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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Take Another Road," Chapter 12...'The Vision'

Here it is!  Chapter 12 of "Take Another Road..."

Chapter 12--The Vision

            The ride down to the harbor was a quick one.  As the old Vanagon bumped along the rough surface streets in this section of the city, Kaldera discussed the plan.  “We’ve got supplies stowed on the boat, plus what you’ve brought,” he explained, “and there’s plenty of room to crash indoors.  Before we eat, I promise I’ll explain a bit more of what I have in mind.”
            Kaldera said little else, but Aimi was not concerned.  She sat beside Mei in the seat two rows back.  Asuka was in front of her, Minoru to her right.  Aimi found herself looking on an angle to her right, at him.  She had not been able to get Minoru out of her mind of late, as she’d noted in her recent letter to Kira.  Ever since that second meeting, the one at the shop, I’ve been thinking about Minoru.  He is so attractive and intelligent, and he treats everyone with such respect.  Yet, as I told you before the sadness from his mother’s passing is still there, in his eyes. 
            That must be why he reads so much, Poe in particular.  I never really liked the man’s work--too scary!  I think Minoru must escape into books the way I do; we at least have that in common.  I must admit, while I could very easily be attracted to him, he and Asuka are obviously meant for one another.  I would never come between two of my friends, even if I knew how.  You just don’t do that.
            As the conversation flew back and forth amongst the van’s occupants, Aimi noticed something else.  Kaz was looking over his shoulder, and from her line of sight, she could see Kaz was looking at Asuka.  While he’d said nothing about it, she knew Kaz was interested in the girl, but it could not be anything sexual.  Asuka certainly attracted the eyes of boys (and quite likely, men as well) wherever she went.  Aimi had noticed that in the club the other night.  She always looked beautiful, Aimi thought, so correctly turned out. 
            I almost would call Asuka’s style classy, though I don’t really have anything to compare it against, except perhaps fashion models or idols I see in magazines.  I wish I knew how she did it; but then I don’t think I would like all that attention.  I’ve never liked people staring at me.  Mei loves it, but in a different way; she does it more for a laugh.
            As the Vanagon went over a speed bump, it jolted Aimi’s thoughts into another direction.  That’s it; Asuka obviously gets a lot of it from her mother.  She looks like a slightly older version of her daughter.  When side-by-side, they look like they could be sisters.  The lady was very nice, and I’m glad she and Mom got along well; but I remember Tanaka-san looking at me, too, rather deeply I thought.  I wonder why…
            Kaldera steered down a narrow, one-lane strip of road, and Aimi, Asuka and Mei looked around them.  They were passing through a boatyard; a number of vessels were up on blocks, in various stages of repair.  Then it was down to the waterline; there was a small parking lot with a few vehicles in it, and Kaldera pulled the van into one of these spaces.  “We’re here,” he announced.
            Everyone bailed out and gathered their equipment, before turning to see where they were.  They were beside the long private pier, the Kudo before them. 
            “This is your boat?”  Asuka asked.  “It’s lovely.”
            “It is indeed, thanks,” Kaldera replied as they walked along the pier toward the boathouse.  “We’ll give her a good run tomorrow, but let’s head on up.”
            Climbing a long set of wooden stairs to the second deck, Kaldera unlocked a sliding door and pushed it to the side.  “Shoes to the right,” he joked, “and straight on in.”
            The girls went first, and after removing her shoes, Aimi took a look at Kaldera’s home.  This floor of the house appeared to be one large room, though to her right there were doors, one near the main one, a second in the far corner.  A large, U-shaped couch took up part of the middle of the room, and there were two matching chairs on either side, plus a rectangular glass coffee table. 
            What really caught Aimi’s eyes was the rest of the room:  to her left, there was a long line of full-length glass windows, which offered a fine view of the harbor.  In the corner near these was what looked like a drafter’s table, plus a computer, stereo equipment, a wooden tower rack of compact discs, a large radio of some kind, plus a synthesizer and a small stack of Marshall amplifiers.  Guitars, both electric and acoustic were everywhere:  two hung from the wall over the keyboard, a couple of others were in stands, and another was lying on the couch.  A ceiling fan was turning slowly just under the rafters of the ceiling.  The floors were bare, hard wood, and there were no rugs.
            Kaldera moved past all this into a kitchen area.  This was part of the main room, but there was a counter separating the refrigerator and stove from the rest of it.  “Drop your stuff wherever you like,” he called as he entered this space.  “There’s plenty to eat,” he added, “but that comes later.”
            After availing themselves of tea, soda or other beverages, everyone took seats on the couch and chairs, and Kaldera brought over the swivel office chair from the nearby table.  He began by explaining the trip for Saturday:  “The marine forecast calls for a good day tomorrow; not much for swells, so it should be an easy trip.  I’m sorry,” Kaldera added as he indicated Mei.  “I understand Midori is away, and that you won’t be with us.”
            “That’s cool,” Mei replied, “don’t feel bad about it.  I’m gonna need to look after Mom, probably anyway.  I just appreciate you having me here, this is an interesting place.” 
            Mei paused, and Kaldera in particular seemed to note that Mei had more to say.  “Before you go on,” she asked Kaldera, “if I may?”
            Kaldera smiled.  “You may.”
            Mei turned to Asuka and Minoru, who were seated beside her on the couch.  “I need to apologize to you two,” she said.  She took a deep breath, then continued, “I made a snap judgment the other day when we first met, and that was wrong.  Now that I’ve gotten to know you both, I’ve realized some things in my system have got to go.  You’re both really great, and you’ve been friends to the best friends I’ll ever have.  That says a lot, and I hope you will accept that.”
            Minoru nodded, and Asuka placed her hand on Mei’s shoulder.  “No offense has been taken, Mei,” she replied, “there has never been any.”
            “Yes,” Minoru added, “that’s most decent of you to say.  I think,” he continued, “we both must come off as being a little different, especially to those who have never met us.  But really, Mei, there is nothing to be sorry for.”
            Mei nodded in relief.  “It’s kinda hard for me,” she explained, “I’ve had things happen to me that I guess I still have to get over.  You have all been great in just being around, being my friends.  Midori, too--she’s helped me see things in another light.”
            “You have just let a little of yourself out to the rest of us, Mei,” Kaldera observed.  “That is hard, isn’t it?  In fact, that is part of the reason I have all of you here.”  Seeing he had everyone’s attention, Kaldera continued, “I have most of my life let parts of myself out to others, mostly through my music.  But sitting, and just talking with people, especially about personal matters is very hard for me to do.  I want you to know that in the time since I’ve met Kaz and Minoru, I’ve been able to finally let a little of my guard down.” 
            Kaldera reached for his cigarettes.  “You don’t mind, do you?”
            Everyone smiled or chuckled.  “It’s your place, Kaldera,” Kaz replied.
            “Well, it is good to ask.”  Kaldera lit up, and pulled a metal ashtray over to the edge of the table near him.  “A lot of people,” he said, “have wondered what an American like myself is doing in Japan.  I am on a search; a search for my place in this world.  You see, I had such a place in America, because I was born there.  Music was my way to communicate my thoughts, views and feelings with others, and I guess I did okay at it.  I traveled around the world, performed with some of the greatest musicians ever, and learned a great deal.
            ‘Things,” he added, as he knocked the ash off the end of his smoke, “changed for me over there, after a time.  I’ve been through some experiences that I am still not particularly good at talking about.  But as I went through all of it, my personal quest is still not finished.  That will go on until the end of my life.”
            He rose and went over to the windows.  “Excuse me.”  Kaldera drew the shades, which drew the room into shadows, apart from the ceiling lights.  Returning to his seat, Kaldera went on, “I think there is a reason for all of us coming together as we have.  As I have said, I have this way of bringing diverse folks together.  I see two groups of people here; each group has known one another for as long as can be remembered, and now you’ve all met.”  Reaching over to the end of the couch for the acoustic guitar that lay there, he placed it on his lap.  Would you indulge me?”
            Everyone had been listening, each interested in their own way.  But to all, they were seeing another side of Kaldera.  He looked a little uncomfortable talking about himself, even nervous.  Stubbing out his cigarette, Kaldera said, “Mei has started well by letting us see a little more of herself today, and I would like to share with you something that is dear to me.  If you are uncomfortable with this, please say so, and I’ll never bring it up again.”
            All looked at one another in the shaded room.  Aimi did not see a negative reaction, and she replied, “I don’t see why not, Kaldera.  May I ask you:  does this have anything to do with what we saw the other night?”
            Kaldera grinned.  “Ah, you saw that.  Other people have told me of the energies I put out when I perform.  It is a part of my spiritual self; it’s not something that‘s meant in a bad way, it just happens.  At times, it is useful to discover one’s self.  Part of the reason I go to the island is because of the energy I feel from it.  It is a beautiful place, the flora, the life that is there.  When I first went to the island, it took me by surprise.  But,” he continued as he took up the guitar, “make yourselves comfortable, and I will lead you on a little ’Vision Quest,’ if you will.”
            Everyone did so.  Kaldera took a deep breath and began to pick a slow guitar rhythm.  As his fingers worked the strings, everyone found themselves beginning to drift away.  Not to sleep, but Aimi especially could tell they were going somewhere.
            “We will begin,” Kaldera intoned, “by the chakra at your base, your root…”
            Aimi felt a strange, but calming energy pass through her, down her body as Kaldera led them verbally.  “Through the floor, into the water below us,” Kaldera went on, “into the silt and sand and into the Earth.  You are going down…down…down…”
            Aimi actually felt she was descending; she could feel the cool waters of the bay around her, yet she could still breathe.  She felt the soft sand of the harbor’s bottom…then she kept going deeper.  Aimi was sinking into the sand, into the Earth!  I wonder what everyone else is feeling…
            Kaldera continued to pick out the slow rhythm on his guitar.  “You continue into the Earth,” he said, his voice low and gentle.  “Past the bones of those that have come before us, and down, down further into the Earth.  It is harder going, but you continue down, down further into the Earth.  It is getting warmer…”
            Aimi could feel herself burrowing, yet her body was not moving, down into the Earth.  Yes, it was getting warmer.  Were they going to the center of the Earth?  She’d read the Jules Verne story, but this was not like that at all.
            “It is getting warmer, almost hot, but you continue down.”  A moment later, Kaldera stopped playing.  “You are here,” he said, “you are at the center of this planet.  You feel the warmth and the heat of Mother Earth.  It does not burn you.  Feel the Earth Mother as she holds you in her keeping.  She is here for you.”
            Aimi heard a voice.  “Mother…”Minoru’s voice sounded as if it would break.
            “As you are here,” Kaldera suggested, “is there someone here for you?  Is there someone with the arms of the Earth Mother who is waiting for you?  Do they have something to tell you?”
            There was someone there; Aimi couldn’t see the body, but there was an outline before her closed eyes, and it slowly began to form itself into a human figure.
            “Kira…” The word escaped from Aimi’s lips.
            There was a silence, and Kaldera began to play his guitar again, another slow, fingerpicked rhythm.  “We now leave this place,” he said, “and we now go up…up…up…the way we came.”  Kaldera led through the meditation, this time in reverse direction, but when he reached their bodies, he added, “Move on, past your root chakra, to your sacrum, your heart, your third eye, then above you, and into the sky.  You go up, high toward the sun…”
            The guitar’s meter increased slightly as Kaldera moved up the fretboard, and Aimi could feel the rush as they headed for the sky.  She knew it could not be happening, but she felt like she was flying...what is this now?
            “We are now infused with the powers of above and below.  We are alive, and we are all together.  Stay here now for a moment.”
            Kaldera began to play again, this time the chords sounded structured and what sounded like a poem came forth. 
“What have you seen?
What can you tell me?
Does it make sense?
No…that’s alright…”

            Some of the words were lost to Aimi, and she balled her hands into fists.  Her body began to shake; Aimi knew this feeling, and she didn’t want to experience it.  But she had to, no matter what.
“Don’t look at him, her, or it
Look at you, ‘cause someone said:
‘Don’t look at me, look at you
Don’t look at me, look at you

Don’t look at me, look at you
Don’t look at me, look at you,’
That’s all you need to know
And it’s cool…”
            The song ended, with a long strum of a minor chord, and there was a momentary silence in the room and the universe. 
            “Open your eyes,” Kaldera directed. 
            Aimi did, and allowed them to adjust to the light.  It was darker now, and her friends remained in their same places, all looking around.  The expressions were not of confusion, or anger, or fear.  Aimi detected calmness in each person’s face.  She felt it as well.
            Kaldera on the other hand, looked very different.  Setting his guitar aside, all saw that he was shaking slightly, and had been very affected by what he’d done.  He took a deep breath.  “I thank you for allowing me to share this with you,” he said.  “I have been to a place, as I think each of you have.  I saw something I needed to see.  Now that we are here, I hope you understand what I’m saying:  Someone is always there for you.  It does not have to be a God, Goddess or any deity.  It can be a real person.  I am here for you, my friends.  We are all here for a reason:  for each other.”
            Dinner followed the “Vision Quest,” and Aimi noticed that Kaldera seemed to return to his former self as the evening went on.  Kaldera had ordered out from a local restaurant, and the delivery came just after the quest ended.  As all sat around the table, they discussed what they had experienced.
            “That was really something,” Kaz commented between bites of tempura.  “I really felt like I went down there, then up.  How did you do that, Kaldera?”
            “It’s nothing I did,” Kaldera replied, “you each went in your own way.  A lot of what happens in these meditations is your doing; if you let yourself go, you will find yourself there.  You can also focus your will and your intent to do such things. 
            ‘I should say,” he went on, “that what we did was not exactly a vision quest, from the Native American sense.  I call it that, because we really can, and often do see things that we either already know about, but have just not seen in the light that we see it now.  It is very instructive.”
            “Mom talks a lot about that,” Asuka said, “when she reads tarot, that nothing is predicted.  Usually what comes in a reading is something that is already known, but we just don’t understand it, the way it is presented.”
            “That’s right.”  Kaldera finished his norimaki, and replied, “Your mother is very well versed in that form of divination.  I have had her read for me in the past.  There is nothing sinister in card reading; it is merely another method of ’seeing,’ one of many that have been practiced for centuries.  No answer is necessary; you are often guided by what you see and your own intuition.”
            Aimi mostly listened, and ate with a good appetite; at the same time, she found herself in a strange place.  She felt detached, and when the meal was over, she stepped outside onto the deck.  Minoru was already there; he was learned forward on the rail as he watched the sunset.
            It was really quite a nice one; the redness around the star showed it would be a warm day tomorrow.  She stood beside him, and they watched a flock of gulls pass before the sun, plus a handful of small boats on the horizon. 
            Minoru turned slightly and watched Aimi, her expression and the way she leaned against the rail.  “You seem in a rather pensive mood, Aimi,” he said quietly, though they could not be heard through the closed door.  “Are you all right?”
            She turned.  “Yes, I’m fine,” she replied, “I’m still buzzing a little from the vision quest.  That was very different.”
            Minoru smiled.  “Yes.  I’ve been on them before with Kaldera, and the first time stunned me.  It really is a form of meditation, and sometimes you do come across thoughts, feelings, and the like.  Often,” he added as he turned to look seaward again, “you see things you’re not ready for.”
            Aimi looked out again.  “That is true,” she said softly.  At this, Minoru looked out of the corner of his eyes at Aimi closely in a way she would not pick up on, he hoped.  Aimi saw something or someone in the quest she wasn’t ready for.  I am terribly curious, but it’s obvious she’s not ready to talk about it.
            He slid his arm around her waist.  “I’m sorry if that was a little too much in there,” he said.  “Kaldera doesn’t know his own strength, but he meant no harm.”
            Aimi smiled again and looked up at Minoru.  “I know,” she replied, “but really, I’m fine.  As Kaldera said, someone’s always there, but I’m also very glad you are here.  I really like Asuka, and you of course.  I’m glad we’re in the club together.”
            “I am as well.”  Minoru removed his arm as he heard the door slide back, and Asuka walked out onto the deck, the others behind her.  Taking the space on the other side of Minoru, she said, “It’s a beautiful evening, and I’m having a lot of fun, just being here.  I think we’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”
            “Well, you do,” Mei responded, “I gotta head back.  You be safe out there.”  She gave everyone a hug, and one for Kaldera, saying, “Thank you for having me.”
            “You’re always welcome, Mei,” Kaldera replied, “I’ll see you out.”  As they left, Asuka said, “I was a little surprised by what Mei said earlier in there.  To be truthful, I wasn’t sure she liked us at first, but I never thought it was that strong.”
            Kaz shook his head.  “Mei doesn’t dislike people,” he explained, “she’s just that way until she knows somebody.  She has been rather protective of Aimi, and me, too.”
            Minoru nodded at that.  “She does strike me as a protector,” he said, “how she thinks of her mother, and looks after her, that shows a great deal.  Yes, you’re right, Kaz; she shows great concern, and I would say love for both of you, Midori too.”
            “That is Mei,” Aimi replied as Kaldera returned to the deck.  “After her parents divorced, she found herself in the situation of having to watch over Reiko.  Her health has been poor, but she never complains, neither of them.”
            “It is a heavy burden,” Kaldera posed, “for one as young as she is.  Yet she is very positive, and very disciplined when it comes to her mother, her training, and to you.  Her demeanor and her appearance, it seems to me is a wall she puts up.  Is she afraid to show her true feelings?”
            Aimi and Kaz nodded.  “It is hard for her,” Kaz admitted.  “She only usually opens up to Aimi, myself and now Midori.  Her early years were pretty tough on her,” he added, “we were her only friends.”
            “That’s a critical time,” Kaldera said, “to grow up with so few that you can trust.  I can see why you are all so close, but that’s a good thing.  Your bonds are very strong, and those things can sustain you at your worst times.  That being said, my friends,” Kaldera chucked as the others did, “how about a little music before we turn in?”
            All seemed up for it and turned for the inside, but Aimi remained behind.  She looked out at the sun’s final turn for the day.
            Asuka had gone inside, but looked back through the open door.  She watched Aimi as she stood there for a moment, then walked back onto the deck.  She went up behind Aimi and put her arms around her friend’s upper body.  “I’m here, Aimi,” she whispered in her ear.  “We all are.”
            She felt Aimi’s breath draw slightly, then the girl’s body lean back into hers.  Asuka felt Aimi’s hands slide up her arms. 
            “Thank you,” she whispered back.  Then she added, “Asuka, can you stay here a moment, with me?”
            “Of course.”  Asuka pulled Aimi closer, and the two looked out across the water.
(Editor's Note:  "The Path (It's Cool)" was written by me, and contains elements of "God," written and performed by Paul Weller, which appears on the 22 Dreams CD, 2008.)  

So there you have it...I hope you are enjoying the first volume of the "Others Roads Club" likely will go through many, many changes by the time we get down to actually putting this out, but it's interesting to see reactions of early drafts.  Enjoy...

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