Moonie peers up, scans for the slim new moon over Bread & Circus Wholefoods Store. Just past sunset. Summer. Cambridge, Massachusetts. U.S.A. Planet Earth. She sighs, squeezes shut her eyes, and fingers the joint she has stashed in the folds of her totebag.
Where is that luminous crescent, she wonders, that smile in the sky to signal yes, go for it, do it tonight? She shifts her weight from silver ballet slipper to slipper, hoping the hole at her left big toe won't be too obvious. Moonie has to be concerned about such things now. Life is different, now that she's about to finally break out of years of nonentity. Life anywhere as a nonentity is hard enough, when you've got the kind of vision Moonie has. But life as a nonentity in Cambridge? That's agony
She grins, glad she's about to lead a congregation. A global congregation. Lead it straight from the distant inscrutable God of millennia, into The Age Of Interconnectedness.
Along her bony spine her raving-red-hennaed curls dangle as she opens her eyes and sweeps the sky from east to west, from the gridlock traffic on Prospect Street, over the parking lot clogged with cars, all the way down to the dumpster.
Damn. Triple mother fn damn, she starts to blast through the braces three student orthodontists at the free care clinic tightened onto her teeth last month. She stifles her impulse, just in the nick of time as a customer, a potential believer, is weaving his way towards her.
"Good evening," she says, trying not to reveal too much of her braces, though shed planned for that contingency: her slippers and sash are silver to visually fuse with her braces.
She sidesteps too. Out from her totebag she pulls an announcement flyer, and slips it inside his grocery sack. Through violet mascaraed eyes, she squints at him. "I'm Moonie," she says, solemnly. "I'm starting a church."
"Yes. Well." He loops around her. Clears his throat. Beelines to his Lexus.
She cringes. He thinks I'm weird, she thinks. Everyone thinks I'm weird. Damn. Damn. Oh damn, why are you swearing? she chides herself. You've got important work to do tonight. She raises her chin as his car flees past her. Proudly, fiercely, she holds it high in the heavy August air. No one is going to strip her of her mission. Especially not some unenlightened capitalist.
Still no moon. What should I do, she wonders. She shifts from foot to foot. Defy the universe? She thinks of her pact with the moon: you show your face, I'll show my vision. Days before, in the shrinking crumple of the moon's last quarter, the deal felt perfect. Tonight, she's not so sure.
Moonie resumes her shifting from slipper to slipper. Where oh where is that moon? Cars chug past her, full of potential believers. Believers who could throng the Cambridge Common at her upcoming midnight kickoff. She doesn't want to wait for the moon. She doesn't have time to wait. She's got to get going now, right now, moon or no moon. She's got to get her Church going, so she can get donations. So she can get a life like she promises twice a week at the Cambridge Hospital free-care psychotherapy clinic. So she can turn fifty next month, shame-free.
A couple come hobbling. Grey heads, grey brows, hands interlocked, their grocery bags teeming with greens. Good. They must have hope. These two will be easy. These two will be ecstatic, when they hear what Moonie has to tell them. She pictures them at her Church's first meeting, haloed by moonlight on the Common. From her totebag, she peels off a flyer, hoping the soybean brown ink won't smear in her suddenly sweaty hands.
"Hi." She smiles.
"I'm Moonie." She hands the woman the flyer. "I'm starting a Church."
"Isn't that nice?" the woman says to the man. She smiles. Nods again. Under her arm she tucks the flyer, and off they hobble.
Yes! thinks Moonie. Her heart pounds. Her soul soars. "The kickoff is next Saturday night, at midnight, on Cambridge Common," she calls, hoping she doesnt sound too excited.
"Isn't that nice?" the man says to the woman, nodding back at Moonie.
Moonie nods back, careful to maintain the posture befitting a spiritual leader. She smiles and pats the pink silk pouch pinned to the silver sash of her white linen dress. The dress is one of her favorites: an icon she'd preserved since the sixties, and her Haight-Ashbury days. It is earth-length. Diaphanous. With sunflowers dancing along the Juliet-neckline, the cuffs, the hem. The melding of earthly with divine, just like the cop whod soon be arriving to work a night detail at Bread & Circus. How perfect for her message. How perfect for her new image. In a glorious stretch she raises her arms, and as she lifts her eyes she sees it:
The new moon's lopsided grin.
Moonie sits on the two foot stretch of crabgrass behind the Bread & Circus dumpster. She is smoking a joint. All that work, soliciting a congregation, has exhausted her. She lifts her narrow chin to the moon, weed suspended in gaseous form, weed infusing her deep inner space, and she reflects. What forces have brought her here, if not cosmic? Her heightened consciousness, the new moon, her sense of imminent interconnectedness-- all converge to point her somewhere.
She takes a toke and scrunches her nose. Hmm. Here she is, poised for greatness, armed with insight. Resolve. Announcement flyers.
But where is it all pointing?
With glee she exhales. Her eyes blink open.
They point her to the cop.
There he is, there, right there, in the very same space as she is, standing in the stores doorway like a Greek God sculpture. All her energy, her infinite, ever-expansive positive psychic energy she must put into enchanting him! And this man needs enchanting. The astrological chart she meticulously mapped for him last month didn't do it. Neither did the keychain she formed from her most potent crystals. No. After months of close observation, she now knew what he needed. He needed her to gaze inside his precious earthy soul, and reveal her true self to him. And presto: he'd be reached. Hiding behind the dumpster, she cranes her neck to see what he is doing. A long-haired blonde in black Lycra is laughing at his elbow, her skin, gleaming and swaying like a buoy near those shoulders you could moor a yacht to. Moonie is enraged. How dare this woman move in on her turf? She feels an impulse to pounce, to scratch her blotch-free face. But no. It isnt appropriate. A soon-to-be world figure can't be making scenes. Out from behind the dumpster she moves. Onto the trunk of a beat-up Mercedes she lays her totebag. She crosses her arms, muses.
Then out to the parking lots center she goes, and aligns herself like the new moon does with the sun.
Waits til after the blonde jogs off, and seven minutes later, he succumbs.
And glances over at her. One second, eternal bliss.
One second of his night-blue eyes and hers, enmeshed in orbit, and Moonie is fulfilled. Passion rushes, up from Earth, up through the parking lot's hottop, straight up through the space between her legs. Aaah. It wasn't for nothing last Friday night, when the moon was waning, she'd mixed up a spell to attract his love: dried rose petals, a pinch of catnip, half a handful of yarrow, a pinch each of mint, coltsfoot, strawberry leaves, ground orris root, tansy, and vervain. All day she'd spent, bicycling in thunder and lightning to healthfood stores. And though she had to pay for the ingredients with grocery foodstamps, Moonie didn't mind. She knew it then, she knows it now: it all was well worth it.
She shivers with pleasure, recalling her naked moon-goddess body bent over her lit, homemade candle. Dividing the potion in three, her body had trembled, picturing itself bent in ecstasy over the cop. "Take one part outdoors, naked," her manual instructed. "Go down on one bended knee, throw the mixture up to the Moon and ask that love be sent to you. Back inside, scatter another third around your bedroom. Sew the last portion up in a pink or green cloth, wear it on your body."
Moonie closes her eyes. Again she pictures his naked youthful body beneath hers. Flesh on fornicating flesh. Decadence. Otherworldly bliss. And she decides: tonight is the night to approach him. Tonight is the night to make like the moon, and act magnetic, to once and for always pull his earthiness towards her. Tonight she must make her way, totebag and all, over to the cop, and in one breathtaking moment, reveal her self, and her spiritual mission, to him. She must calm his quite natural fear of her divinity, and assure him that, through sexual passion, his earthly masculinity will perfectly meld with her. She must hold him, and hold him up, through this most astonishing moment of revelation. And when he gets off at ten, together, they must wind their way west through the cluttered waste-strewn streets of Cambridge. And once they reach her apartment, they must love like neither have ever loved, 'til dawn breaks, and back to work he goes.
Moonie basks in the light of Bread & Circus' automatic doorway, inches, mere inches from the cop. Before they were interrupted by the woman who now stood between them, he'd used the word "transform." Moonie is thrilled. Every drop of braininess from his mouth slides out as a pearl. At first, when she felt drawn to him, shed feared it was only lust. A cosmic pull, like the earth on the moon, creating a lunar tide. Not that anything as pure and natural as sexual attraction is something to devalue. No. It's just that the quality of Moonie's mind called for superior intelligence in her man. For months she'd seen exceptional intelligence in his moves, his social interactions, his spatial grasp. Now, linguistic intelligence, too? Moonie feels overjoyed. She shuffles her feet, wishing this woman would stop her babbling so she could get back into contact with him. Just when she was getting somewhere, just when he'd half-smiled at her his woman comes along and interrupts.
She wants to make a scene, to vent her anger. But wait. She has a choice here. Fuss and fret, or act constructively. Hmm. What is it she wants most here? Her therapist would be proud of her self-control. Moonie decides to block out the woman, and use this opportunity to study his breathtaking face. To refresh the imprint in her head. Under the white fluorescent light, he's beaming. Isn't this just why she loves him, his kindness to people he doesn't care about. All spring and summer long, Moonie had observed him, pleasantly chatting with Bread & Circus shoppers, most of whom have thought since the sixties, just like Moonie herself used to think, that all cops are pigs. This cop breaks that stereotype into so many fragments, it's impossible to reconstruct it. That's what she needs to tell him, tonight as part of her enchantment, if only this raven-haired ratfink would take a hike.
Hmm. What to do? She sizes her up. Compared to Moonie, she's no big deal. A lawyer-type. Lackluster. Late thirties. A woman who lives in her head and not in her body. Up at the sky she peers, looking for a sign from the moon. Clouds cluster in thick huddles, blocking her access.
Oh well, she thinks, Im on my own. Ill show this interloper who's got what to offer him. From her deepest consciousness, she calls up a smile. She lifts her head proudly, pulls a flyer from her totebag, and steps right in between them.
"Hi." By pursing her lips, this time she keeps her braces under cover.
She focuses all her powers on the cop. All her energy, all her imagination, all her sexual horsepower.
He is blankfaced. He does not take the flyer.
Inside Moonies head, all gravity loosens. Only one dignified alternative remains. She releases herself to pass into an altered state. Her eyes close. Her heart rate drops. Peace, peace, with all her strength, she imagines peace. Imagines Earth's healing powers. Imagines her soul, out of her body, out there, way out there, floating on the moon.
With great relief, she lets her soul go.
And Moonie comes to bliss.
Moonie beams back to Bread & Circus by the sound of a trumpet. Wait. It can't be. She blinks. It is. Inside a Cambridge taxi, inside a parking slot, a long-haired, long-bearded man is playing the trumpet. Playing Handel's "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth." Playing it with a Latino lilt. Moonie blinks again. She must be seeing things. The cop at the taxi, grinning? Opening the taxi door as the man blasts out: "FOR NOW IS CHRIST RISEN--" ?
"Sounding good," the cop says to the tangle of trumpet and minute man emerging from the taxi.
"Gracias, Brother Pavlo."
Brother Pavlo? What is going on here? Who is this weirdo? With a start, she realizes the weirdo is staring back at her, staring straight at her, his bushy eyebrows knit in earnest over penetrating eyes. A look of outright penetration. How obscene. Black eyes, black like his cracked leather jacket, black like his Levi's, black like his platform boots. Great. This is just what she needs, some weirdo hitting on her in front of the cop. Who does he think he is? Who does he think she is, someone who's here, looking great, just for his viewing pleasure? Arm in arm, he and the cop head her way.
"Moonie," says the cop. "Have you met Santiago?"
The weirdo bows. "Santiago Jesus Laria. Para servirle."
"You two have a lot in common," the cop continues.
"Hey wait a minute," she says.
"Moonie's into New Age stuff."
His eyes widen. His lower jaw drops. "I knew it. Inmediatamente. Esta mujer es especial."
"Santiago's into acting, Moonie."
"Well I'm not," says Moonie. She's starting to feel annoyed.
"Played the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, back home."
"Si, in Salvador." Santiago grins. "But that was long ago. Before the Death Squad. Before we had to run. Me y mi madre."
"Santiago lives with his mother. On Vandine Street. You know Vandine, don't you, Moonie?"
"I've got to go now." She straps her totebag securely to her shoulder.
"Nice meeting you," she adds, remembering the cop is observing her.
"Wait," says Santiago. "Por favor. I interested in your nouvo iglesia."
Something inexplicable makes her pause.
"He could be your true love," the cop whispers, his eyes stunningly serious. His eyes just inches from hers, so close that their waves of Energy permeate all her holy places. Aaah. Now she gets it. Isn't this just like the cop, showing his interest in her through indirection. Her heart leaps. Quickly, she yanks it back, she doesn't want to scare him off with her considerable powers. "He's got interest. He's got rhythm. He's even got..." the cop points to the taxi "...wheels."
Moonie looks down, to hide the passion thats surfaced in her eyes. Silver serpents coil along the toes of Santiago's boots. Maybe she should let this S. Jesus guy help her. Maybe this is her entree to the cop, his to her: a mutual friend.
Besides. He does have wheels.
"How do you feel about refined foods?" She musters sufficient interest to look into Santiago's beady eyes.
Santiago steadies his ever-flowing beard. Every time he starts to open his mouth, it moves. Moonie could just see it--what it would be like to be in the sack with this weirdo: his beard having a life, all of its own. "How you feel I be your sirviente eterno?"
In a deep scratchy voice, he hums the theme of Jesus Christ Superstar. Wait, Moonie thinks. Music! Santiago plays the trumpet. A joyous, celebratory instrument. How perfect an instrument, to transmute into song the splendor of this Age Of Interconnectedness. Besides, outside her first floor apartment window, out on the worn brick Trowbridge sidewalk, he could serenade her. Hed show her neighbors she's not pathetic. And maybe with his skill, and devotion, eventually he could transmute their ridicule into awe. Transmute. Shell have to remember to share this word with the cop, when they have their first date.
Oooo! Her mind starts to click at a pace which impresses her. Where is her pen and notebook? So the moon did come to her aid, after all. How awful of her to mistrust it. "How about tomorrow?" she hears herself say to Santiago, while she visualizes her notebook, idling on her kitchen table. She needs to get home, now, she needs to do her to-do lists. Moonie's upper lip catches on her braces, like it does whenever she gets excited. Damn. She'll have to watch that, she can't have blood on her teeth when shes smiling at the cop. Away from him, she backs, away from Santiago, from Bread & Circus. Time to get back to Trowbridge Street. Time to reflect and plan.
She turns, and winks at the scar in the sky where the new moon used to be. Over her shoulder, she calls to Santiago. "You free tomorrow at noon?"
Moonie has a special place in In Harvard's Shadow, Martha Gibson's interconnected stories set in her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Narrated by Will, a Cambridge native and dropout Harvard Ph.D., the stories cameo Moonie and her neighbors, contemplating life, as they cohabitate a run-down, soon not-to-be-rent-controlled apartment building at the edge of the Harvard campus. When Martha's not busy with Cambridge characters, she's working at several writing projects, as well as at Native Song, a weekly newspaper column that looks at contemporary life from a Native American perspective.
Once Upon a Visit|
Age of Interconnectedness
Paris A La Fantastique
|The Ten Commandments
of Creative Women