Yoharie: Because Society (part one)
A simple, rite-based, an utterly credulous piety…
So, when you felt in the wrong, no dark night of the soul, no ethical struggle.
“Struggle doesn’t seem quite right. A more engaged version of a quandary…?”
“Please. But,” Giarma added, “you want a job, let’s say. You need it, you don’t really want it. But the interview, the thought of having to justify your existence. Like…what can you bring to the company? What are your strengths? Okay, if I get crappy treatment, if I see anyone getting crappy treatment, I’m calling it. That’s what I got these days. Don’t hire me.”
“The interview is making you twitch. You put a coin in the shrine-box, whatever they had for the goddess of the crossroads…”
“Oh, it’s pronounced Asia?”
“The fanbase has decided it is.”
“So then you’ve done the thing, you skip off without a worry. It makes you think, why did Saint Augustine, or whoever, screw up paganism with all this, am I doing the right thing for the right reason, Christian theology? Or, I guess…”
She blushed, which he wouldn’t have noticed…but also she’d busied herself with her copy of The Totem-Maker, in that way that projects embarrassment.
“Giarma, I’m not some kind of freaking evangelist.”
It was embarrassing to realize this…that she’d been asking herself what kind of name is Royce, is it Irish? Could it be Jewish?
“That’s a thought-piece, you know. Why don’t you do it for Seeds?”
“Thought-piece! You talk like you cultos actually have the answers. I don’t mean actually.”
“Come on, you think I care? You apologize for stuff like I’d get mad at you. I’m not doing something I don’t see, am I?”
She picked up wrappers from lunch, jumped the straw in her Diet Coke, proving there was only ice left, and walked to his kitchen. Heavy self-consciousness descended; feet in concrete blocks of quandary, she moved at a calculated pace, scanning for other items—a coffee mug, gum-foil around a chewed wad…anything in the category of “could use tidying”.
Relationships were awful. Now that she sometimes lived with Trevor, and the two of them must be going…to a place…
You’re fine. Rude, too short…? Then to busy herself, again, just for thinking room. Did it look to poor Trev like she was ticked, madly, that imaginary faults filled her bitchy head?
Nothing recyclable. Fast food every day. Why don’t I cook? Dawn cooks. Teach me to make your macaroni and cheese. Those egg salad bacon sandwiches…
Home food…maybe a hair better on sodium. Her father came to mind. He never did without Giarma’s feeling…not panic. The anxiety that would start one.
“Go live your life, sweetheart,” was what he said, every time. She left him on his porch, every time.
His numbers, cholesterol, blood sugar, were bad. Dawn took stabs at leafy greens. A dollop of fat-free ranch?
“No. I get so many meals for the rest of my life. So do you, Babe.”
A little bicker before they’d settled. Dad had a point…greens had calories too. If you chewed your dutiful chards and arugulas, you were crossing off, say, cheese and crackers…
Mind on diet, she was bent searching Trevor’s cabinets. She heard him shuffle up behind. Could they do a couples’ initiative together, learn cooking, exercise?
“Do you want to take a hike?”
“Um. I think you mean seriously…” He sounded wary.
“We haven’t done things like that. We’re always reading and working.”
“Sure.” He drew his phone from a cargo pocket. “I’m looking up state parks.”
The book was not a bad protective weapon. Totem had come at the end of the Vietnam era, its first reputation antiwar parable, fantasy mere construct…vehicle to message. A major newspaper’s guest-critic was given it to review. He was a West German writer, his novels pseudo-fantastic in their own right, dense apologies for Nazism. Totem, in the public mind, had lodged, built inside this house of melos, of high and low mimetic, and the D & D nerds, the gamers risen in the eighties and nineties, never had felt the love for it. It wasn’t Eurocentric. The magic might not even be real.
You could get a coffee—even full lunch—by yourself, crack Totem…the title off-putting to conversation anyway, implying a journey into mystic religion…
Which it kind of was. But if someone asked—
“Oh, it’s about a quest to discover the nature of good, what degree of responsibility we have as individuals to actively determine this for ourselves, whether the universal power, if it exists, requires this of each of us…”
The fanatics were fanatical, but the cultos also segregated themselves, into mere Worlders, and Neverers, subsets be damned. Giarma thought of cultivating a Neverer mien…pitying and austere. If necessary, a disparaging remark, about movies.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)