Gary Takes the Monitor

Gary. We left him rather awkwardly kneeling in Andrew’s bedroom, staring at an artifact of experiential quantum mechanics. He had the sensation, in a way that we all might, that there was something monumental facing him. At the same time, he knew how easy it is to be fooled; how seldom the monumental appears; and how foolish someone appears at the moment they dream of the one and are confronted by the other.

“Wow,” he said. “I’m not sure what would have caused this.” He looked back over his shoulder. Despite a lingering heat and oppressive humidity, Alice had put her arm around Andrew and pulled him tight, as if a chill had taken hold of her body. Gary would later assert that he could already sense something growing in Alice’s self-representation, her demeanor and actions, something akin to pride — a feeling of having been chosen. This feeling was in direct conflict with her flight instinct, and gave her a flustered appearance in the following, which Gary found unavoidably and incredibly alluring.

“Is it dangerous?” she asked.

Gary said: “The monitor isn’t, I don’t think, but I couldn’t tell you about whatever it is that caused this.”

She pulled Andrew tighter to her and said, “You’re sleeping in my bedroom tonight.” Then: “Should we get rid of the monitor?”

Gary looked back at it. “I can take it; maybe there’s something inside that would help me understand what happened.”

“Just be careful,” she said. A concern, not for him per se, but for the service man whose specialty she does not understand.

He smiled his careful church smile, one which he had not used for quite a while. He did not want to say this right away, but he knew it was the crux: “Do you want to know what I find?”

Alice had a number of options. She could resolve that this whole incident had never happened, remove any sign that it had, and act the unknowing. If it was a freak of nature, this course could be the best. But if it was an act of will, as it seemed to be, this might be a risky course of action. Perhaps, the force that had willed contact would accept such a break and undo contact from that point forward; you might even assume that contact as secretive as this could not be sustained against someone’s will. Or she could ask for the monitor back after Gary had done whatever analysis he could — establishing, for example, its anti- quotidian nature — and live this mystery for herself and Andrew. This would avoid the complication of Gary’s non-entity kneeling in her son’s bedroom. Or she could continue to interact with Gary for the sake of finding out more about what happened here. There was also her promise to Andrew to find out what had happened. But perhaps most importantly, there was the truth that this represented: that the world did surprise, did create new stories, did open gates where there had been none.

By contacting Gary she had already started down a particular path. But the uncertainty in his eyes might have made this a different path from the one she had imagined. And even if she had no way of knowing about the ill-fated society with which we began this narrative, she could assess that this mystery might open onto vistas with completely unanticipated vectors of force. She would be taking a risk, with her life and Andrew’s, if she did anything other than wash her hands of the whole thing.

While her mind worked, Alice was alternately flushing and hemming and hawing, with Andrew looking up at her, wishing to remind her of her promise, without giving her an opportunity to argue her way out of it. Is there something greater, more holy, more ontological than the life of your child? Gary had learned to recognize this impulse in Alice, even if he himself was incapable of separating any one person’s existence from the relation to his needs and wants. Meanwhile, while he waited, Gary became more conscious of echoed streams of wheels against asphalt, and of neighbors to the side or above, who were arguing about something incomprehensible in tones that might be English, Hindi, Spanish or Laotian.

“Well,” she said, “I would like to know what happened, just to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And I’m curious.” She looked down at Andrew: “I’m definitely curious. But please do be careful, Gary. I will call someone” — some authority — “if it happens again tonight. I really will.”

Gary stood up, and became quite conscious of his bulk in that room, a child’s room, with the boy and his mother almost cowering together on the bed. “Well, then,” he said, “I’ll take the monitor, and let you get back to your evening.” There was a rejoinder from her in his mind, but he was not surprised when none reached his ears. He unscrewed the monitor cable and took a hold of the power cable and lifted the rather sizeable CRT monitor.

“I’ll be in touch,” he said, the singed screen now filling his nostrils with a trail of chemicals released by the incident.

Alice followed him to the door and thanked him for his help. He walked down the hall, full of the perception that, as full as his arms were, his mind was emptied of a dream that had nurtured him secretly, perversely, repeatedly, despite his best efforts at self-therapy.