Trying to fit in

IN A SUIT AT A POSH GATHERING. Subdued lighting, fine carpet and porcelain, upholstery and dark polished furniture. I’m being considered for a position with a prestigious law firm. One of the wait staff, in a gray or beige uniform, comes up from behind and I step aside, gesturing for her to pass with the used dishes she’s taking to the kitchen. There’s a universal gasp and chuckling. I’ve made a faux pas. Then I notice the men’s striped silk ties, all immaculate. I’m wearing none. A sign of my Quaker practice, I sense, along with my instinctive respect for all people. The message I get is that when you’re in a position of power, you have to command it. (Stay by his side while he snubs others. The trick, also, is to tip well when finished.) Rather than taking pride in my values and sticking with them, I want to be part of the elite. (Disturbing truth.)


OFF TO ATTEND a Quaker gathering somewhere. Shortly after arrival, I’m directed to the Jacuzzi, and after repeated invitations, I step in. Quite comforting. After a while, I find myself being driven on a tour of metropolitan suburbia (Connecticut? New Jersey? Chicagoland?), into a neighborhood of failed, boarded up malls and related big-box structures, all in a gray concrete architecture, including a drive-in parking lot under the main edifice. We pass on through what had been neighborhoods but are now missing half of the houses. There are scattered trees and even some tents or small trailers, but also some hideous McMansions. I’m instructed (more than invited) to enter one, which is owned by oil sheiks. I gathered the woman of the house is interested in me, but much of the activity is veiled. Still, I’m their overnight guest and given a bedroom. In the middle of deep sleep, I feel my thumb pinched and held, to prevent my escape, as the four corners of my sheets are lifted by runners, who are soon speeding through the house, or at least in large circles. I feel exhilarated.

And then, you enter the room. I tell you about the sheets and the feeling of lightness. What I’ll never know, of course, is whether I was being summoned by the woman of the house – or her jealous husband.


BACK “ON THE ROAD.” The recurring core has me in a hotel and trying to check out, only I’ve flown in for an extended stay (a conference or sales meeting) and brought a lot of stuff I intended to sort and discard. Since there’s so much, I apparently brought it by company car, taken off, and returned without it. The problem is that all of that happened months ago, I really need to leave – either eviction or some approaching tyrannical force I desire to leave – and nothing’s been sorted. I keep finding more, can’t figure out how to pack up and get out. Plus there’s the added realization I owe thousands for the room.

In this version, I arrive by hiking with a group along railroad tracks. Something, at some point, clandestine. And later there are neighbors on the other side of a hurricane fence that may mark the (communist) side from our Free Market side.

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