It was in the nature of things to change. Even God-people secretly knew that. So they lived in a four thousand year eye-blink with solid mountains and fixed stars and the same set of original sins.
Big time…real time…that was too much of a challenge. A billion years would shatter their mad God and make his beard fall out.
But Martina was not a God girl. She felt closer to the slugs. She felt closer to the blue foam on Lake Tahoe. She felt closer to the rules of a children’s playground game.
Martina, therefore, didn’t blink when Charlie became a drug addict and left her and tried to come back and stopped trying to come back and wrote half a letter trying to come back and then died.
Well, she blinked. But she did not think.
All around her were things like the seasons that seemed to cycle in content rhythms …but now it snowed in June sometimes. These seasons rolled like a wheel rolls in a children’s game. It rolls and it wobbles and soon it is tracing an impossible route that you have to give up on capturing in your mind.
So when her hands started shaking and the doctors couldn’t figure out why and the Chinese doctor couldn’t figure out why (but everyone she met in the supermarket had a really strong conviction why) and she therefore started going to bed early because her hobby of painting had become too ugly to look at and TV seemed like a bad idea…this was also something that made sense to her.
One of her friends said to her: why did you even bother being born, Martina?
That was the kind of friend she had.
Martina considered her answer. Of course there was the obvious reply: it was a spasm of her mother’s birth canal.
But her friend, Betty, knew that. Betty knew that.
What did Betty not know?
She guessed what Betty didn’t know was how to go through life without being surprised then angry then sad then numb for a bit. That was what Betty was getting at, as they slowly painted Betty’s living room walls.
Betty had the conviction that life was actually made of pain. And she saw her pain-life like the brick house of the little pig and she saw Martina’s change-life as the straw house.
Martina had no words. No useful words. She tried the words that always didn’t work. “I don’t want to kill myself. I’m happy.”
There was no one that Martina had ever met – even people who couldn’t spell and people who thought that Africa was a country and even people who smashed their own furniture when their sports team lost – who didn’t think that Martina was the dumbest sack of shit they had ever met.
Walking through Chinatown one afternoon, looking at orange diggers digging into all the different kinds of brown underneath the tarmac of the city and listening to the tiny noises that birds needed to stay in the sky, Martina got the feeling that maybe some Asian people – some Buddhist people – might feel the way she did.
She found a little temple with a fence and a gate that was open with people going out and coming in. She went in. The people were not exactly welcoming but they also didn’t shoo her away and she knew that old Chinese ladies would really do that to you if they wanted to so she kept walking.
The temple was dim. It was so dim that it seemed like it would be hard to remember anything you thought about in here. Incense was burning and filling the room from the top.
A man in a black suit and white hair was kneeling and doing nothing else.
She had no plans.
So eventually the man got up. He had a very kind face.
She said, “Excuse me but I am having some trouble with people.”
The white haired man with the ageless face, like a Chinese Steve Martin, sat by her.
She told him that she was passing through life without a care and that was making it hard for her to have any friends.
“Well…do you want friends?” he asked.
She thought for a second.
“Oh, it can’t be that simple,” she said.
But it was.
Peace returned to her life, which continues to this day.
# # #
Marc Horne is the author of Automatic Assassin, published by Zizek Press in 2011. His previous novels are Tokyo Zero (2004) and This Unhappy Planet (2010). He may also be responsible for some of the cultural satires at zizekpress.com, but it’s all anonymous, so who knows. He’s from England but has lived elsewhere for a long time.
“Changing Fate” image by CrazyFast, used under a Creative Commons license.