August 4, 2022

The LEVEL

 


I reached the level today.

 

The resources, they finally showed up. And they’re legit. Everybody saw me receive them and they are legit. The tables have turned, the shoe is the other foot, well well well what do we have here. Relieved and proud that I get to keep my promises, the ones I made to others, more importantly the ones that I made to myself.

I took these (legitimate) resources and I finally built it. And it works, I can’t believe it. When I came in to check that morning, the sun and I walking stride for stride, there was a message for someone named _____. I could barely believe it (#1) because I (naively) thought the messages, if there were gonna be any, would be exclusively for me and (#2) was 100% sure that I knew absolutely no one by that name.

The arrival of this communication taught me two things in the same moment; this was an open channel and I was the operator. A guardian of this “switchboard” that allowed wishes, hopes and regrets to now travel and transform into directions, prayers, closure.

My mom was a switchboard operator way back when. It was one of her first jobs before thinking seriously about Law school. She would often reminisce about the unforgiving pace, yet the responsibility alone made her feel like she was making a real contribution to society.

Having been born a little too late in the century to really understand what she was even talking about, my mind can only hold onto how her eyes lit up, as if her own face had been summoned from decades before, when talking about her ability to connect people’s voices and stories across city and country, sometimes even the world.

And now, standing here having built the pinnacle of connection from my mind, the switchboard of souls (whoa, should I call it that? Is that what it even does?) and it…works?

Next steps? Pretty simple all I have to do is find ________. How would they even know this important package is here for them? Does anybody even know what I’ve been doing here in this lab for the past three years? Oh- I’m about to start getting thousands of these messages aren’t I? With no way to disseminate them into the world. Typical, I spent all that time thinking, making and grieving from my inner world, trying to build bridges to places humanity deemed lost/unintelligible, while the mores of the outer world slipped quietly out the back door of my mind.

If there is anything of note to take from this, it’s my firm understanding that I could have all the degrees in the world to keep me warm with the knowledge and capability they gave me, but the chance of this being imagined let alone built relied more on my intuition than anything. And it would be that dewy guide that would lead me to _________.

I was ready to do the vital work of finding them then hand delivering this sacred missive with all the pomp and circumstance that I felt it deserved. Ceremoniously, I prepared to venture out, scaling down the humming and buzzing of lab, when I heard a buttery soft knock on my door. Odd because I always kept my door open, and when I looked up my eyes drank in the figure filling the door way, their knuckles still resting on the threshold of the room lending a slight echoing quality to last knock identical to the romance that a piano pedal adds to the cadence of a note.

The name tag resting just above their heart said _______, in such a matter of fact font, it almost made me laugh. On top of that, they were employed at one my favorite places to window shop, a place to stroll, to be always one decision away fromsquandering my savings. I probably snorted noticeably in an effort to quell my amusement, which would explain their hesitancy to physically cross into the room.

See, I was taking this mission so seriously I might as well have pulled out Excalibur and started sharpening it, readying myself for this quest. To fight (and defeat) any foe and climb the ivory stairs to some forbidden city only kneel down at the seat of its leader, humbly offering this message up to them. Instead, here they were, probably on their lunch break looking at me we with expecting eyes. The whole situation so matter of fact and “from this world.”

The only weight I could give to the moment was a tacit acknowledgment of their presence and a solemn, wordless hand off of the one thing we both knew they had come for. It was understood that I hadn’t read the message, and as they turned to leave, we caught eyes and they said, “I’ll do my best to be back Friday before you leave.”

I’m sorry, what?!? How did you even know I WAS here, let alone when I would leave two days from now? Who sent you? (And is your employee discount transferable?) I spent most of the time between our encounters mulling over these questions, particularly the last one. As promised, on Friday just as I began to entertain thoughts of dinner and rest, they arrived with a small parcel smartly wrapped in embroidered cloth and announced their presence with that signature chorus of knocks. They whispered something into (onto?) it and sealed it with an emotional, feathery kiss. I cast my eyes to floor as I received the object and deposited it, using the same door that this conversation sprouted from. (should I call it that? “DoOr” It feels like the only way to fit a concept so limitless into our finite vocabulary)

We both stood there, silent in that space, even if a crowd of people had walked into that room at that moment they wouldn’t have been in the same ‘space’ as the two of us. ______ executed such a sharp turn towards me I thought they were about salute, instead taking my hand, thanking me with one of the most unrelenting handshakes and an exhale heavy with relief, then they spun towards the door, leaving one more knock reverberating in the doorway.

That inaugural experience welcomes the realization that however “early” or “late” we were born in this century was of no consequence. My mother and I had found our source of self regard when we did our part, despite the confines of space and perceptions of time, to connect the human race.