It’s a strange phenomenon, this existence of physical proximity without the necessary benefit of a healthy emotional cohabitation. When something like Lofar lurks inside you for years on end—well, it’s like pulling an eighteen-wheeler loaded with unsalvageable junk behind you. I suppose, however, I’ll just keep moving on until the character I was supposed to create emerges out of the morass of what I am now writing.
I don’t mean to denigrate him. I couldn’t have envisaged life without his appearance. How else would I have known who I am without this theater of illusion he has provoked in me during these strange years of cohabitation?
Did I say him? What am I thinking? I have never before identified Lofar as a him or a he, but now that I know he is a him, the truth will be known. It’s trial by error, I fear, dragging up into the light something I’ve known about, and yet… and yet… I have never wanted to face. Whether in person or in the abstract.
Oops. There I go again. Lying.
I will start again. Or begin at the beginning when it happened a long time ago. When the me and the I separated from each other, and we started our individual journeys, exulting in the autonomy each provided for its own egoistic satisfaction and rarely, if ever, considering the common good.
Now, this does have a relatively good ending depending on your point of view, but getting there belies the truth I am trying to tell, though deceit is more like the default, especially when I am dealing with this separation paradigm. I don’t really mean not to tell the truth, and you will forgive me, won’t you, if you don’t believe a word I write? Characters in a work of fiction deliberately distort the truth sometimes, and in this particular situation, they force me into running after myself when I should be chasing down Lofar inside me.
Or, are they one and the same thing? There I go again. Trying to tell the truth and ending up lying in default. I am procrastinating, diverting myself from the character I am supposed to be inventing. Taking on another dream in another story in a world full of stories of dreams. Enriching not only the cast but also the context, and surmising from the result that, at last, I have arrived.
Oh, but I am taunting you, reader, holding you fast in an illusion that is worth more than anything I could dream up from the dregs of that eighteen-wheeler.
Well, then, this is how it all happened. In medias res. This split that I am trying to tell you about really did happen, but I am not sure whether it happened to the character I am creating out of thin air, or the one who is writing this story, or Lofar who was driving the wheels.
I was twelve years old and had lived only a few months in a beautiful real home in a small suburb close to the border. When we arrived in this place and settled in, I felt that I could finally rest my wearied spirit that had been traveling across thousands of miles in the backseat of a car. Not that I had anything to do with the thousands upon thousands of miles it had traveled. It wasn’t my fault that it had been so transient in its short life.
You see, I was a Navy brat and my father had dragged my mother and my sisters and me across the continent and around the world until my mother said, Enough of this crap. The kids are tired of living in the backseat of a car and I want a real house, not a log cabin on four stilts, tarantulas crawling across the bare floor, half a Quonset hut, a tent (we did that once between military transfers). And so, that’s how it came to be that my father said bye-bye to all of us as he traversed the world by himself and we stayed put.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven in this single dwelling home with three bedrooms and a real bathroom and a table and chairs you could sit down at and eat a real dinner, and a backyard that grew real grass and an elementary school just a few blocks away I could walk to and call my own. Not a school I would be yanked out of after one day, and humiliating gestures from my classmates following me out the door as they stuck out their tongues at the new one-day girl.
Being with my parents and sisters in a car all day and night and all the next day and the next night was normal to me and I thought every kid on earth did it—learn her geography and math and science and history lessons on four wheels crossing the Texas panhandle to the music of howling coyotes.
This is the truth I am telling you now, just to give you a little background so you can measure what will come next, so you can give me at least a cup of trust, so when the story starts to seem a bit surreal, you will feel some compassion toward me. If not compassion, at least not total disbelief and turn away in mock horror that this narrator doesn’t even come close to knowing what she’s talking about.
I was twelve years old and living in a real house in this small suburb close to the border, walking with a girlfriend (this was also a new thing—a girlfriend to pal around with and not just a girlfriend sister) along a dirt road. We had just been to the Dairy Queen and were on our way home, licking our ice cream cones as we walked. Then it happened. I was no longer me but I had become a me and an I. It wasn’t like that experience you read in books (or at least what I had read about later in my life). Not visionary, not even epiphanic (I would hardly have known that word existed then), but more like an adolescent shifting of one foot, then the other, to avoid embarrassment of one’s physical stature. But the experience was real, and the memory of it is as real today as it was those many years ago.
My new girlfriend was talking away, and although I saw her mouth moving as the words flowed toward me, I didn’t hear anything. Not one vowel. Not one consonant. I was concentrating on what was happening inside of me—the split that made me become an I and a me. At that moment, I became aware of myself as subject and object.
And as quickly as it happened it disappeared. But I was never the same again, and I became an observer of myself, spending those years tracking down not the cause of that split but the consequences.
How do you name such an experience? Was it an existential crisis? Can a twelve-year-old actually have an existential crisis? Was it a spiritual transformation? One of those Damascus things? This is not impossible because she was very devoted to Sunday School and wouldn’t think of missing a Sunday at church. But that hardly accounts for what happened afterwards. It didn’t make her full of joy or commit herself to Christ. Though she was scared enough that with one slight deviance it could have turned out that way.
No, the consequences were such that it went far beyond a spiritual transformation and became Lofar, thus having in no way shape or form anything to do with religion or the religious soul or church or Sunday School or ministerial prerequisites or theological occupations. Maybe, when all is said and done, it was as simple as this. It, the experience, the split, was a soul buster.
However you name it, I have come to the conclusion this experience was the beginning of an autonomous creature who didn’t have to pay his dues to his owner and could do anything he damned well pleased. And the sorry mess he created is the story I am about to tell you. This character I have been assigned to create out of thin air.
I didn’t tell my mother or my father or my sisters or my Sunday School teacher or my sixth-grade teacher or any of my girlfriends what had happened to me. Nobody. I comforted myself with the illusion I was so unique that no one else could ever have such an experience, and besides, they wouldn’t understand anyway. And maybe it was something I could write about someday. In a nutshell: I had, at twelve years old, figured out there was something outside of my egoistic reference, and this split would make me more cognizant of the suffering and the pain in the world. More caring, less selfish, not quite so in love with myself.
It was a hopeful moment. Taking stock of who I was and realizing I could be both subject and object.
Only . . . only . . . little did I know that Lofar had something else in mind. He forced me to internalize my own suffering to the point where I didn’t know if I wanted to live anymore. And deluded as I was, I didn’t know how to bring the me back into a better living equation with the I, at least into a relationship that had a semblance of respect and admiration and affection, and some measure of equanimity.
I pushed the me away and had no idea what I had done.