h1

O. O

August 19, 2009

“Oh, hello.”

Yet another majestic Melbourne morning.  Outside, the heat pleasantly stupefied the city but inside was uncomfortable and oppressive.  I was hot, bothered and ugly.

Did it matter that I’d left my office door open?  It was probably for the best.  Otherwise, I’d have been holed up with a difficult choice to make when that familiar knock came.

Heard it, and then sensed her solid, encompassing presence.  Turned to my right and looked up.  I recall thinking “my neck is exposed… I’m vulnerable”.

Layla.  After a year.

There was a boulder in my stomach.  I’d written some scathing commentary on the lack of progress of her planet project. I anticipated that she’d come to have it out with me.

“Look, I’m really… it’s not a good time, Layla.”

I followed up by torturously shaking my head.  I looked from her to the door and back again.  My shoulders pleaded.  She acknowledged with the saddest smirk.  No, she wasn’t going and no, this wasn’t to be a short-tempered meeting.

[Layla, softly]:
“I’m really sorry to interrupt your day, Nally… but I need to talk to you.”

Needed me?  Joel, Cath… that Sholeh woman… and, no doubt, a host of other players… unavailable?  Having said that, her story wobbled me.

The Inside Story
She’d wandered down from the Royal Women’s.  A clean up after a miscarriage.  Her fourth.  There wouldn’t be a fifth.

Boom.  I clasped my hands into my hair.  I rubbed my eyes, my nose and pressed on my sinuses.

Two miscarriages before we’d hooked up!  It would have been nice to know but I had to let it go.

“Layla” I whimpered.

Drowning with compassion, I stood up and hugged her.  I held on tight.  So did she.  In the clinch I became aware there was three of me.

One part was completely wrung out with worry and concern for this wonderful woman who’d been king hit.  Another was cynical: ‘now that idiot Joel is no good to her she comes skulking back to me’.  And another reveled in the power of my position.

My skull grated on her cheek bone.  Her hair pricked my lips and blocked my nose.  All three of me tried to engage her.

“My God, Layla.  Wasn’t this all prophesied?  All part of the grand plan?”

She’d thought so too.

“How then?”

It could have been the price extracted by the cosmos as payment for the baby ban.  Or the injuries sustained in the assassination attempt.  Or maybe those surgeons had taken out more than bullets.  It might even be down to her earlier harsh training regime.  Or the drugs.  Or the alcohol. Or maybe it’s like you told me Nally, she said, maybe I’m not the same as everybody else.

This was big.  She’d been so certain of her four children.  So many times she’d prattled on to me about her unnatural glimpses of them toddling about, growing up and… now nothing.  I absolutely comprehended her devastation.  Surely, she’d lost her bearings.

“What does Pippy have to say about it?”

A fidgety shrug.

“He might be able to make it right again.  A bit of Pippy magic?”

Painfully, she didn’t consider it likely.  Aaahhh, Pippy had already been consulted.  Yikes.  That must smart.

Magnanimously Overseeing Her Decline
We spent an hour or more leaning into each other.  Saying not much.  Internally though, my trio were in overdrive… each demanding the wheel.  Every now and then I’d regally and decisively wave on an excited passer-by.  I could have closed the door.  I didn’t.

“Is it time to give it away?” I whispered… (Aussie slang seemed appropriate).

I wasn’t expecting an immediate response and didn’t get one.

Yeah, my analysis was correct.  She’d run her course.  No longer potent, no longer feared.  Those powerful interests on all sides had absorbed the impact of her baby ban and figured out how she could be made to compromise…  how she could be harnessed.  Such a shame.  One part of me despised her in this weakened state.

She’d done nothing since I’d met her.  The world conference was good… I would always cherish that experience… but there were no more miracles.  No big hairy ones at any rate.  This latest incident was confirmation that her talents were exhausted.

“Passing the torch on now would be as impactful as anything you’ve done previously.”

I hadn’t been completely anti-Layla.  I’d argued that the unusual circumstances surrounding her coming to prominence had shaken us awake… allowed us to uncrumple some ideas we’d blindly tossed into the too-hard basket.  But I stood behind my judgment that we were better off getting to where we were going under our own steam.

Did I call her a hypocrite once?  I might have.  Can you use stand-over tactics to curtail stand-over tactics?

I’d certainly scoffed at her ‘spiritual dividend’ thesis.  She’d stolen the concept from my ‘Synergy and Momentum’ paper and then mangled it into that 5 or 7 syllable slogan… depending on how lazy her tongue was on any given day.  A syllable per continent.  That’s the right way to describe it.

What errant nonsense.  Someone asked why we should risk hastily ushering in a bland one world everything when we could get more measurable benefits by simply focusing our resources on improving our current systems.

Aaahhhhh, she wasn’t happy with ‘resources’… it implied scarcity… she thought ‘abundance’ was a more constructive basis to bounce from.  Yes bounce.

She recoiled at ‘bland’ anything… who wouldn’t? … did he miss the memo? … teeming diversity mate…  looking all directions… that’s what it’s all about.

And moreover, what really excited her was this ‘spiritual dividend’.  That immeasurable (read fanciful) present that awaited us when we relinquished our bad segregated ways and entered that pleasant fenceless pasture.  Baa.

But that poor man who’d questioned her one world rort… what could he do?  Stirred and offended, Layla had strained herself so femininely and had bulged her white marble eyes out at him with such wild, unbridled beauty that, tumescent, he sat back compliantly and tried to inhale her.

As I stood there gnawing bits of her fresh hair I understood that position.  I understood it as a fantasy that we all lap up.

[Layla]:
“I’ll go on.”

I grimaced.  That was the wrong answer and a cue to rehearse my public statement ‘I saw it coming… yes we were, we were once very close… without wanting to kick her whilst down… I did implore her to retire’.  It wouldn’t have been a lie.  I did sort of say that.

[Layla]:
“Nally, I came here… to say sorry.  I’m sorry I treated you so disdainfully.  I knew full well you wouldn’t accept my involvement with Joel and Cath but I continued on in secret regardless.  It was wrong of me.  I should have respected the conditions you placed on our relationship.”

Oh, now that was healthy.  I really did need to hear that.

“Don’t worry about it Layls.  And… for my part… the things I’ve written… they’re not personal… it’s just my job… to analyze an area where you are the key player.  I hope you can understand that.”

[Layla, affirming]:
“I read all your articles.  They’re brilliant.  So helpful.  I see them as your way of continuing to give me your wonderful guidance despite our… difficult parting.”

‘Why thank you’ implied my shy nod.  I feigned a partial sentence.

“If there’s ever anything I can do to help…”

Something’s Off
Eye to eye now.  She smiled and I was surrounded by her pleasure.  Curiously, though haggard, she wasn’t exhibiting anywhere near enough vulnerability.  Given the flattening circumstances, this journeyman superhero was projecting far too much self-assurance.  It begged the question.

“Layls, you’re coping far better than I would have thought.  Are you taking your meds?”

[Layla, the naughty girl]:
“Oops.  Not as regularly as I should.  Actually, I’ve been trying to cut back.  They affect me.  I’m really glad you put me on to them but I feel I’m strong enough now to pry myself away.”

Oh no.

[Layla, defending my raised eyebrows with faltering but defiant teenage daggers]:
“I’m fine.  My mood’s fine.  I’m exactly how I should be… obliterated with grief… but with a renewed commitment to reality.”

Oh yeah?

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