—for Sunya and Mark
This story takes place in a garden. I have great affection for gardens, and this one was no exception. It was more of a backyard than a garden, but it had a number of mature crab apple trees flaunting vivid pink blossoms. Beneath the back porch light, daffodils were rioting; my hostess’s young guests were beautiful and eager to get drunk.
In one corner of the porch was a large tub packed with iced beer, and in the other sat Ziti Motlog, a pleasant enough looking woman of middle age. We were introduced. Middle aged myself, I responded to her overtures, although her eyes were tearing because something or other had just moved her. She was, I discovered within moments, easily moved. “It is,” she gasped good naturedly, “because of faulty plumbing. Faulty plumbing!” she repeated, dabbing her eyes with a very damp sleeve. Yet, as I would soon find out (and this despite myself, for I longed to flee), if her plumbing ran away with her, the cosmos was in her control. Ziti Motlog possessed a heightened sensory awareness; she had a direct connection with all those things that confound the rest of us: Evil, for example. Evil and its dreary wake of disheartenedness, anxiety and bitter bile. If I would indulge her, if I would humor her, the world would be better for it, and I, too, would profit. If not, we’d have a good laugh and call it a day. No problem!
I am not a rude person, and fault myself for erring on the side of politeness. I knew I needed to bolt, yet it seemed my hostess was fond of Ziti Motlog or, at least, was grateful for her tears. My young friend had just received her B.B.A. in Hotel Management. Her first job—a real plum—was in Bombay. Ziti Motlog feared the change would be hard on her, knew it would be hard: “Change is hard!” But, “It’s the hard parts, the ones with gristle, the ones you’ve got to chew on with lots of determination and saliva,” Ziti Motlog beamed tearfully, “that allow us to grow. It’s all about growth,” she emoted, fearful that I had not ever considered this seriously enough. She seized my hand although it would have been clear to anyone else that there was no chemistry between us. “The Tree of Life,” she said, releasing my hand all too briefly and flourishing her arms as though preparing to fly off, “has roots like this! Do you,” she yearned, her bosom leaping in its cage, “know why?”
I could not imagine why. Again, she grabbed my hand. I gazed at Ziti Motlog with stupid amazement, unable to act or move. Submerged in self-loathing, I could not think. My discomfort thrilled Ziti Motlog, who stroked my arm to soothe me. She would save me from my demons—of this she was convinced. She would radiate healing vibrations, and she would weep. The weeping had already begun.
“It’s because of suffering! Suffering,” said Ziti Motlog, “makes those roots and branches grow!” Again she withdrew her hand, and lifting her arms above her head, waved them about in an air that smelled of spermy youths and barbecue and marijuana. I recalled nursery school; I recalled standing among my fellows with my arms above my head. And Mrs. Mortuous, the daughter of Demeter, The Enemy of Raised Voices, urging us to wave our branches in the tangible wind of her earnest benevolence.
“The Age of Aquarius is upon us!” Ziti Motlog offered unctuously; “it is the Age of Seeds, the Seeds of Life, the Seeds of Change. And here they are!” She dropped a handful of virtual seeds in my shrinking palm, and with deliberate tenderness, folded my fingers over them. “Do not fear!” she admonished—for I was rife with loathing—”but allow the seeds to growgrowgrow!” She drove this advice home by prodding the flesh of my arms with her fingernails. Revulsed, I pulled away and she, still eager to comfort me, patted my shoulder.
“Receive the seeds!” she caroled, “your world is about to change! You are about to be a much happier person!”
Again her eyes swelled with tears and I, I longed to bite her on the neck. How dare she think of herself as someone who could give me happiness? Moments before I had been happy enough, had blessedly forgotten the seemingly insurmountable crises that characterize our precipitously failing world. Ziti Motlog reminded me of all I hated. She was sappy, condescending, and over confident. She was ridiculous and yet she had managed to enrage me.
“Everybody wants to grow!” she pouted, ignoring my vituperous look, “and so do you! Can you feel it?”
“Why don’t you leave me alone?” I said then.
Stunned, Ziti Motlog’s eyes dried up.
“You don’t want the seeds!” she marveled. “Whatever! Someone else will know their value.” Deeply resentful she began to wail. “No wonder things are such a mess! I feel sorry for you,” she blushed in a tremblor of temper, “so fearful of change!”
“I’m not fearful of change!” I cried. “Who gave you permission to mother me? I don’t want your blasted seeds or your platitudes. And I don’t want your god-damned tears!” I stood up, yet did not turn away, somehow mesmerized by the herring pond that was Ziti Motlog. Her girth, perhaps. Her certitudes.
“You are just like a lover I had a long time ago!” Ziti Motlog decided, surging from her chair; released it shuddered and swayed. She was monumental, dressed as a goddess in the many folds of some sort of tent.
“He stabbed me!” she stormed, “just as you have done. Here. In the heart. Look!” Before I could turn away she had torn apart the bodice of her dress. I saw the scar rising like a slice of raw fish laid out on a shard of ice. Zit Motlog’s scar was the inescapable proof of my fatal incapacity.
“I am the emissary of the good!” she foamed in a sea of garments. “My only purpose to inoculate the species! To pass on the seeds! Why won’t you take them? You did this,” she glowered, polishing the scar with her thumb. “You,” said Ziti Motlog, “and your ilk.”