“Where do you lead to?” Lacey asks Lem. As in, what tunnel is it? What black hole does his being create? And going into it, provided God allows for such things, brings her where?
Michael thinks Lem is a choice Lacey could make. But he is in love with her as she is with him. And they’re a lot alike. And…they’re both scared for the same reasons.
“But you have to stop. You have write about perfume.” says Lem.
“Life keeps interrupting me. And I’m tired of trying to think and being interrupted. So…I’ve learned to let it go and listen. It’s not apparently going to kill me or my family, and people are determined to shut me up.” Lacey says.
“They’re both so dark.” someone says about Lacey and Michael.
“I am too.” says Lem.
“So was Harold. So was I.” says Louis.
“I’m not sure why in our cases that’s a bad thing.” says Lacey.
“Because you and I know how dark we are. And we love it.” says Michael.
“But it’s not necessarily evil.” says Lacey.
“We’re very sweet, kind people.” he says.
“It’s more like a-“
“It’s genetic.” He squints. “And you and I can’t figure out where to take it all.”
They all stop and listen for God.
“I know I started talking to Scott first out of deep sadness. Way back in 2013. And I hoped to let the idea of his existence make me smile and let it go at that. I kept grieving to let go, but the more I grieved the more I sank. Deeper and deeper into a cosmic abyss. And Christians would say I was channeling the demonic. But I was grieving to stop taking to Scott. I was struggling through the pain to accept the tragedy of it all.”
“No one died…and her life is a tragedy?!” yelled Joe, irate.
“Just let her grieve!” said Scott. “She just needs to grieve.”
“And others would cling pathetically to the hope that I lost my mind. But according to their blessed science…as in actual science…I’m not.” says Lacey. “Not in a way that explains this.”
“And that’s the problem.” says Michael.
“How is that the problem?” she asks.
“If it’s real.”
“So what. So bloody what.” says Lacey willfully collapsing to the floor of her kitchen. She lays there wishing everyone was okay.
“So plenty!” he says.
“So what? So bloody what?”
He looks sad. “Your complaints are valid.”
“It’s not that I don’t care.” She sits up, facetiously.
“What is it then?” He smiles. “Sweet pea!”
“I just find it…so sad.”
He nods in understanding.
“The problem is it’s leading us all off a lethal cliff.”
“The problem is you and I might survive. As dead as I am, if I can literally and authentically manifest through you, I’m still physically here. Even just a little.” He thinks. “And that’s the trouble. That we live.”
“Even over the cliff?”
“They could blow-up you and your entire family.”
“But then they’d just be with us.” says Lem. “And that’d be fun.”
“Of course, they’d have to blow you all up at once.” says Michael.
“And that’s no fun for them. Because if we’re all happy celebrating Thanksgiving at the Billing’s house…they can’t feel satisfied.” says Lacey. “It’s the problem of Heaven for them.”
“So best case scenario they can keep you alive and torture you but not go too far.” He laughs.
“Can they even blow us up? Or is God not on board with that?” asks Lacey.
“It’s unlikely to be okay with him.” says Joe.
“I doubt it too.” says Lacey.
“I don’t like that we’re that durable.” Lacey says to Michael.
“But we are.”
“It’s just that we shouldn’t have to be.” Silence. “They shouldn’t keep wearing away at us just to exist in their own minds.”
“Do they exist?”
“Yes. They aren’t here though.”
“You’re right. They, at their best, want to be happy and thriving. But, that’s a tall order nowadays.” says Louis.
“And they still want to hold you and Michael accountable.” says Scott.
“But they can’t even be honest about it. Even though, unlike the Asmats, they claim honesty. A white badge of courage.” says Lacey.
“But you and your crew are white!” says an elegant black woman to Lacey.
“I know. That’s what makes me so sad. Do you see it?” Lacey responds.
She cracks up laughing. Covers her mouth with her arm.
“Lacey you sound like a Baptist-atheist.” she says.
“Only the predestined will be saved.”
“Or can be.” she says.
“But that is survival of the fittest.” says Lacey.
She thinks. She looks sad. “I don’t like to think of poor white people becoming truly peasantry again.” She actually cringes. “I like to think they’ll figure it out.”
“We can’t really be that off-course? Are we?” Lacey wonders.
“What if we are?” the woman worries.
“It’s not about capitalism.” says Lacey.
“No.” she agrees, sadly.
“It’s about scarcity of resources.” they both agree.
“But!” protests a white man.
“But what? Time.” she says.
“Well, and lack of interest.” says Lacey.
“Probably lack of interest more than anything.” she says.
“Yeah, you can’t genuinely manufacture interest.” says another white man.
“It’s there or it actually isn’t. You can only control people up until a certain point.” says Lacey.
“I just can’t believe they’re actually inferior to me.” says Lacey.
“But when they come for your head…savagely…wearing white skin, especially…it’s…a hint of Hell.” says Michael.
“There’s no deeper meaning other than perversion.” Lacey says. “Is there?”
King Oliver And His Orchestra plays “Freakish Light Blues.” An Asmat leader smiles, sadly, contemplatively.
“No.” says Michael. “We aren’t or weren’t blameless humans. But I have yet to know myself what I did.”
“You bought art you shouldn’t have bought, in a manner you shouldn’t have bought it in.” says Lacey.
“And maybe he was forgiven for that. But he was still white.” says an Asmat. Regardless, of what befell him.
“If that’s all. Then there might be no deeper meaning to their violence against Michael and me.”
“We didn’t kill you.” says an Asmat crying.
“I had to have my kids.” says Lacey.
“I’m sorry.” the Asmat says not without celebrating her kids. “I’m happy, if you’re in Purgatory with me in some way, but…Heaven is nice.”
“There was all that business about me needing to be born too.” Lacey says. “Of course.”
The Asmat smiles.
“Oh Scott! You bitter peasant!” says a perfume hater half sarcastically.
“He was never really a peasant.” says Lacey.
“We know that!” says a perfume hater who self-identifies as an Irishwoman.
“But there are so many things you got wrong. And that’s a common misconception, in my opinion. It’s one he held himself.” says Lacey.
“Fair enough. …But we knew that one.” she responds.
“How?!” asks Lacey.
“Just through logical observation of his row-house.” She shrugs. “I mean, on Summit Avenue it is nothing much but compared to our houses it’s grand.” she says as she looks with conviction at Lacey.
“Yeah! How did you know what everyone’s financial status was?!“ asks a hater.
“See, now you’re all making far too many assumptions.” says Lacey. “And this onslaught of nonsense I can’t quickly untangle is part of the problem.”
“I hear you.” says the self-labeled Irishwoman.
“Can you answer those questions?” asks the second hater.
“Do you want me to?” asks Lacey.
“Yes?” answers the second hater.
“Okay, first of all, it’s not that hard to figure out people’s financial status. You just have to know what to look for or how to research it. It’s very easy.” Lacey responds.
“For you.” says the self-labeling Irishwoman.
“True.” says Lacey. *she shrugs*
“And secondly, I did it to figure out what in the world was and is going on.” She thinks. “In the chaos I was trying to piece it all together. And it was a rather interesting trend.”
“Our socio-economic status?” says the self-labeled Irishwoman.
“Yes! In light of each of your psychological tendencies en masse.” says Lacey.
“Sociologically speaking?” she asks.
“Yes. It was sad. But I was being attacked daily and…malignantly. And I wondered why.”
“So you decided to study us to figure it out?” asks the second perfume hater.
“Yes. Of course.” says Lacey.
“I mean, it’s fascinating.” says Michael.
“I was concerned and enthralled.” says Lacey.
“You know it is. I think some people just felt embarrassed. But I know you didn’t do it for no reason. It was in psychological self-defense.” says the self-labeled Irishwoman.
“So why did you post photos of big houses?” she asks again.
“Knowing to some degree what everyone was actually capable of buying?” Lacey asks.
“Yes!” yells a man who was a hater.
“It was a dark joke.”
“Wait, what was the joke?” asks her original Illuminati hater.
“Well, everyone kept posturing themselves as wealthy aristocrats in the perfume community. Accusing me of lying or being a prostitute or white-trash marrying well by getting pregnant and trapping my ex-husband. Accusing me of being backward, or uneducated or a hick. …All while copying my everything. …And I had guessed at the truth of their statuses. So I thought it horribly ironic to post houses they should have owned. Houses their parents should have owned several of. Lifestyle elements they’d find cheap and bourgeois given their grandeur socio-economically.” She smiles. “Because if they felt the narcissistic need to be so cruel…I thought I’d play dumb and remind them of their pretty little nothing houses they lived in in childhood.” She smiles. “Like, ‘Aww! Remember when? Look at that $2 million house. Huh. Those were the humble days? Non?’“ *sigh* “‘They were pretty little shacks though, weren’t they?!’” She thinks. “‘Back when your elite family still lived in the Midwest in Minnesota. Back when you were a nothing like me?’ I was being confrontational through imagery psychologically speaking. I was playing dumb. Because they refused to let anything else happen no matter how hard I tried.”
“Because you knew we couldn’t afford a $1 million house?” asks the self-labeled Irishwoman.
“What are you really trying to say with that?!” Lacey asks.
She laughs. “Okay. Never-mind. You just knew we couldn’t afford a house-“ she trails off. “No, you knew we couldn’t afford a $2 million house.”
“Yes! And yet you mocked those houses.” says Lacey. “As drab little nothing houses. ‘It’s the $30 million houses that are owned by the true elite!’ you’d say with your noses up in the air.” She pauses. “‘Not you. If you have any wealth. You’re not part of the ultra elite!’”
“Because you sympathize with the ultra elite?” asks a hater. “And you were trying to shame the poor.”
“Actually no, not at first.”
“But you are now?” he asks.
“Do you want me to despise you?” asks Lacey.
“And you just sit out and watch?” asks a black hater.
“How did you guess?” Lacey asks seriously.
“Well, you’ve got good seats.” says someone.
“No, I care. I do. I worried I was shaming people. But I decided to try to stand up for myself I guess.” she says. “It really was to burst narcissistic bubbles. People often want to ignore that or gloss over it.”
“It’s not my sense of humor.” says a hater. They think. “Okay, but they can’t…operative word cannot afford a house like that.”
“True. So it seems too cutthroat? But they were brutally bullying me.” Lacey says.
“But they were.” says Michael. “She’s being exact.”
“They still would love to but she’s cut them off and blocked them.” says Lem.
“It’s like a psychological blood lust.” says Michael.
“It’s perverse.” says an Asmat.
“Why can’t they just have self-respect? Why the need to tear me down in such a deep and personal manner?” Lacey asks. “How far away they willing to go? Murder?”
“People did stuff like that in the last century.” says an aviator. “They literally stole kids out of houses for money or clout or vanity.”
“Fun moment in history?! To realize being middle-class doesn’t make you the fucking infallible class.” says Joe Jr..
A shadow moves near Lacey’s lamps.
“Okay! I’ll admit it! We’re middle to upper-middle class! And we have it easy! Compared to a lot of people. …And no, we’re not hopefully a bunch of raging psychopaths. But, we are very evil sometimes. Super manipulative. Pure evil, at times. And wrong. Mistaken, if you will.” says a white man. Not in the perfume community.
“True.” says Lacey.
“Why don’t you all go back to Germany? Or Ireland? Or wherever in Europe you came from?” asks a black man. “Listen guys, thanks for your help building the country. Y’all did a great job. Lots of hard-work and team effort. But…it’s time, friends. All vacations must come to an end. And if you haven’t made it yet…when’s it coming dawg? Right? Maybe it’s time to move back home and end your North American excursion. Because you look tired. You look…unhappy. And if it’s just not a place you can make work for you…” *shrug* “Maybe…you need to go back to square one.”
“I mean, business is business. Right? And it’s a business. And if y’all can’t pull your weight culturally, environmentally…”. *he shrugs* “Why are you here? What do you bring to the table?” *he shakes his head no* “Your what? Your white angst?”
“Funny how you never realized hurting another white woman so psychotically would come back to haunt you?” he says.
“White power!” yells a dead Asian man humorously.
“That’s kind.” says Lacey.
“Are you suggesting I should leave?” the middle-class white man asks.
“Are you done getting richer? Can you defend yourself and your loved ones with what you have now?” the black man responds.
“I mean, I’m comfortable.” he says.
“Then what’s the problem?” Lacey asks.
“That he can’t buy hundreds of perfume bottles.” says a perfume collector.
“Actually, I technically could.” he says.
“See, so what’s your point?” asks the black man.
“This isn’t Europe. This is the United States of America I’m writing from.” says Lacey.
“We need to build a beautiful, big wall!” says a comedian.
“I can see how we’ll get Mexico to pay for it.” says Lacey.
“They say the Hispanics are taking the jobs. And then they don’t want the jobs.” says the black man.
“It’s winter. Maybe Mexico looks exciting. Exotic.” says Lacey. “They could start a business selling fruit.”
“To each other?” asks the black man.
“Actually, that would possibly work.” Lacey says.
“You can’t bully someone so relentlessly in reality and expect them to not be affected. That’s…perverted.” says the black man.
“On second thought, don’t go to Mexico and sell each other fruit. It worries me.” adds someone.
“I’m just waiting for a herd of violent, malignantly narcissistic, self-labeled social justice warriors to gather and try to restart Communist Russia.” says Lacey.
“Some prostitute you’ve got there Michael.” says a perfume expert who claims to do charity work for Guerlain.
“Do they really do charity work for Guerlain?” asks Lacey seriously. She knows she’s not a prostitute of any sort. Truly. But she wonders if they could be that important.
“No.” he says, apologetically.
“So! Apparently you can marry a woman from the afterlife?! And…she’s…”. He can’t bring himself to say it.
“She’s poor? Like Cinderella? So Cinderella was a prostitute?” asks Lacey.
“But you’re not getting his money.” he says.
“So how am I a prostitute?” asks Lacey.
“Your family got oil.” he says.
“So we bought land in the early 1900’s. Like 1902 or so. Who hooked me up in the early 1900’s?” Lacey asks.
“The oil was already there, by the way.” says a geologist.
“Remember not many people were alive yet or old enough yet to do such a thing.” says Lacey. “Who would have been involved.”
“I think it’s like in the play Oil! when the father finds the wife for his son.” says the hater.
“So is that a wife symbolically or literally then who is the prostitute?” asks Lacey. “Because you’re implying all married women are prostitutes.”
“Do you have a wife?”
“So you too own a prostitute in your mind?” she asks.
“Yes! That’s what I’m implying. That all married women are whores to their husbands.” he says.
“Are you a whore to her too?” Lacey asks.
He grows quiet.
“If I’m being honest, at times, by my definition. Yes.”
“But you both do well enough pimping yourselves out to each other to do charity work for Guerlain?” asks Lacey.
“No. Did J.D. Rockefeller find your family supernaturally in the early 1900’s?” he asks.
“If he did how did he plan this? And what else did he plan?” asks Lacey. “He would have to have had the mind of God, so as smart as he was, I doubt it.”
“No, marriage isn’t prostitution. I’ll admit it. Not when it’s love. And consensual. …But then you’re just wealthier by birth than most of us in the perfume community. And it hurt that you felt the need to point that out. …Although now I’m realizing the madness you hoped to create.”
“It wasn’t working. It was seen as meaningless. The whole perfume community platform. The social dynamics. It needed to be shaken up. And I didn’t think it would destroy people’s accounts who really cared. Just force people to be more frugal and honest.”
“So you were just being bullied.” he concludes.
“Essentially. Possibly. I mean, I had some respect from people. But it felt like everyday people came up with new ways to harass me.”
“So it was perverse. What we did to you, psychologically?” says a hater, acting dumbfounded.
“Am I a demon or a man? Willing to die on a hill over your conclusion?” asks Michael.