave them.

He drove home, and put on some music. It was the same song from the night before. And he sang all of it again, missing not a word but singing, “there’s no salvation for me now, now space among the clouds” the loudest.

The usual red clock had struck 8, when he noticed that it was dark. He must have spent 3 hours doing nothing because he came home from work at 5.  He looked outside searchingly through his living room window, then put on his jogging shoes, exited his apartment and floated along the sidewalk. This is more loneliness than a man can bare! He walked for nearly three hours passing the train station, the mall, Target. Finally, he came to the place where he used to catch a cab to go to his first house, the one which he and his wife had picked out together. He stopped and gazed at the place, his brows contorted under the influence of a memory. The taxis were still there, going and coming. They didn’t stop because of the loss of one regular passenger, although that passenger had gotten killed by one. A tear trickled down his jaw and fell off at his chin onto his running shoes. He stood there for a while letting the tears flow, then turned and headed back to where he was coming from.

He must have been walking for about half an hour when he stopped at a little coffee shop that was still opened. Cars were passing by profusely and people were still walking around. Even after 20 years I’m still not used to this city which never sleeps. People walked passed him, some looked into his eyes, but none said anything he wanted to hear or did anything he wanted to see….. The barista asked him what he wanted and he told her a bottle of water. She gave it to him, he gave her $5 and told her to keep the change. She said she really couldn’t keep it. “It’s your tip,” he told her. She said she didn’t need it because she’s the owner. Luke smiled for the first time that day. She smiled back. He saw that she was reading something and asked her what it was. She told him that it was Le Deuxième Sexe by Simone de Beauvoir, the French Feminist Writer. Luke told her that he had heard of her but never quite fully took an interest in her work, and added that he must have read an essay or two by her in college for a course.

He asked her to explain what it was about, which she did rather eloquently. Luke smiled again, she smiled too. He told her about his interest in things of that nature, even quoted a few Latin phrases for her. And she quoted some of her own. They both went on to list philosophical works they had read; she listed more than he did. I should ask her what Cogito Ergo Sum means to her.

“What do you think of Descartes’s “I think therefore I am” proposition?” he asked when she was done with quoting and listing.

“It’s inconclusive,” she said

“Inconclusive? How come?”

“Well, um, I have read Descartes’s “Meditations.” That’s where the statement comes from, “Cogito Ergo Sum.” Now it seems to me that a thinking being needs something to bounce its thoughts off of. Because the world is set up in a sort of self and other duality and it is through others that we’re able to define ourselves. So, in a way, the statement should be I think therefore I might not exist instead of I think therefore I am. I mean, how can we exist if we’re not known? How can we define ourselves if there’s no one to relate with. Life has to be shared with another or others, is what I’m getting at, I suppose.”

“Interesting! I’ve never thought about it like that. You’re brilliant.”

“It’s not originally mine. I read it in a book somewhere.”

“Modest too…Who do you share your life with?”

“My customers – the ones that will talk to me at least – my girlfriends, my books.”

“No man?”

“Not since my husband died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Thank you. What about you? Who do you spend your life with? And I’m Jane, by the way.”

It was 3 a.m. that morning when Luke and Jane got finished asking and answering questions. The café had been closed for an hour and a half by then.

Part 1

Part 2

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