I had been listening to Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist from Stanford, talk about how music creates a dopamine response in the human brain that helps facilitate physical movement. It was interesting, but as I listened to the muffled sounds of Latin jazz digitally altered to evoke an old-time AM radio sound, I doubted his theory. The sound did not motivate me to move; if anything, it motivated me to sit still at the bar.
I did notice myself glancing around at my fellow desperate patrons. Maybe that was the “movement” he was speaking of?
Under the interior palm trees being agitated by the wicker ceiling fans, I saw a group of mortgage brokers who had gathered after leaving the office early. That made sense. At seven percent interest rates, no one was buying money, and they had that desperate look one gets when they realize a career change may be in order.
At one end of the bar two soulless government workers, a man and a woman, were testing the limits of their office fraternization policies, and next to them a woman had the pained expression that comes with realizing her date from some random app was either late or had abandoned her completely.
I looked up and saw Delany. Something about her was… well… different. Her typical blonde hair that usually contrasted against her Asian skin was significantly more subdued.
“Yeah… you colored your hair?”
“You finally noticed.”
“You did it awhile ago?”
“Three months ago.”
“My wife chastises me about my observational skills too… just wanted a change?”
She began the process of making my Old Fashioned. “No, I went on a job interview a couple of months ago and thought a toned-down version might be more respectable.”
“How did it go?”
“I’m here making you an Old Fashioned.”
She threw a coaster on the counter and placed the drink down.
“Keep it on the damn coaster, Steven.”
“Love you too, Delany.”
She smirked and wandered off towards the government workers to see if they needed any further social lubrication while I took a sip from the drink.
“Good evening, my friend.”
I slowly put the drink down on the bar. I recognized his voice immediately and felt his presence and he pulled out the chair next to me.
“Gabriel, I see you are haunting this place as much as me.”
“My friends seem to need me the most when they are here.”
“We are friends, Gabriel?” I said looking over towards him. Man, he dresses well, better than me, to be honest. Once again that emerald pocket scarf blazed away on his jacket.
“Of course we are, Steven.”
“Brothers from another mother.”
“Well… perhaps another Father may be slightly more accurate.”
“So, Gabriel… collecting souls, or saving them today?”
“Mmm… maybe guiding would be a better choice of words. We have other personnel who typically work collections.”
I chuckled and looked down at my drink.
“So, I’m in need of guidance?”
“You tell me, Steven. You do seem come here the most when you are conflicted.”
“Yeah, I do. I don’t know why. But your observations are spot on.”
“Talk to me?”
I looked back toward him and focused on those penetrating green eyes.
“Damnit Gabriel, couldn’t they have given you… I don’t know… a more average Joe kinda look.”
“You see what you want to see, Steven.”
I exhaled and let my shoulders relax. “Yeah, I suppose you are right.”
“Gabriel, let me ask you something. There is all of this obiter dicta in the Bible about fealty towards the authorities… what if the authorities are… I don’t know… corrupt, or just incompetent. When does it become necessary to reject authority?”
“Are we speaking cosmologically or temporally?”
“I don’t want to get you in trouble with your boss. This is purely temporal.”
“Ah… the whole render unto Caesar?”
“Has it occurred to you the ability to perceive inequities, incompetence, and self-serving is a gift from our Father?”
“Not a curse?”
“No, not at all. Your ability to see the injustice in the system is actually a realization of separation of temporal reality to cosmic purity. You are flawed, as all humans are flawed, yet you have the ability to see that flaw. You become closer to perfection by physically moving in the direction of perfection. Each step makes you stronger, not by simply moving on a path, but by overcoming resistance along that path. Were there no dragons, there would be no heroes.”
“Si, Don Quixote.”
I sighed again.
“Would you prefer an easier way, a life without contemplation, without struggle, without resistance? Without any of those things, there is no growth, no sense of achievement.”
“That is what totalitarian regimes have sought to achieve.”
“And that is why you have dedicated your life to fighting totalitarianism.”
I looked at him again and nodded.
Gabriel put his hand on my shoulder.
“Your Bard said it best: To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune, or take up arms against a sea of troubles… and by opposing, end them.”
“Yeah, and look what happened to Hamlet.”
“From what I know, he and others like him are doing quite fine.”