It’s early afternoon but I can’t be sure. I feel like it really doesn’t matter much anymore as I’ve lost any sense of time. I can’t tell if it’s morning, noon or night. I wouldn’t even notice the passing of the days were it not for the fact that it gets dark and then light again. Suffice it to say that catch-all phrases like “for a while” or “round about now” seemed more appropriate for this new reality.
Sometime yesterday, and I know it was a yesterday because I had slept and slept over night, I had met someone, a woman, who gave me more of a sense of grounding than did Mr. Morrison. We had gone to the Saint Severin where she had explained some of the nuances that were now endemic to this place. We had agreed to meet again today, “round about now” in the hope that I could situate myself better in this new found existence. Oddly and as always very confusing, I knew exactly when and where we are to meet. How it was that I knew? Well therein lies the mystery.
Before going to the Saint Severin, I thought it might be a good way to “kill time” and look for Vern at the Café de Flore just like Morrison had suggested. I chuckle at the thought of “Killing time”. When I got there I walked through the Café but I could not find anyone who looked even vaguely look like Morrison’s “Vern”.
I was anticipating my rendezvous with Shulie at the Saint Severin Café down the street from my hotel.
I’d met Shulie while browsing the stacks of books at Shakespeare and Company. When first I arrived in Paris, it was one of the first places I visited for no other reason than it was familiar. I found comfort in that familiarity.
During the seven times I had visited Paris in my mortal existence, which is how I now referred to my previous life, on six visits to Paris I had spent time and coin at the famous bookstore.
Shakespeare and Co. originally founded in 1919, first at No. 8 Rue Dupuytren and later moved to No. 12 Rue de l’Odéon, is in the 6ieme arrondisement in the heart of the intellectual centre of Paris. Some would say of the world in the 1920s, it was a gathering place for the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and Ford Maddox Ford. Brief though his stay was.
During those visits, I would imagine being among the stacks of books and crossing paths with Hemingway or Gertrude Stein. Listening to Fitzgerald read from Gatsby or ponder the prose of that infamous anti-Semite Ezra Pound.
While I stood flipping through a biography of Emma Goldman, my eyes caught the shadow of a figure standing just behind me to my left.
“I’m sorry am I in your way?”, I said, politely.
“Oh no that’s quite alright I’ll just go over to the philosophy section for now.”, and she began to move away heading toward the part of the book store that contained an enormous collection of philosophical tomes many of them first editions. Something that was no longer the case in my mortal existence.
“No please, I can move and we can share this space,” I say, insistantly as I moved to my right so she could take up a position beside me closer to the bookshelf.
“Well actually, I don’t want to be intrusive but I came to borrow the book in your hand. If you were going to read it, however, I can wait until you’re done.”
“Please be my guest”, as I offered up the book to her.
“You sure you don’t mind?” she said, looking up through a pair of metal frame granny glasses.
This struck me as odd. I had spent a lot of time focusing on being observant hoping that due diligence in this regard would afford me more of an insight into the predicament within which I find myself. I observed that one consequence of being reborn on this level of existence had a salutatory effect on one’s physical frailties. Chronic diseases were gone; deformities regardless their origins were repaired; and challenges of senses or cognition were removed.
I made a mental note to remind myself about it.
We exchanged some small talk when I realized I had not introduced myself. Honestly, I just wanted to know her name. So I interjected at an opportune moment: “but you know I forget myself, my name is Mark Distelli.
“My friends call me Shulie.”, she said, in return. but then paused with a pensive gaze and asked, “are you Jewish?”
“Well I’ve been mistaken for someone with more Semitic origins, but no I am not Jewish, my Parents were Italians.”
“Well Disraeli is an odd name for an Italian.”, she said, cautiously.
I laugh and her cautious look turns into a stern gaze.
“What is so funny” She said, with a demanding but subtle undertone of irritation.
“It’s Distelli not Disraeli!” I said, “But thank you, I am flattered, however, I would make a very poor conservative as they have molded themselves these days. If I had to be one, however, Disraeli would be on top of that very short list”.
This brought a smile back to her countenance. She was again seemingly open and accepting and I was relieved as it was always difficult to communicate with anyone who for whatever reason was not receptive.
“Shulie, would you like to share a drink with me, maybe a coffee, down at the St. Severin?” Having asked, I was overcome with a feeling of boldness that I seldom felt before. Maybe boldness was not quite right. I was feeling an odd comfort level with this stranger who I just met and almost as quickly asked her to share a libation.
“I think that would be lovely Mark “, she said with a glistening smile, her eyes sparkling from behind the crystals of her glasses.
We walked back towards the St. Louis District stopping briefly at La Rue du Petit Pont. It was here that Shulie grabbed my arm and asked, “How long have you been here Mark?”
“How long…? You know I’m not sure. All I can tell you is that I’m a recent arrival. It has not been long since my…”. I paused briefly as I was still uneasy saying the word. “… death and except for the odd events and circumstance that seem to be a regular occurrence in this place, I would never know that I’m even dead or that I’m here.”
“You mean you don’t know you’re in Paris?”, she said, in disbelief.
“Oh no! I am keenly aware of where I am. I’m a little bewildered by it, but there is no question about it, this is the city of lights”, I immediately said.
I looked across the street where Elie had once made a phone call from the public telephone situated right beside the entrance to the Rue de la Huchette. But it was no longer there. I looked at Shulie who had now released my arm and asked her in a slightly baffled tone.
“Where’s the phone booth?”
“What phone booth?”, She said, in return.
“The one across the street, I was sure I saw it on my way here!”, I said and urgently turned to walk toward it. But I stopped suddenly jarred by the realization that there it was, right in front of me.
“There it is!” pointing to the phone booth clearly visible across the street. I turned to Shulie and grabbed her by the shoulders, placing her in front of me.
“There do you see it now?” I said in a confused and almost angry tone.
“Well sure, now I see it” she acknowledged as though suddenly there was a certainty to what I was saying.
But as I looked up it was gone. It was then I also noticed that the women’s clothing shop at the corner of the Rue de la Huchette and Rue du Petit Pont, Dam Dom and the souvenir shop beside it, were no longer there. In their place was an academic book shop.
Holding tightly to Shulie’s shoulder I panned up and down the street and I noticed that the people walking around looked different. It was as if all of Paris had decided suddenly to dress retro circa 1973.
“What’s wrong Mark?” Shulie said, inquiring in voice of concern and apprehension.
Shulie turned and looked into my eyes and in what seemed to be a purposeful act, grasped my arm.
“You don’t know do you?” she said, with surprise and just a hint of self-satisfaction.
“Come on let’s get to the St. Severin and I’ll give a better understanding of the lay of the land.”
We disengaged from each other and the world seemed to shimmer back to my more familiar surroundings. As we crossed the street I stared intently at the phone booth expecting it to disappear right before my eyes.
“Very weird,” I muttered.
“Patience Mark everything will be clear in a few minutes.”, said Shulie, reassuring me as we walked towards our destination at the other end of La rue de la Huchette on the Boulevard St. Michel. Neither of us said anything until we sat down and the waiter came to take our order. It was then I could think of only three words to say.
“What the fuck!?”
“The fuck, as you put it Mark, is simple. In this universe the laws of physics have had some of the filters and restrictions common to that other, ‘our’, universe, disabled.”
“What do you mean this universe?”
“Yes that’s right, as Vern puts it…”
“Vern…?” I pronounced his name pensively and as if it was a question.
“Hangs out with a bunch of his buddies at the café de Flore?”
“Oh , you’ve met!” She said.
“No, but Morrison mentioned that he was the one to talk to regarding this reality.” I said.
“Not reality, universe, but you have to stop taking what Morrison says at face value. That child of the sixties doesn’t need drink and take drugs to be messed up. It comes naturally to him.” She warns me emphatically.
“Ok, universe.” An answer that both acknowledges her correction and warning.
“I think I remember something in physics about the existence of a parallel universe.” I say.
“Well you’re getting there. There is no one parallel universe, rather there are many universes. Actually, they exist like bubbles floating in the air. They move towards each other or away from each other. Sometimes they collide and one disappears or both do. They stick together and intersect.”
“Are you saying that we live in a dual universe and when we die we don’t really die we are just move to the other universe.”
“No! We are a part of a multi-verse and this is the intersection of multiple universes.” she says
“And just out of curiosity, how many is multiple?” I ask.
“No one knows.”
“No one?! Not even Vern?”
“Not even Vern. Although they say he has some working theories. Unfortunately, I’ve not been privy to them.”
“So tell me Shulie how is it you know all this stuff? You don’t look like the science- geek type?”
“Oh really, and what type do I look like!?” She asked moderately annoyed.
“Well your look is Hippie-chick. But your demeanour is Germaine Greer.” I replied. Trying not to sound judgmental.
“I’m not sure if Germaine would like that very much.” She said it like she had some personal insight into the thoughts of Germaine Greer. So I had to ask.
“You say that like you know her…” Fully expecting a response from Shulie, but instead she reminded me what it was she who was supposed to be helping me understand as she proceeded to explain the mysteries of my new existence.
“Ok, Mr. Mark, the reason you think you’re seeing or not seeing things is both simple and complex. The complex can only be explained by someone who has a good foundation in quantum physics. I will leave that to any one of the many luminaries; or how did you put it? Science-geeks that have become our contemporaries.”
“I’m all ears… but I still want to know if you know Germaine Greer!” I say, insistently.
“Maybe, some other time Mr. Mark” Holding out the possibility of both finding out if she did have personal contact with one of the great minds of the 20th century and the opportunity to share more time with her. Shulie, to my delight, is someone with whom I felt an honest warmth and camaraderie.
“So what happened back at Shakespeare and Co.?”, I said..
“Remember how I said that there are many universes and like bubbles they float around colliding and intersecting?”
“Ya, and you mentioned that we now exist at the intersection of multiple universes. What was it you called it?’
“A multi-verse.” She replied
“A multi-verse.” I repeated, like I was verifying its authenticity.
“We each exist in our own universe. Let’s say for the sake of simplicity that these are dimensions, so that we don’t get confused by using different terminology. In this multi-verse when our respective dimensions intersect, that is when we each come in contact with each other, we become aware of the other’s dimension or if you prefer, we experience the others reality.”
“You mean that by touching you, I entre your reality?”, I said, puzzled by the significance of this realization.
“Yes and no! And it’s more than that.”
“More!? How much more?”, I said, with a bit of anxiety in my tone.
“You don’t actually entre my really. It’s actually more like you entre my mind or more correctly my thoughts. What you’re doing is accessing my knowledge and memories of my former reality. It’s like you get access to the information in my mind. In fact, if you had any experience of the same time and place, in this case Paris in the 1970’s, then the reality is even more subtle and complex. Did you ever visit Paris in the 1970’s?”
“Actually, I did in 1976. I stayed at the Hotel Select on the Place de la Sorbonne.”, I said, with a tone of self satisfaction that made me feel like some of this made some sense. If nothing else it helped me put up a more courageous front than was in fact the case.
Shulie tried to stifle a sympathetic laugh. She was obviously all too familiar with the look on my face; the look of the confused newbie struggling with the bizarreness of quantum physics.
“Let me get this straight; by making contact with you I am reaching into your thoughts and accessing the knowledge and memories of the 1970’s as they happened to you?”
“Yes in a sense, but it’s much more interactive. We are really making new realities. Our dimensions are intersecting and we are experiencing new realities. It’s like… it’s like this is not just a dimension of time and place but also of mind.”
“The Twilight Zone…“ I whispered just loud enough for Shulie to hear.
“Did you just say the Twilight Zone?” Shulie seemed surprised by the reference.
“Ya, you know Rod Steiger, that eerie music in the background. Then he says, you’re traveling in another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind… or some such thing.”
“Wow, your right it does sound like that doesn’t it! So does that clear up some confusion?”
“I wish I could go into more detail but from time to time, as you can see, I am still perplexed myself.”
‘Really, how so!?”
“Well conceptually I understand how individuals interact with others in the multi-verse, but I couldn’t explain what forces are involved or how the universes intersect with our minds. I’m also not sure about what else I, you or anyone can expect to happen. I am still trying to figure out the whole time thing. “
Time! Sitting at the St. Severin and staring out across the Seine I think back to the first time I sat here with Dionita.