The Other Side of the Moon

Needs and Desires

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copyright(c) Fariel Shafee

Some events are consequences of rational and calculated planning, but many others come about unplanned. Sometimes you make a choice and the life you obtain as a result of the choice is the very life you opted and planned for, but more often a life comes to you like the random draw of a card. You rear a seed of dream and you water the seed each day, but one unhappy evening, when you are chasing your cat away from the bird, you stumble onto the plant, and the lush vine that has now grown fully and has spread its branches around in the most splendid fashion strangles you to death. Reba saw a verdant death approaching her in a nightmare. She struggled and she screamed as the tentacles only embraced her more and more tightly and suffocated her in the end.

She shuddered for a moment. The room was chili. Perhaps she had forgotten to close the window once again. Recently, her states of involuntary oblivion were costing her more dearly than mere moments of physical discomfort with a frequency higher than she deserved. Two days ago, she had left her keys inside the car and did not feel bothered by the absence of the metallic pieces usually separated from her skin by a thin cloth that defines her pocket until she had closed the door behind her, walked over to the big blue house where James lived, engaged herself in pointless conversations leading only to the very starting point after an hour of verbose arguments in an attempt to patch up the past and in the end made an effort to take the car back to her lab. A few more days earlier, she had not realized that the oven was on for five whole hours. She was not thinking properly, she was not focusing. She could only see blurry pictures of some very unhappy moments in a past she would like to discard as a snake sheds its skin.

Reba looked at the watch. The glowing red characters on the black background proclaimed 330 in the morning. It was at least three more hours before she would have the chance to walk to the coffee shop four blocks away and pour herself a cup of hot brown liquid with vapor fuming out of the small vent on the lid. Each time the strong burning flavor passed over her taste buds, she felt like the liquid was purging her. As her flesh burned in her mouth, time seemed to burn too, and memories turned into ashes momentarily. When the coffee had passed though, instead of a phoenix appeared a monster with an ugly green face from the remains of the bygone events. 

In the meantime, a child grew in her womb: one cell dividing into two, and then into four. Slowly an innocent being was formed. A head and a pair of legs curled near a small stomach lay happily inside her body unaware of the ugly world separated by her flesh. She put her hands on her belly. The child was part of her own being now, her very existence. However, it was also partly she, and in part another being: the fusion that took place with no love but out of an urge to prove one's ego, value and dignity.

She could connect herself with the embryo as hormones oozed out of her ovaries so that her maternal feelings protected the interest of the slowly forming being. She carried the child where she went, nurtured the child with her own blood, covered it with her own skin. She loathed the child for it also brought back memories of a horror. The tiny lump of flesh that moved inside her belly reminded her of the flesh against her skin – and she felt nothing – no pleasure, no hatred, just an emotionless apathy – and a lack of taste for life.


She remembered Rob breathing next to her exposed neck. The warm moist vapor would have brushed her skin as a sign of assurance in the past; but the feelings conveyed that day were certainly very different. She knew with a definitiveness that was more defined than the acceptable spread of possibilities in nature's realm of errors that the man she had once so hopelessly fallen in love with, and had inanely followed with no doubts to enter a world she had no personal preference for had simply preyed on her.


"But they were all your own decisions," Rob had retorted briskly, "Did I force you to sign those papers?" Reba had no answers. It was a mesmerizing dream she had the day before she subconsciously chose to destroy her own life. She had a vision - a surrealistic image of a family, a child and a support. She saw an abstract representation of security in her inner mind - a nice calm ball of water started off at the center of a large white linen canvas and slowly protruded from the swaying azure semi-transparent mass a hundred ciliated tentacles. The tentacles grew and diffused, and the finger-like objects began to evade the entire empty canvas - one translucent layer on top of the other, one curved shape overlapping partially with another smooth form. She felt acceptance.


Rob kissed her lips.  As he looked through her eyes he seemed to have reached the very depth of her mind and have fathomed all her insecurities. He appeared to have penetrated a hundred layers of flesh to find the small bud of helplessness that usually remained covered with intertwined leaves of rational arguments and emotional balance. She saw him reach for the tiny seed of humane greed, the inexplicable coveting for love and lust connected with the urge to live. She did not protest. Even if it were death, it was the sweetest death she had known. Death indeed it was.

The very same time the child grew in her cavity, multiplied the units of evil that evaded her blood stream and her own body cells – the death bestowed upon her together with another life for one small mistake. The tiny pieces of DNA replicated and conquered one of her cells. The cell was then too small to hold the chemical sequences. So they tore the cell apart and came out into her blood. The immunoglobins in her blood fought, fatigued and surrendered. She surrendered herself.


Yet the baby grew, and she saw life in it.  She protected it tenderly as it was she herself being born in another being, and the means for her survival across generations.  It was, however, indeed an unhappy truth that Rob also would survive entangled in the chromosomes that contained her own life-code too in each of the child’s cells as they entered another generation.


Rob was her teacher.  He was almost fifteen years older than she. He looked confident, assured of his life. He taught her how to write code without being caught in the endless loop that instructed the computer to go back to step one right after step twenty five and never reach step twenty six, although steps twenty six to one hundred and five were all well written and remained eagerly waiting to be executed. Robin seemed to have known all the tricks she would have spent the rest of her life trying to discover from the scratch. However, not the person who pretends to be a sage and above all humanity, he was eager to create the impression of a scholar with also a penchant for human preservation at the smallest levels of interaction. Reba remembered the insignificant conversations that had magnified in her mind just like "the violet by the mossy stone half-hidden from the eye" had engulfed Wordsworth's world.


It was a very busy afternoon. Every week-day, when she would wait for the shuttle to come pick her up in the evening, Reba would watch the "real" employees who were supposed to know what they were working on with certitude step down from their cars. As she lay down on the grass for the shuttle to come at five that Friday evening and closed her eyes to prevent the sun from directly hitting her retina, a voice echoed next to her. "So what are your plans for the weekend? San Francisco, is it? I would avoid coming back too late. The area right next to the train station is really very dodgy." Reba slowly opened her eyes, feeling awkwardly, lying on the grass with her hands stretched right next to her advisor.


The same voice sounded equally patronizing again, although two whole years had passed. "You are a smart girl, Reba," said Rob softly, almost in a teasing tone. "I always thought you were rational: top of your class, innovative, aggressive. So why did you sign the papers if they were not your own decisions? I am a little perplexed. I just endorsed what you had asked me to do. It was all your decision, wasn't it? I gave you ALL the freedom to choose." Rob sat in front of Reba, erect and composed. Looking at his calm and judgmental face and the clear eyes probably hinting at some concern about her rashness and how her impulsive behavior would one day lead directly to her demise, Reba herself was almost convinced that she had committed a crime in cold blood.  Then she remembered California.

The hot California sun had made every attempt to blind them that particular day and would perhaps have succeeded in doing so if not for the green umbrellas that stood gaudily scattered about the food court. Her lunch plate sat before her with some half eaten bread remaining on the China. "So you are done!" said Rob, his own plate empty. Reba nodded. "We haven't finished our meal today either?" said he sarcastically. "You know Reba, when I was young, my mother always forced me to finish everything on my plate. 'Just look at all the people who cannot eat,' she would say. Of course I always advised her to give my unfinished food to those people." It was supposed to be funny, maybe to break the ice.


He looked straight at Reba. There was a message hidden in his glance. It was either sarcasm or lust or a challenge- something she was not able to decipher very accurately. "So what was it you wanted to tell me?" she asked. "Right," Rob replied. "I know we had our moments of fight," started he, pointing to the strange occurrences of arguments deviating seriously from physics and approaching ethics, finance and who was the asinine loser in the chess game of politics. He remembered his moments of embarrassment too well. "Yes, what I was talking about," he came back to reality, "You are an excellent student, Reba, and I would like you to continue working with me. I admire you for your work."


It was a brief two-day interval until Reba found herself in a room with Rob. It was not politics, not finance, or science. It was flesh this time. Discussions had branched away from work to cinemas to ideologies about love and lust and then had bounced straight to the phase of experimentation. It was prohibited love; it was inappropriate, unequal and dangerous. It tasted bittersweet like a huge lump of chocolate slowly dissolving in your mouth and reaching for your heart to clog all your arteries. She was learning from her mentor - learning how to study and change nature, learning how to discover her own body, and very soon she would also learn how easy it is to deceive and completely discard the past to move to something new.


"C'est la vie," he would say one day. "Our lives are very empty. We try to find meanings, we deceive, we lie; and then we fail. After we fail, we pick ourselves up and move forward. We are none of us perfect, Reba. None of us have the answer. Probably there is no answer, just experimentations to find one possible answer and pulling ourselves back together. There is nothing WRONG with anyone, neither is love pure. It is "we and our needs." The needs change and we come up with schemes to adjust to our changing desires. No one has a fixed love or hate for another being. Only the weak look behind and stay fixed in time."


Three years from then, upon hearing the story, James would advise her the same, to move forward as time was precious. He would look at her once again with the hope of a new relationship and the expectation of a fresh start. The possibility would have been promising had the many events of life not been so intricately connected with branches and vines taking forms and spreading from a tiny seed. Reba remembered the sun of California. It was always too bright for her, almost blinding. That very day too the outside sun was scorching but the door was securely closed. Inside the closed doors it was not a world of rational balancing of one's desires with the needs of the rest of the world any more - the very small space seemed to have become disconnected from the larger planet indeed. There were only two people in that room and their needs, nothing else.


One year from that day, in another Mid March, the sun was not so infernal and Reba was in the East coast gazing at a piece of paper with her own signature that appeared as a death warrant. The very next day, she was standing on the stairs with an empty look and a sense of complete disbelief. "Why didn't you read the thing clearly? I don't believe you didn't know what it is you were signing." Bill would smirk. He had found her in the library two days ago. He worked part time shelving books while she spent most of her evenings perusing over books, aloof from the rest of the merrymaking crowd. "I'd rather not discuss these with you, Bill." "Oh, come on! That guy, did you screw him?" Reba was not thinking, and never did it occur to her that she had not discussed "that guy" or "that piece of paper" with this overly sympathetic chap who seemed to have appeared from thin air. "Look, there's been a mess-up, it can be fixed." Bill would say as if he could easily read her mind. Reba stood dazed, while Bill lowered his head and kissed her lips.


From that day on, Bill would become a constant well-wisher and an advisor, more involved than Reba would have appreciated, more demanding than she could have tolerated, if not for the events of that one night that Reba would like to imagine happened at her own will. She struggled with herself to make it a point that Bill and she had made love because she wanted to do so badly and she had deep feelings for him, not because she was half in a trance, with no connections with the rest of the world while a stranger walked over to her, pretended to have had a solution to a set of entangled events that appeared as a long knotted thread with none of the ends showing, and had taken control over her body. Reba showered for an hour after that night, almost mechanically, her mind still in a different world that was nearly totally empty with no past and no future, but a singular frozen moment.


She loathed her weakness, and she tried to prove to herself that she had actually not been frail by bestowing upon a stranger a virtual feeling with no meaning and no history. As she woke up, ate, worked and returned home, sometimes in reality, and at other moments in a nightmare, that stranger followed her like a shadow she could not rid. She was tied to a group of events with a chain she herself had partly created 

Bill’s friend Joanne was indeed a true friend.  “Rebba is so unhappy,” she voiced to a colleague, "It's all because she has had such a terrible past!” Joanne sympathized, “She used to live in Plantsville with Bill when she was fifteen. They both seemed to have gone to school together, although probably they did not know each other there. It was a really big school, and the only one in Plantsville. Before moving there, she was in Dolsville. It's this Dolsville thing, you know, that makes women feel inferior. We need to do something about it. But she is here now, you see. She should get involved with us about women's rights in Dolsville. We need to do something about this. It seems also that the women from Dolsville are even too shy to speak about their position."


Joanne did not end her struggle on Reba's behalf at making it very clear to the ignorant people around her how she was so very close to Reba and how she wished her all the best. A few days later, she went to see the Dean and sobbed with her about all the unhappy people in the world and how she intended to save them. Soon afterward, she came up with a list of people from different backgrounds to encourage them into activities, and sent an invitation to Reba to join all the unfortunate men and women via the Dean's office.


Reba would start screaming. "Look Reba, don't worry," the Dean would say sympathetically, "We did not give your personal info to anyone at all. We just want to encourage people from very different backgrounds to go work with other people." Reba wondered how the Dean had come to know about her background and why it was her problem. "Joanne would very much like that you go work with her and write papers together. Isn't she really nice!" the Dean would say with a great degree of thoughtfulness, hoping Reba would feel accepted into a world she had trouble adjusting to with her pathetic Dolsville background.


"Let’s voice our opinions against Dolsville and its culture," Joanne would start her campaign. "Just look at Reba; just see how unhappy she is. That wretched place had deprived her of all basic rights. Joanne would go to Dianne and then she would talk to Lauren. "Don’t talk to the poor creature about questions from her past," she would tell her fellow peers sympathetically. "Just look how unhappy she is. I came to know all these all because of Bill."


Reba’s stubborn resistant to the endeavor aimed at the betterment of the world was insufferably stupid causing Joanne to argue:  "I am simply trying to help you. It is too bad you can’t appreciate it. Just look at you! You don't talk to any one; you don't hang out with any one! Isn't it a nice thing I am at least trying to help!" Reba would shut the door on Joanne's face and try to do some work, feeling miserable and completely hopeless. She seemed to have been stuck with a past she had no knowledge of. It now appeared to be beyond her power to convince a mob that included students, professors and deans that she was not crazy but was simply claiming her own life back when she asked them to leave her alone.


Joanne would complain to the Dean about Reba's completely incompliant attitude.  "We are all so nice to her. She is simply throwing tantrums. Perhaps she should go and see a psychiatrist soon. If she is anywhere close to smart, she will take advantage of our programs, and come work with us. After all, it is for people like her from Dolsville that we have created such a program. We are all trying to help her!"


Never did Joanne think that the women’s program did not include people from Dolsville at all as it was a program created by Joanne and her friends strictly for themselves in order to get more funding; nor did the Dean think twice that it was Joanne who had no papers before she sent out another official letter straight out to Reba ordering her to see a psychiatrist ASAP for her own good.


A blank page appeared in front of Reba as she seemed to have branched into two completely different people - one living inside her and the other living in the outer world of her school, with one person not knowing who the other entity could be and why the other person even existed.


Frustrated and dejected, the persona confined inside the memories in her brain remembered an afternoon in last month. She was now staring at the sky hopelessly. A flock of black birds flew past the horizon in a semi circular path. Long after the birds were no longer visible, the sky still showed a hundred shades of blue slowly merging into one another and forming marvelous shapes.


She must have sat there for hours. "Are you okay?" a voice would murmur. Reba looked back and saw James a little embarrassed. She said nothing, but leaned over to him, put her hands around his shoulder and started crying like a child. She now pined for her freedom, a very new life with no Bill in it.


"Reba, look, you're in a mess," Bill would say later. "It's getting worse and worse because of your decisions, your total refusal even to behave nicely with your friends."


"Who are my friends?" Reba would ask coldly, "I did not choose them as my friends. They are YOUR political friends. Don’t you think they should stop giving statements using my name? I can speak for myself, Bill!"

"I am sorry Reba, but your absolute stubbornness about not behaving nicely with people will cost you all future jobs, don’t you think? You need letters of recommendation, right?" Bill would say.


Reba would think to herself why exactly Bill, only a recent graduate, would have so much insight and information about her job prospects and why he was calling her up with all these pieces of information.


"I care about you, Reba," he would coax, "I want to see you happy. But you are not happy at all. Perhaps you should quit, and get out of this place."


"I am not in love with you, Bill," Reba would say. "Are you still obsessed with the old joker? Look, he does not want you; he wants to abuse you. I still have that piece of paper, the letter he wrote to you. Don't you make me use it!" said Bill. "Bill, I’m hanging up," said Reba in a determined voice. "We can go around and tell people about the piece of paper you signed, and how you are a liar. No one believes you, Reba," Bill would almost shout now.


"Good for you Bill. But I have no clue at all about who exactly WE are!" Reba would hang up and go wash her face. She needed to do some work. Later, she needed to confront her past.


Rob looked at Reba, his glance still and piercing. "I am an old man, Reba," he said, "almost like a dinosaur. Don't you think you would really be happier sticking around with Bill?" "Bill!" screamed Reba, "You sent him over to me to clean up your own records; I don’t know who on earth Bill is!" "Bill is your boyfriend, Reba," Rob said coolly. "You sound a little drunk, or perhaps a bit dazed. He is the chap you love, the person you lived with. All your friends know, and now they will think that you are crazy. He grew up in your neighborhood when you were both fifteen; probably his family lived right next to yours. There is a chance that he is waiting for you right in the classroom while you are wasting your time with an old horse like me. What have I in common with you!"


There was a short uneasy pause. Suddenly Reba spoke. "You tried to make a future that has space for all your needs by scrubbing out and smudging the past that didn’t suit you after a while!" She almost murmured now, "You treated my life like a book where you could just tear off a couple of pages when you needed to. You had no idea about me, about who I was, did you? You fantasized me into a character and found the perfect match for your imagination. Chances are that you also hoped that somehow by a miracle your desires and my past would just add up nicely together and the days in the middle would disappear into a black hole!" "How did you know which neighborhood I grew up in when I was fifteen, Rob? We never had that discussions," Reba challenged sarcastically.


"Stop being paranoid, Reba," Rob bounced back. "That nice chap Bill said that by himself. Everybody knows!"


"No Rob, he could not have," Reba now spoke back with the composure of a drowning sailor who had nothing else to lose and could now laugh at her very own life. "I never had any discussions with any one in my class about which neighborhood I grew up in when I was fifteen. The neighborhood Bill claims to have grown up in with me when we were fifteen is simply in my school records because that was my forwarding address then. I never really lived there. Some one must have gone through my records, Rob," she said, "and it obviously wasn't Bill because unless we are all extremely inefficient here, Bill is really not supposed to have access to any of my papers." "I just wish time were not so unforgiving," she whispered. "Somehow we all do lose out to time, and a world that is more complicated and inter-connected than we would have really wanted it to be."


"Do we?" retorted Rob, "I wanted you to be happy, and stay away from me. I am old, Reba, and I am not perfect. You still have a life to enjoy." "I don’t believe you, Rob," said Reba, half laughing in sarcasm and half almost bursting into tears. "You are simply saving yourself, trying to prove that you had never been unprofessional with your student," she said very calmly now, "Remember what you said, ‘We just have an evolving set of needs, and some schemes to prove the desires’ validity.’ I was your student, you forgot ... you taught me ALL your beliefs and ideologies." "Was flesh part of your needs, tell me?" she said in a steady voice. "Has that need changed as well? I am obsessed with you, Rob. My needs don’t change so easily."


Reba started to undress, almost in a trance. It wasn’t really love, but a complete ridicule for her life and also his together with a determination to prove that she truly cared little for her feelings.


"You are crazy, you know," Rob uttered while he gazed at her in disbelief. The unsure girl he had seen four years ago, who looked eager and asking to be shaped now had a mad conviction in her eyes and a look that clearly defied any ideas of reason or authority. "I am not a saint, Reba," Rob said, "I hurt you. But I truly want you to be happy now. People do change."

Reba wasn't listening. She stood in front of him with a blank look, her long brown hair undone, and her unclad body glowing. Rob looked at her, and did not take his look back. Her posture was erect and full of confidence, her look completely carefree. Once again, in a closed room, there were only two bodies and their needs, while the rest of the world slowly faded away with the setting sun outside.


A seed for life dashed up a watery channel in search of a mate. A new start looked promising with the inception of a new life. However, the very same time the new gamete was born with the fusion of two contrasting ideas, needs and visions, passed tiny entities of destruction from one body to another. One person’s thorough distaste for life and his ever-changing needs in search of a meaning transmitted to another being’s obsession, and the two opposite feelings became smudged together by scattered groups of viruses.


The fusion of the two bodies was a completely unplanned event and Sam was an unplanned child, carrying the history of two totally disparate characters that had needs polarized at the opposite ends of the world. The two contrasting people had chosen to destroy themselves in an act of frustration and distaste. Sam, however, grew up to be a very different individual yet to discover his identity.