Chapter Thirty: The End
Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy.
Each day I half expected a visit or a call from police. Daily I scanned the news online, but nothing about a man drowning, nothing about Kyle’s suspicious death, no articles mentioning the unnatural amount of suicides in Fowl’s Point. Nothing further about Baydacious. Certainly nothing connecting any of it to other mysterious happenings in the area. Could all of these incidents have been dealt with in isolation and the system or its authorities never connected the dots, never followed through? Was there no detective who, like on TV, was vexed by nagging suspicions, felt obligated to follow through because of that missing shoe or reports of a bloodied man spraying people with a fire extinguisher at the scene of a homicide? Did all our flimsy plans work? With each day that passed it seemed that was the case.
So the rest of the summer vanished as it always did. In passing I’d pause in front of my refrigerator calendar, counting down the days to the first day back to work. I got things ready: lunch bag and coffee thermos, made sure I had clothes to wear. When I went to bed last night I turned on my alarm for the first time since that glorious June morning when I woke to ride my bike down to Fowl’s Point.
When I woke I acted like Cliff always acts waking for the first day of school. I showered, shaved, ate Raisin Bran, filled my to-go cup with coffee. I took advantage of the carpool I sometimes used, drove to work with a biology teacher and an English teacher. I sat in the back and let them do most of the talking, adding requisite bits to get them talking again. We three entered the building, said hellos, got our classroom keys and our accumulated mail, split up to our respective realms. I said hello to a few other fellow teachers I happened to meet in the hallway. My summer was uneventful. Yours?
Into my classroom, preserved in situ. Sat there at my desk looking at the rows of desks, thought about my life and how I ended up there. On the wall next to my desk were thank you notes, pictures of students from years back, yellowed newspaper articles announcing their milestones. On my desk were mugs with inspirational sayings, little knickknacks they made me in ceramics class.
Then it was time for the yearly assembly in the auditorium. I found my seat and hunkered down. I could sense the gossip about Rayne, especially in the social studies coterie with whom I normally sat.
Opening remarks. The grating motivational speaker. A man who talked about investments. An HR guy reminded us about the fingerprinting deadline. Now the principal was up and started his speech about Rayne. I’d heard this kind of thing before. He would use rhetorical techniques he’d assimilated from others over the years: talk slowly, search for the right words to convey his heartfelt sincerity, how ultimately we’re all at a loss for words.
I was already up out of my seat, avoiding the surprised and disapproving eyes of others. One got up to use the bathroom for the other speakers, not for something like this. But that was exactly why I was going now.
My phone vibrated in my pocket. I dug it out and read the text from Sari: Did you get the school supplies?
I replied: Getting now.
I walked down the deserted hallway to the science department. The door to the chemistry lab was wide open. I looked on my phone for the list of supplies and did what I could to get them all, putting them in my cubic insulated lunch box.
Another text from Sari: I’m at the gym.
That’s where I told her to park, the side exit that nobody pays attention to.
I didn’t go back to my classroom for mementos or other personal belongings. Let them fight over my stapler, my cutting board, my DVD player. My stuff and Rayne’s: the things left behind by those who moved on from this life. Nothing here has any value where I’m going.
I passed by the gyms, the humming vending machines, the faint odor of locker rooms. Bright daylight filled the glass doors ahead.
My new life will be with Sari and we’ll be together and in love. But what about that whole love is an illusion thing? What are illusions? Are my loneliness and nine-to-five misery so authentic? If so, why is that preferable to the so-called illusion?
Outside in the warm sun. Look at Sari. She was in her newly-washed BMW looking like I’d seen her so many times down Fowl’s Point: her blond hair, her sunglasses on her head, one hand resting on the steering wheel. That unreadable, imperious, beautiful face. She was waiting for me and I was so happy. Was that an illusion?
I got in next to her. She kissed me at length.
I said, “We better go.”
She handed me a water bottle, put the car in gear and drove out of the school parking lot. At the stop sign she hesitated.
I sipped at the water, “Where are we going?
“North. I know of another Marine Institute.” For that fish. For the new mix we would make.
She turned left.
I looked ahead. The sun was high, a spotlight filtered through the upper windshield tint. The sky was clear, pure blue, some swirls of wispy cloud lower near the horizon. We drove past developments, came to the expressway, merged onto it. Above a huge swarm of birds crossed the highway going southward, a dark streak over a background cicatrix of glowing contrails, a negative milky way for the daytime. They kept coming, there must have been hundreds of thousands off them, each a flittering dot making a sinuous streaming whole. I knew Sari saw it too but with our interconnected minds we didn’t need to voice things.
I was inspired.
“I love you, Sari.”
“I love you, Cliff.”
I felt that our horizon was limitless, that we were embarking on something extraordinary. I didn’t know if I was giving into illusion, or if it mattered. What is left when illusions fade? Amor Fati. What would happen would happen. Time is inexorable.