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Trouble in Heaven
And on Earth
The Method
The Fall
Symbols of Self
Hard Problems
Flesh of the Gods
Free Will
Ever Beginning
Never Ending

Chapter 18

Real love is a pilgrimage. 

It happens when there is no strategy,

but it is very rare because most people are strategists.

                                                            Anita Brookner, 1989

Lovejoy's gaze was caught by Mindy's shimmering profile. He looked back and saw her in silhouette. Black against the night lights of the city. Either he couldn't focus quickly enough, or there was some faint glimmer illuminating her outline.

He couldn't afford to stare. Lovejoy was driving her home from the E-group.

"Why do you have to go back to North Carolina? Aren't you just waiting for responses to your interviews?"

Lovejoy didn't want to think about jobs. He felt his diaphragm tense as he thought hard about a reason why he had to go. He had to finish up packing. He had to say his goodbyes, though he wasn't sure to whom. He didn't want to pay for a hotel. But he couldn't say that. It would sound like a request. He told his diaphragm to relax. He took an easy deep breath and realized he didn't have to answer.

"You could stay at my place. I have an extra room. Just check your home messages."

He looked at her silhouette again. This time she was facing him. Her face faintly lit by neon behind him. A visceral wave moved through his body. He knew he couldn't refuse her, yet he didn't know how to think of it. Was he nostalgic for her? Was he longing for a sensual joy he'd denied himself for fourteen years? Or was there some nascent spark of love?

Love was right up there with God in his jaded feelings and paradoxical understandings. His mind said love was a relationship you chose to build with someone. His body felt a magnetic force, pulling towards Mindy.

They were about to turn into the driveway assigned to her third floor apartment in Cambridge. Lovejoy blurted, "I can't really. Thanks very much. I have several things to wrap up." Trying to sound convincing.

Parking her car and going into the newly rehabbed old mansion, Lovejoy flashed into a different filter. If he had still been a member of the group, such a moment, of visiting with someone secular, was so rare. A moment out and about without expecting a phone call discussing his whereabouts, activities and schedule was not rare; it was impossible.

The intoxication of desire mixed with the hypnotism of fear. Years of mind training to avoid any hint of personal encounters with outsiders, not to mention the intimacy of love, or even of spending the night in sincere discussion, gave an automatic rejection of the situation. Lovejoy shook his head. He took a deep breath and stood up straight. He broke the spell. Life was fortunate with great blessings and at times opportunities. He would respect his own, and Mindy's, dignity while seeing where this path led.

Mindy offered him a moment to appreciate her decor while she prepared some sparkling water with ice and lime. She was an impeccable housekeeper, and hostess for that matter. He felt comfortable and in no rush to make a decision. Sitting, angled towards each other at ends of the couch, they talked as if twenty-five years had been a weekend. Theirs had truly been a platonic relationship before; tonight Lovejoy felt much more. He suddenly realized she was talking to him about the E group, their stimulating discussions and some ideas which irritated her.

"I can't believe you buy the whole religious schtick. My life's research has been understanding the human mind in down to earth terms. I feel it's lazy thinking when you start accepting a mystery without question."

Lovejoy was reminded of the beliefs he had espoused so recently. He didn't really know what he thought about them. His reality now was a complete fascination with her beauty, her strength of character, and how she had blossomed through the years.

"Maybe you're God."

"Oh, please." She was upset.

"Can you prove that you're not."

"I'm not omniscient, omnipotent or particularly benevolent."

"Maybe you are, but are pretending not to be."

"Why would I do that?"

"Who am I to know the purposes of God."

"Lovejoy, get a grip. This is a fantasy."

"Keep going, you'll only make me defend my position more and more. You know you can't disprove me."

" At some point, you have to stop thinking about what could be and start thinking about deep down inside what you think really is."

"Absolutely convinced people have been wrong before. Anyway, right now, my reality is you." Lovejoy tensed as he said it. He hadn't meant to be quite so honest.

"Here's to reality." She toasted.

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