It was after five when I came home. Like usual, I fed the dog, put on a pot to boil water for dinner, and checked my email all without turning on a single light switch. (Its a great way to conserve energy for anyone interested– at least I think so.) I put on the Clannad Pandora station and sat down for a quiet dinner alone. Allegro had just come from snoring on his fleecy mat to wander pensively into the living room. I turned my head. And that was when I realized I was not alone after all.
I blinked. Two otherworld people were sitting on my couch, slightly in awe of the plush furniture, pretending they were not staring. I noticed anyway. I can never feign indifference on them, but fortunately it works in the other direction as well. To this day I do not know their names. My dinner was on the table, so I returned to a decisively manifest world activity which I had already realized I would have to enjoy while I could. Otherworld people can’t eat, and sometimes they glance longingly at whatever I’m happily consuming, unable to relive the experience themselves.
After dinner I ran around the living room with Allegro, throwing his hedgehog for him to fetch. His nails clacked and skidded along the hard flooring as he repeatedly failed to get traction. Fur flying, tail wagging, he ran around and around in a seemingly tireless frenzy and I mused that perhaps he was in the mood to see who would tire first, and that he bet it would be me. Fifteen minutes into it, however, he suddenly stopped moving so quickly. By this point, I was letting the loud music drown out the increasing amount of noise being made by all.
Besides the hedgehog squeaker “with its original grunter sound” per the apt description from the manufacturers, nails clicking, and the occasional bark, I was taking full advantage of my opportunity to run like a maimed leap frog and holler and yell for purely legitimate and nondestructive reasons. I mean, if I wanted to change careers and do something excellent for the blind, I’d devise an accessible adapted version of caber tossing or Hurley. The psychology of the human need to be inexplicably and spontaneously loud is poorly underdeveloped. (The interplay of Hurley and the human urge to holler and throw things in a perfectly acceptable manner would be a great thesis topic. It would even lend itself to a horribly punny title such as “The Interplay of Personality and Play: The Role of Hollering Loudly in Both Hurley and the Expression of Human Nature,” but I digress.)
So, Allegro slowed down, and then stopped chasing the hedgehog altogether. I, however, only partially paid attention to him and so continued to run… right into an otherworld person. The only plus side to this kind of collision is that it doesn’t hurt anyone involved. It still requires a great deal of awkward extrication and apologies especially as it’s possible to partially run through, rather than hit and bounce off of, a being made of energy: and I still felt the need to not let on about just how startled I was while offering muttered sheepish explanations as to why on earth I was leaping around like an idiot and loudly stating incoherent noises like “eishtay!” which means nothing at all (Allegro doesn’t care if it makes sense, right?) This otherworld person was already vanishing when I finally got to look at him, and I can’t blame him for that. I only got to see his shadow, and nothing more.
When I made it into the kitchen to retrieve the hedgehog, I saw yet another otherworld person. His presence so close to the hedgehog explained why Allegro hadn’t gone to fetch it. I added this to my list of reasons why my guide dog is wiser than I am.
I managed to avoid a collision and was ready with a bit more politeness this time. “Hello,” I said, “Nice to meet you.” Then I thought for a moment about what, exactly, might be needed regarding otherworld hospitality. Was this person going to stay here, or not? Showing him around, giving him a cup of water, asking him to sit, getting some blankets and fixing a meal if he had traveled a long way and was hungry… these are things that otherworld people simply do not need. Finally I asked the only polite question I could think of, “Do you like this style of music? Is it too loud? I can turn it down if you want.” At least he could hear and enjoy the music, I thought.
The person, whose name I still don’t know, would have laughed with me if he could. He sent me a picture which indicated, “I spent my whole life listening to Celtic music. Of course I like it. You should play it as loud as you want to, it doesn’t bother me either way.”
Satisfied that I had made this person as comfortable as possible, I tried asking his name, but like most people I would meet he had either forgotten his name or tried sending it to me spelled out in Irish which failed miserably. So I shrugged apologetically and indicated that I needed to clean up the kitchen and start winding down for the night. He stuck around, but visibly vanished so that I no longer saw him. Otherworld people have that ability, I’d come to understand. It takes quite a bit of energy for me, and them, to project and see images and so often they are in their more natural invisible state, though still present.
When I turned off the music and was preparing for bed, I had yet another quandary to consider. There were at least four people hanging around my place. I couldn’t tell if they were the same as before, or another group of four passing through. Although I was sure I’d see a few women, it was statistically more likely I’d see men instead, and so far that was the case. I had realized, slowly, somewhere in the midst of the evening, that I was seeing fianna members who were passing through on their way to wherever they were headed, which I told Caoilte would be fine with me. However, there was a person hanging out in my room, and I needed to change into some pajamas. Ah, details and the minutia of everyday living.
“Um, hey,” I asked wondering when I’d stop feeling awkward, “This is my room and I need it to myself. Could you go hang out in the living room over there instead?” I pointed right, out the door, mulling over whether I had insulted his intelligence by pointing or whether I ought to assume that a person who lived in Ireland 1800 years ago wouldn’t know English, or whether it mattered in the slightest. I’d forgotten he wasn’t embodied and voiced the request aloud.
He was saying in sign, “That’s fine, I understand,” and disappeared. I sighed with relief.
But now, I wondered, should I close the door? If I’d had five or so physically embodied people over, I would have certainly closed the door as well as kindly kicked them out of my room. But this was my space, and I lived here alone… did I really? I thought so, two days ago. I thought about how I had to keep the bathroom door open for years, even when I was occupying it, because whenever I closed the door my cat would meow with ear-piercing angst and scratch off paint on the wood with her perfectly positioned predator’s claws. Darn it all if I was going to start closing the door and acting like I had roommates when I’d chosen to live by myself for a reason, and anyway these weren’t the sort of roommates anyone else would notice. It was around this time that I flashed on the memory that, while they were alive, the fianna were quite used to living with and around large numbers of people. Privacy, especially in the individually-boxed-and-packaged way we’re used to experiencing it now, was a luxury they may have never known. They’d already know how to meticulously respect people’s boundaries and occupy themselves elsewhere if anyone needed time alone.
First and foremost, I decided that as a flesh and blood person of this century, I had a right to have priority over what boundaries we’d set. Unlike the others, I was decidedly not used to living with cohorts of five people, especially if their members were constantly changing, and even if they were consciously showing up in groups that were much smaller than the nine to twelve who usually stayed together. I was, admittedly, very grateful for their thoughtfulness on that point. Second, I’d take the opportunity to see how my house companions handled the situation. As a rule I don’t tend to trust people simply on the basis of affiliation, though with Oisín and Caoilte as their friends I already trusted them more than most. Even so, it was imperative to me to be sure they would respect the boundaries I had. As it happened, I very peacefully spent the night without any visitors venturing into my room, though there were a few more groups who came through the other room unseen during the night. They didn’t bother me.
The next day was quite similar to the first as far as sharing it with my otherworld companions was concerned. To be honest, after a week or so, I lost count of how many people I saw and I stopped feeling like I had to somehow entertain them all. But, on day 2, I was still constantly looking around to see if anyone else had arrived. Whenever I came home from an appointment or from an outing with my seed group, I opened my front door more slowly than usual to make sure it wouldn’t hit anyone and peered around to see whether or not the place was empty.
That night, after bringing home my take out order of fish and chips, an otherworld person sat across from me at the table. He was one of the ones who couldn’t help staring wistfully at my meal. I felt bad that he wouldn’t be able to eat it, and that I couldn’t offer to share it. I attempted to let him in on how it tasted by sending a picture of what it tasted like. Just in case you want to try it, it’s nearly impossible to turn taste into a visual image, but especially when you can’t see.
I’d changed up the music on Pandora and was now listening to country (don’t hate me.) I hadn’t listened to country music in a long time, and it was making me want to get up and dance. I hadn’t moved much that day, and I often feel like a day without much movement is a day in which I’m slowly dying.
My dinner guest had vanished, and I looked around self-consciously at the room for signs of life. Other than Allegro’s ever-present, easy-going, joyful spirit that always fills my surroundings, I was surprised to see no one. I ran over to the sliding glass door and closed the blinds. Now, if I look like a fool trying to run, I look like an even greater fool trying to dance. I either bob around aimlessly (but in rhythm!) or move so fast against the beat that I’d fall over if I stopped unexpectedly. I wasn’t sure whether I could control whether an otherworld person saw me dance, but I wasn’t about to take the risk of some actual world person having a glimpse at me through the window. I wondered briefly what people who lived in the second century would think about country music. Should I only play music they like while they are here? How long would they be here? How many are they anyway? Would I ever meet a woman among them? These were the questions that flitted through my mind as I stood in front of the stereo, unsure how to proceed, once again a bit overwhelmed and baffled by all I was experiencing.
Then, I deliberately forgot about otherworld goings-on altogether, and threw myself into enjoying the moment, in this time, in this world. I reveled in still being able to take up space in the most uncoordinated of fashions, able to mercilessly sing along (loudly) with the songs whose words I knew, able to stomp and clap my hands and turn my head and grab a very excited Allegro’s two front paws and whirl around with my surprised canine dance partner. Grateful that I was still able to laugh at myself and listen to the simplistic lyrical babble about love and staying out too late and blue jeans and motorbikes and teenagers sneaking out together, and homes that families owned for generations, and hot sticky summer afternoons, and katydids, and honeysuckles, and learning what it takes to grow up, and the sorrow of having to say goodbye, and the exquisite unconditional outpouring of joy on holding your newborn child for the first time. In a nut shell, what it is to be and live human.
We all have our place and time in the world, but this is the time and the world that is mine. I danced, my hands forming the meanings of the words, unconsciously weaving the words of energy and motion into the descriptions of the here and now. If others danced with me, I never knew, but by the end of it I would have welcomed them to join in in whatever their way might be.