a novella by L J Frank © 2019 Rev. 2022
Quelle: The German for source, spring, well, fount, headwaters, fountainhead, origin
Death of an Old Man
The chill of an autumn’s breath arrived in the early morning hours. A yellowing leaf from a tree overlooking an old man on a park bench, trembled. The hue of mortality, muted on occasion, is always personal. And the truth may betray us when the perception of what is real vanishes. A woman that had been sitting on the same bench earlier rose and walked away.
The old man with cobalt blue eyes and a troubled expression etched in the lines of his oval face sat on the bench under the scattered shade in Central Park, New York City. He squinted as if wanting to say something to the marble edifice in the distance. He may have been reflecting on what to write when he finally cast his eyes down at the cellular phone he held in his hand. He began pressing the keys with his index finger.
A shadow appeared from behind him as he began spelling out the last text message he would ever send. As he finished typing a drop of bloodied saliva was suspended from his lower lip. He tried wiping it a way. His cellular phone dropped to the ground as a stiff wind caused a tree branch to creak.
A woman who was approaching him from behind wearing a leather trench coat, blue jeans and black suede high heels placed her hand on his shoulder, slowly leaned over, gazed at his now drooping countenance and felt his pulse. She stood up and looked towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the distance. “Perhaps?” She murmured with a tear finding its way down her cheek, she kissed his head and then departed. As she walked away distancing herself from the old man, her eyes overflowed with a saltiness. “Why were you here?” she asked. She shook her head and called the police and then disappeared into the city.
An early forties looking detective with thinning hair and brooding eyes, who I met the next day, noted the dead man was perhaps in his mid to late fifties, had thick, messy grey hair and wore expensive looking cordovan cap toe boots, dark colored denim like pants and a grey wool blend sport coat, with an open button-down collar blue shirt underneath. “He didn’t look homeless…except there was no wallet, no papers. No identification on the man. He seemed different in an odd sort of way. He couldn’t put his finger on it. He noted that the cellular phone of the man’s was a dated Blackberry cellular model and displayed only one message. All other names and messages if listed, were deleted. There was little evidence the man ever existed except for his body and the message. An infant that grew into a man who perhaps was once cradled in his mother or father’s arms, he now was just another old man who died alone in the city.
The sign on the interstate read – Detour. Driving north exiting and entering I-81, I would cut over to New York City. I was to meet the distinguished gentleman who lived in Manhattan about a writing project. I was listening to some forgettable music on the radio and thinking about the project while driving. We had spoken with each other for what seemed like endless hours exchanging our thoughts. I wondered in the back of my mind if the meeting might be connected the previous potential book I was to collaborate on in the city. I had spoken with the other person for over an hour on the phone. The story seemed riddled with glitches. My initial research suggested to step back. I did. I moved on to the next project which in this case was with the Manhattan gentleman. We connected weeks ago through a third party. Everyday either through text message or telephone call for clarification and through email we communicated about what he identified as the mystery surrounding an ancient writing, he called the Quelle Text. From a theological standpoint the word quelle is German for source and according to some authorities may have been the actual source to the Christian Gospels. However, the text he in which he was referring was more enigmatic and complicated.
Low hanging grey clouds in the western sky caught my sight. The city was still a couple of hours away given the volume of traffic. I anticipated the swift moving rain clouds would arrive in the city before I crossed the Hudson River. According to my android phone navigator there was a coffeeshop at the next exit. I exited the interstate and within five minutes found the coffee shop, parked, walked in, and ordered a cup of black coffee with a drop of cream. I looked at my phone. There were nine messages.
Click. The first three messages were sales pitches for whatever. Delete.
Click. Message four was from a former colleague now living on the east coast outside the District of Columbia. “Just checking in. Are you still alive? If you answer, I’ll know one way or the other. Good luck.”
I text back. “Since I’m replying to you. I am. Good to hear from you. More later.”
Click. Message five. The name and number were unavailable. Delete.
I took a sip of the coffee filling the thick white paper cup with its cardboard sleeve.
Click. Message six. It was an appointment reminder from another colleague. “Let’s get together when you’re in town. Miss our conversations.”
Click. Message seven. A politician was asking me for his vote. Delete.
Click. Message eight. A fundraiser. What money? Delete.
Click. Message nine. “Ghost: The Quelle Text. Remember 323,949. Manhattan Gentleman.”
I called him. It kept ringing. Finally, a deep baritone voice.
“Who is this?” It didn’t sound like Liev who had a higher pitched tenor voice.
“Ah. You’ve reached the Central Park Precinct…. it’s him,” he said to someone nearby…” your friend is dead.”
“We found him a short time ago. His phone had one listing. The Ghost. I assume it’s you.”
“Stop by when you get a chance. We’re at 86th Street and Traverse Road. It’s known by local historians as the home of the old horse stable.” His baritone voice crackled and betrayed the ambiguity of his pride.
“Thanks. I’ll be there in the morning.”
“See you then…Ghost.” The detective coughed.
“Jesus,” I mumbled to myself after hanging up.
I arrived at my hotel destination a block or so from Central Park. The following morning, I spoke with the detective who reviewed the case.
“We had about a half-dozen or so deaths yesterday in and around Central Park, this one was the most curious, the man was so well-dressed with no identification, save that cryptic message to you.” The detective stopped and scratched his beardless chin. “He was stylishly dressed for a man without an identity. Usually, we find the absence of any papers among the homeless. If it was a homicide or suicide, we’d expect it to be in a subway rather than the park or even the river. An autopsy will be performed if it already hasn’t been. You can check back tomorrow or the day after.” He paused then asked, “You wouldn’t happen to know his name?”
I hesitated. “If it’s the right man I knew him as Liev Buchmann. He was a very private man.”
“Well, if it wasn’t the right man would he have sent a text to the Ghost? Unless?”
“I’m a Ghostwriter. And experience suggests I be patient with my clients.”
“Hm. If you have the time, patience works for you. Also, I assume you don’t know where he lived?”
“I’m sorry. I’ll make some calls. May I see his body?”
“Of course.” The detective appeared to have a frown engraved on his face. “Since you were apparently the last person in communication with and….” He hesitated and then nodded.
“You wouldn’t care to enlighten us?”
“About? I don’t know. My profession has an enigmatic quality about it. I never have any details until the last moment…until I meet a client and she or he tells me the whole story. Again, my apologies.”
“Ah, Ghost.” He smirked. “Yeah, okay.”
I half-smiled and departed. Within the hour I was viewing my client or so I thought. The coroner’s assistant drew back the sheet to uncover the person’s face. I found it striking in an odd sort of way. The nose was distinguished and angular. The face possessed a striking cast, with thin brows and an oval face. He reminded me of a photograph I’d seen of a 1920’s business tycoon. Something felt wrong. The voice I’d been listening to on the phone and the face didn’t match. He had sent me his physical description so that I’d recognize him. He really didn’t like sending his photos through emails, and text. I felt uncomfortable. Experience suggested that a mismatch between voice and self-description is not uncommon.
“When he first arrived here his eyes were still open. The look in the eyes. It was unnerving.” The coroner’s assistant said with an edgy tone to his voice.
“What do you mean?”
“It was a stare that looked more alive than dead as if searching for something on the horizon. The Coroner and I call it the hundred-mile stare. It was as if the mind was still alive. Chilling…and I’ve done a lot of autopsies, a few people have that look as if they were somewhere between being alive and fully dead.” His voice trailed off.
I wanted to say that I thought all autopsies would be a bit chilling. I remained quiet. My mind instead asked. “What is human existence?” The question is ancient. Almost pragmatically dull but philosophically necessary. Is it an ephemeral struggle of the brief transitory light offered a human between the eternity of the darkness prior to birth and the darkness after death? I asked these questions because the Liev and I spoke about the meaning of Quelle. The very word struck an inner chord of curiosity. It excited my mind. He knew it would. That’s one of several reasons he sought me. Still, I didn’t know what I might be looking for.
Looking down at the face attached to a body lying on the coroner’s table seemed so irreligious and sterile. As my gaze was fixed on his face, I realized it retained a vague familiarity like a picture one might see in an old magazine from the distant past. Was it really Liev? I wondered what would happen to his body…burial, that sort of thing. There was a backlog and he’d be there for hours or possibly days. Only the coroner knew for sure. I felt a kinship to Liev if indeed it was him. Why was I skeptical? Odd in that it was over a short period of time. What should I expect? Could it be someone else? But who?
“Thanks,” I nodded to the coroner’s assistant who seemed to appraise me while I looked at the man’s face. He seemed to want to ask me something. “Ah, did you…never mind.”
Experience suggested he remain quiet. It was curious. Disturbing. What do or don’t I know is a typical concern for a ghost when playing detective.
I took a deep breath and shrugged my shoulders, “much appreciated, thanks,” and made my way to Central Park and the bench the detective told me about, where my client had been sitting. Upon arriving I sat down and looked around. I could see a small portion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the distance. “What else?” I asked myself loud enough that a woman passing by looked over at me.
“Did you say something?”
“Just talking to myself.”
“The park’s a good place for it.” She grinned and walked on to wherever.
I looked around at the passersby and checked the few texts Liev and I exchanged before the final one, including my jottings from our numerous telephone conversations. Perhaps it was another thing else altogether. Time might tell. Then again it might not.
A Week Ago
Liev Buchmann was indeed a private person. I recalled the conversation we had about a young man whose two older brothers manipulated the father in giving much of his inheritance to them with the help of a banker they graduated with from Fordham University and channeled their money to a bank in the Cayman Islands. The youngest sibling attended Stony Brook University then went on to Columbia University for a graduate degree.
Liev spoke over the phone in a hushed tone at the time of our exchange, “The father understood the money was to be divided evenly so he named his oldest son as benefactor. However, the money wasn’t shared. The banker in concert with the two older brothers divided up the inheritance with an undisclosed amount deposited in an offshore bank. The total amount was more than fifty million dollars, with an addended agreement that the two brothers would retain the home. Still, there was one thing the father kept hidden from the two older siblings and his mother, who died when he was a teenager.
Perhaps it was intuition on his father’s part. It was a letter he had in his possession from his youth. Liev’s paternal grandfather procured the letter during his travels in the Middle East in the early 1920’s. The region where he came across the unusual letter was under British control at the time, being a partition of the Ottoman Empire after the end of World War I. The entity or area was labeled as the Mandatory Palestine. In 1948 it would officially become the State of Israel and not designed to everyone’s satisfaction, which was and is not unusual within the context of politics and the spoils of war.”
“What happened to the young man?” I asked.
Liev’s voice was just above a soft whisper, “The father quietly gave youth the letter upon graduation from high school and asked that nothing be said about it to anyone. The father also said that someday the meaning of it would become clear.”
“The youth kept the letter in an old, travel worn, brown leather briefcase his father purchased in England. The buckles and straps were discolored. The father kept the briefcase in a bedroom closet along with a pile of papers of questionable value. Nostalgia was of little interest to the older brothers. A few months after the father died a Last Will and Testament was produced by the oldest brother. The father allegedly signed off on it with the understanding the inheritance was to be divided between the three siblings. The banker who was a friend of the oldest brother helped with the private arrangement a few months before the father’s death. The document was altered. All the responsibility was left to the discretion of his two oldest brothers. The oldest brother embraced the youngest with a pat on the back and a disingenuous smile and suggested it was all in the best of family.”
“What happened then?” I asked.
“The youngest brother found himself outside the decision making. Conversations were held in private. The youngest sibling resisted the manipulation. He felt like a stepchild. His inner self had a punitive aspect. And when he displayed a measure of confidence the efforts were quashed. He didn’t have the resources to take his brothers to court. The oldest brother out of sympathy and his father’s wishes gave Liev his father’s silver Audi coupe. And his father on the side gave him several original abstract paintings that he had stored plus a small savings to live on. He was allowed to stay at their father’s house at no charge while working on his graduate degree. Though legally out maneuvered by his two brothers, the young man decided to sell one of the abstract paintings and kept the other paintings for both nostalgic reasons and value, keeping them in storage. While working on his graduate degree he worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, most of the time in the bookshop and assisting wherever he was needed. After finishing his graduate degree, the young man packed a suitcase and with the brief in tow never returned to his father’s home. He simply left a written note and a text message to his oldest brother. The note said, “I’m doing some research for one of my professors and the house is clean and tidy. Not sure when I’ll return.” There was never any reply. Nothing. No call or text message.
“What happened then?”
“As I said, nothing,’ Liev said. “They might have inquired, but never asked what happened nor filed missing person’s report as far as he could discern. He vanished. It was apparent he wasn’t missed. Or at least he was initially under the impression. Though given his experience he had the feeling, warranted or not…someone was always looking over his shoulder. On the surface there was nothing to suggest anything was amiss. Though he knew it didn’t matter. The state of today’s technology has divorced most citizens from privacy unless they have the knowledge and can afford to disappear, if you will. Even then off the grid isn’t an easy task.”
“I’d agree about the technology and privacy. But seriously, the two brothers as far as you know never inquired?”
“Not to the best of my knowledge? Or I should say I wasn’t certain at the time. I should also mention I learned recently the second oldest brother died. The oldest brother never tried to contact to find and contact me. I never learned much from either of them…only what they wanted me to know.”
“How did you learn about your middle brother’s death?”
“My friend from college, Myra, told me about it late one evening in a very brief somber conversation. And then she hung up.”
“Interesting. May I go back a few years and ask, what the research was about?”
“The meaning of the letter I had in my possession. My brothers as far as I knew at that time were never aware of the letter as neither of them brought it up after our father’s death.”
“May I ask?”
“It concerns an ancient writing titled the Quelle Text.”
“Was the letter in English?”
“Do you read German?”
“Look…Last Spring I came across your name through a confidant, originally from New York who also had rented a place in Washington D C. She has a lot of contacts. Your name was mentioned for sensitive work. I did my research. You met my girlfriend at a book fair and then again now together on a boat in Charleston, South Carolina. My apologies for what may appear as a lack of trust. I must be sure. How does one ever really know? And yes, you’ll find out more in time. We need to meet in person for a better understanding. There’s something else that will probably confuse or enlighten you…but I’d rather we talk in person. Just to say that I have found it to be beneficial to hide my identity.”
“Okay. Let’s set up a date and place.”
We did. I was to meet him in Central Park. I then asked myself, “Liev, why did you go to the park a day earlier than we decided on? Something isn’t right.”
I revisited the saved text messages from Liev. The messages revolved around our conversations we had on the phone. I looked again at my jottings I kept in an old-fashioned stenographer’s notebook. The most sensitive and curious information we deliberated on I would write down at the end of our conversation. The text messages contained general information I archived on my android phone. In one of our conversations, I jotted down an address he asked me to remember. He offered no other explanation except it might come in handy, “For the Quelle!” I recalled were his words.
Neither of us concerned ourselves about the time of day in which our conversations took place nor the possibility of when and where the Quelle Text itself was written as much as why and how while offering a cultural context. It also might point us in a different direction. The implications of our conversations created doubt. Doubt is not an unusual predicament to a ghostwriter. Where was the Quelle Text located? Did he have it in his possession? I was intrigued and agreed to hear him out after several communications.
I looked at my notebook and the address he gave me in one of our telephone conversations. It was a loft in Greenwich Village. Washington Place to be more exact. The townhouses, condominiums and apartments were not cheap places to live. No place in the city is inexpensive. Cheap is another matter. A friend and neighbor of his, a man by the name of Yves who lived on the floor below him was my contact, just in case there was a mix up, or for whatever reason and we happened to miss each other. Something was missing in our conversations I surmised. What?
Yves knew where his friend was on occasion. Nothing was expressed with certainty unless Liev told him. In this case if something happened and we missed our connection Liev’s neighbor told him to let me in. I have come to accept the idea that sometimes strangers are more trustworthy than family. Though my family all died when I was in middle school. A car accident. I lived with a distant uncle and aunt near the college I attended for my undergraduate degree.
I suspect Liev knew something was about to change in his life, accidental or not. Did he know he was going to die? How did he die? Could I have prevented it? How? Questions whirled around in my brain. If he didn’t die who was the man in the morgue? What about the cellular phone? The police kept it. And the message?
The building where he lived had a virtual doorman. It was a directory with the numbers of the lofts. I looked for the name Yves. Fortunately, he was on the first floor. I pressed the button. “Yeah, who is this.”
“I’m a friend of Liev. The Ghost.”
“The ghost? What the…oh, I know now…you’re the ghostwriter. Yeah, Liev mentioned something about you…a project you guys are collaborating on I would imagine.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” I replied. I felt like someone was watching me. I looked over my shoulder and noticed a 30ish looking woman in a small car looking in my direction. I took a second look. I’m not very good at the exact model year of a particular car anymore. It didn’t register as important. Just an observation. And a person’s age is tough to decipher today.
I heard the voice and a digital ping sound letting me enter. I opened the door, looking back over my shoulder. Who was she? I turned around and once inside the hallway a man approached me. Hello. “So, you’re…”. he didn’t finish the sentence.
“Yep. Thanks for letting me in. Liev said he would leave papers for me to look at should something come up. Said if anything happened it was at his place with the name ‘GHOST’ on it.”
“Typical Liev. I like him but he’s a bit eccentric for my tastes. Very private. But I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s always been trustworthy.”
“Hm. Thanks. Do you need to see my driver’s license?”
“Does it say John Q. Ghost on it?”
“Well, Liev told me about you. He sounded excited to meet you in person.”
I nodded and showed my license just in case.
He looked the license photo and my face. “It was sad to learn about his demise.”
“So, you know…the details?”
“No. But, I think he said he was meeting an old acquaintance in Central Park. The park was his favorite meeting place other than one of the museums. He sounded distant, but that was him, always somewhere else in his head other than where he was at in the moment.”
“Well, anyways, Liev and I both had extra keys to each other’s place in case of an emergency…you know Liev developed a sense about people through their voices. Said you were the real deal.”
“Thanks. May I ask?”
“Does Liev have a friend that drives an Audi?”
“Yeah, He does. Might be an older one, not sure. Why?”
“Hm.” Here’s his key. His place is on the second floor.
“May I ask if anyone contacted you about Liev, other than me?” I inquired.
“Well…other than his female friend…ah, well…no.”
“The one who drives an Audi…of course.”
The conversation was getting side-tracked. He looked at me with a question in his eyes. “Yeah…it’s a nice car. A friend of mine drives a Fiat or maybe it’s VW or Toyota. Why bother? I prefer public transportation. It costs less.”
“I hear you.”
He nodded. “Liev and his lady friend were both private. He also didn’t like the police he told me.”
“Really? Bad police experiences?”
“I suspect so.”
Yves looked at me and hesitated then said, “His lady friend watched a man in Central Park being taken away in an ambulance. She sounded somewhat shaken. Also, said I should expect a visit from you.”
“Really…apparently the dead man didn’t have any identification on him.”
“Are you serious? How do you know that?” Yves face became pale. He shook his head.
“A police detective told me.”
“I thought…well, it doesn’t matter.”
“I respect Liev’s privacy as well as his guests. None of my business. We didn’t bother each other about our personal business. We weren’t even social friends. He kept to himself. Guess you could say we were more like emergency friends. Went out for a glass of wine once. If you’re interested there’s a nice little wine bar around the corner.”
“Interesting, anything else I should know?’
“I talk too much. There’s one thing I’ll pass along to you. Liev had a chameleon like quality about him.”
“Hmm.” I decided to ask him something I already knew, “Does he have any relatives you know of?”
“No…well not that I’m aware of. He might have. It seemed inappropriate to ask him. If he wanted…you to know something he’d tell you. I guess you must be like a detective to extract anything from him. I’m not a detective. Rather not know about people’s private life.”
“Opposite of my nature in being a ghost.” I smiled.
“Well as I indicated we didn’t share our personal lives in terms of family. Wait, I think he mentioned about having a brother but then dropped the matter as fast he mentioned it. I never broached the subject afterwards. Liev didn’t know a lot about my private life either. He didn’t want too. Personally, I think neighbors can get too close. You know, the whole familiarity breeds contempt type of thing.”
“I know what you mean. Thanks. I appreciate your help. I’ll return the key to you after retrieving the envelope.”
“That’s fine. I suppose I could contact the police and let them know about my neighbor. Perhaps his friend will.”
“Yeah…you might wait…his body is still at the morgue. Might check with his friend before you do anything.”
“Oh…okay, thanks.” He then walked back into his place.
“Jesus,” I mumbled to myself as I climbed the steps to my client’s loft. I unlocked the door and took in the atmosphere. I smiled. It reflected a well-dressed, fastidious individual who was detailed and organized. Even the magazines on a coffee table sitting atop an area Persian rug were spread out in a fan shape for easy access. The place looked like it was designed by a professional interior designer. There was an oversized abstract painting that looked like an original work on the opposite wall of a gas fireplace. In the corner of the living room between a large bay window and the fireplace was a black Steinway baby grand Model S piano.
“Sophisticated taste,” I mumbled. A couple burgundy leather high back chairs that looked like they belonged in an attorney’s office were situated on either side of the painting. At the opposite end of the room away from the window was a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a sculpted butcher block kitchen table and stools that he must have picked up at some specialty shop. Large thick candles were place in several locations around the room.
There were two bedrooms one for his office with a walnut desk and bookcases filled with esoteric works on primitive myths and art books and another bedroom containing a queen-sized bed and tall walnut armoire and a nearby step stool. I looked around and opened the doors to the armoire. Below some suits, sports coats, pants, and shirts was a worn leather briefcase. There were also two drawers in the armoire filled with black silk boxers. I then reached over and grasped the handle of the large briefcase and placed it on the floor next to his bed.
Glancing around I noted a towel on a chair next to the armoire and placed it on the bed. I then opened the case and began removing the papers and French ink pens and placing them on the towel. I noted he had two passports, one in German and the other in English. Both used the surname name of Buchmann. “Do you have a dual citizenship?” I asked. Liev Buchmann? Wait, the German passport has the name Lieba as a first name. What did that mean?” I asked out loud. The birth dates and places of birth were the same and both listed New York City.
Fingering through the papers there was a business size envelope with the words THE GHOST written in capital letters on it. I opened it. Inside was one page. The letter read as follows:
“If you are reading this it means something has happened to me. Dead or missing? I have had a most ambiguous and bewildering life except for the place I now live, a couple remaining original paintings I kept from my father’s collection, a close confidant or two and the letter concerning the Quelle Text in which I left some clues only you might understand? Why the intrigue? I would suggest it’s about how I interpret the world around me. I step back and ask myself did I make the wrong turn some place along the way? Of course, I did. I’m humble enough to admit it. At times I’ve been my own worst enemy. Living above survival was core to my life no matter where I traveled. Empathy is something one must work at…daily. My hope over the years became a mixture of dread and joy. I have an obsessive-compulsive nature, the result of my mind’s filters I imagine. On the other hand, the idea of the Quelle Text offered an alternative scenario other than my personal and work narratives. I thought at first it was an opportunity. The unknown can offer a psychic reward by its very hidden nature. I realized something else might be going on…some philosophers propose that hope is itself is a lie we tell our self for the sake of getting up in the morning and finding a way to make our existence meaningful. I know an astrophysicist who thinks the universe is a matrix and we are merely puppets while others offer that we as humans will naturally go the way of the dinosaur and or perhaps artificial intelligence will replace us. Who knows for sure? So instead of surmising the future it’s wise for me to design my own future with the resources I have available. The Quelle Text offered a possibility of something different at least in my own mind. Perhaps an affirmation. Or reason for something that I hadn’t considered.”
I paused then continued reading from Liev’s letter.
“I promised my mother that I would endure. I also promised my deceased parents in my dreams that I would remain strong. It’s a promise I’ve tried to keep…if you are reading this then we both may or may not have the answer. The women and men I met have mostly sought greater wealth in whatever form they defined wealth. I don’t feel sorry for myself though sometimes I wake in the middle of the night angry and find I’m boxing the shadows of nightmares…perhaps through reincarnation I can get it better the next time…figure out which turn to make…here’s hoping I’m not found washed up on a beach somewhere. To have courage echoes throughout my mind every day. Things can always be worse. Stay busy are also words I tell myself. The Quelle Text represents for me the possibility of ‘what if’ and perhaps finding the ultimate meaning would be anti-climactic. Still, there always is more to the story. The text was and is a starting point, but where does it lead…or end? I hope you can find the yet to be found missing writings suggested in the letter beyond what might appear as obvious. Please bear with me and follow the clues. Also, Sevea has been my advocate. I met her in the emergency ward of a hospital. She was a registered nurse at the time but found another position in Washington DC. Your accomplice, collaborator, and intuitive friend,” Liev.
“Sevea, who are you really?” I asked myself. I shook my head. The contours of an event can alter the course of one’s life. On the surface I suppose it was an odd arrangement. I found myself drawn to his distinct melodious high tenor voice. He said he was drawn to my voice. Perhaps it was where we were at in both our lives. Serendipity? I needed the money, and I had a strange sense that I knew Liev though something was amiss. What, where or when I wasn’t sure. The more we listened to each other we began to develop a mutual appreciation and admiration though we never met except on the phone, and through email and text messages. I sat down on a nearby chair and asked the walls, “Who are you, Liev? What have I gotten myself into?”
Over Forty Years Earlier
“Why do you call yourself Liev?” My mother asked me as I walked into the kitchen to grab a soda from the refrigerator.
“It feels right. It also offers me gender flexibility.” I smiled as I peeled back the tab from the aluminum can and poured the caramel-colored liquid into a glass tumbler. “It gives the emotional adaptability I need with two overconfident brothers and our traditional orthodox neighbors,” I said followed by a sneeze.
“Honey, are you okay?” Her voice had a slight quiver.
“Oh…a little under the weather. It’s my sinuses. The doctor said I had chronic sinusitis. Otherwise, I’m good. How about you?” I asked as I wiped a drop of soda that fizzed over the side with a napkin.
“I’m afraid I’m becoming a burden to your father.”
“No, you’re not. Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know. We’ve drifted apart since my illness and…it’s always tough when a parent or child is ill or needs increasing help just for the day-to-day routines in life.”
“You’re still mobile and can communicate. You and dad have a lot on your mind. And both have been through your share of disappointments. Dad loves you.”
“I know he does sweetheart…in his own way. You know some day you two are going to be alone together. I’m not going to be around much longer.” She said, catching her breath.
“Please, don’t talk like that. I already know, mom. We’ll make it okay.” I wrapped my arms around her. “You give off good karma,” I said.
She stood back for a minute and held my face in her hands. “Oh, I do? You’re different than…well…please know I love you, Lieba.”
“I do. And I love you too, Mom. I know I’m different. It’ll be okay. It must be…”
“Okay, darling.” She changed the subject. “How’s your homework coming along?”
“My grades are above average, depending on the subject, though not perfect. Which is fine with me. My teachers all say I’m meticulous, diligent, and intelligent.”
“Good to hear.” She smiled as her eyes watered.
“Yeah, I…” stopping mid-sentence I noticed my mother’s face, her eyes, and sighed, “I’ll be strong. I’ll do my best, Mom. I promise.” And I held back the tears I could feel welling up in my eyes and in my heart. I missed my mother. “Be strong,” I told myself when I began each day. I suspect my middle brother periodically felt the same way about his life as I overheard him once say to himself, “courage” after talking to his friend over his I-phone.
Not All Details are Equal
I sat down on a leather chair in Liev’s living room. The conspicuous scent of flowers emanated from the large candles carefully placed on a table with abstract nude female and male metal sculptured figures embracing each other gracing the living room. The atmosphere was artistic, sensual, and intellectually suggestive.
I viewed it as an ideal place for cultivating imaginative projects. My mind savors the stimulation of a place that possesses a muse like quality. The feeling for my client in this case was enhanced. Indifference for the client doesn’t work for me. I need the money to live a few notches above survival. Liev appeared to possess a of artistic, holistic, and Sapphic temperament.
Though I’m drawn to the exotic, the odd and the cryptic, I know the chance encounter effects a deeper mosaic of questions. “On some level within the theater of existence I am merely just a voyeur,” I told a former lover and actor intimate of mine.
We had a year-long liaison. My lover observed, “Voyeurism is seldom ever a single performer drama. I’m also a member of the audience while acting, that is, my fellow actors like me are exhibitionistic voyeurs. And uninhibited exhibitionism is necessary to be truly successful theater for both voyeur and exhibitionist. Good acting like being a good exhibitionist is hard work. Our performances are meant to provide pleasure. And I’ve always found my bliss with the act of pleasure itself. And admittedly for some thespians it’s quite natural.”
I recalled our conversation. As a ghost I also felt like both the voyeur and the exhibitionist. It’s a collaborative effort. One can’t exist without the other in my mind. I could be wrong. Still acknowledging my observation, a link was missing.
I didn’t know for sure about the implications of what I was involved in. My ghosting experiences suggested that I trust uncertainty like an ever-present colleague or partner on whom I could depend…rather than a friendly face antagonist of spurious motives with an embrace that seeks the soft spot between the shoulder blades on the back. Liev was not spurious, rather cautious to the extreme in how much knowledge was to be entertained and expose in advance.
I thought of my initial encounters with Sevea at a bookfair in Washington DC along with my colleague who knew her from working at the State Department. Sevea would come to share my temporary floating residence that was berthed in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. I took a year’s lease on a motorsailer in late spring as part of my sabbatical from the university where I was playing the role of assistant professor. I made every effort to look the part from tee shirt, sports coat, blue jeans, and thick, messy hair. I was hoping no one would notice that I was just a humble man who lusted for the provocative. My mind craved stimulation though my body didn’t always conform. What better place than a non-Ivy league college that few out of state people heard of or cared about. It was my third-year teaching while working on another degree. I didn’t need the post-graduate degree except I was encouraged to go after a scholarship of which I was awarded. And I didn’t want to waste it. I was getting paid to work on my second graduate degree while teaching. I still had loans. I wondered if I could postpone my student loans until my death. Under current federal law my death with the appropriate death certificate would erase my loans and I would be debt free. I continue to live in the ever-present ambiguity of the disingenuousness of an education for the capitalist minded. I realized it was fraudulent, at least, from the angle in which I viewed things.
Over the summer months I accepted Sevea as my boat mate. It was an unwritten platonic verbal agreement. Cordial and in a few rare moments an intimate, comforting, and pragmatic interlude. Intimate not in the terms of the flesh but the mind. It was almost as good as the physical.
We shared our knowledge while I massaged her feet. The relationship helped alleviate the expense as she was willing to share the costs. “So how long have you been a ghost writer? Do you speak any foreign languages? Which languages? Have you ever been married? What do you for hobbies? Do you have any fetishes? What are you researching now?” The queries seemed endless. “I’m trying to decide whether I’m auditioning or being interrogated,” I asked her at one point. People ask questions either because they are bored or they wanting to find out something. She asked the questions at different times of day, over a meal or a glass of wine or cup of coffee. She agreed to come aboard on the boat from late June through early August with no sexual expectations. It was an opportunity for her to observe me I figured for a reason. Her background included being nursing and clinical psychology.
I joked with her, “Free therapy for the summer in exchange for cheap rent on a motorsailer docked in a sun-drenched harbor.”
“If you say so,” she smiled.
Once she had her belongings stowed aboard, we went out for a fish and chip meal at a local restaurant she asked, “How did you get to be interested in German and Greek?”
“Family background. My family was from Greece and Germany.”
“Interesting. You know my intimate partner was Liev. We were much alike. We are individuals of obscure tastes and allegiances. Though his family is mostly Jewish mine are mostly from France and Kenya.”
“Hm. Liev intrigues me. He’s different. Not sure what it is but his pursuits are fascinating.”
“Glad to hear. You two might hit it off.” She said, “In fact, it might open other
doors for you.”
“Ah.” I looked at Sevea and pondered the situation. After several communications with Liev, and the wish for some needed money I took the risk on what I considered at the time, a short-term project. She encouraged me to proceed with the offer in such a way that I asked her, “Was this pre-planned?”
“What do you think?” She asked with pursed lips.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m hooked, need the money, and have the time.”
The next day, we both finished packing in preparation for what I surmised as our separate itineraries.
“I’ve enjoyed the ebb of Charleston, but I need the flow of places like D.C. and New York City.” Sevea said. “At least for a short time. I’m sure we’ll meet again in the not-too-distant future.”
“I can appreciate your assessment about Washington DC. It’s too much political drama for me. But…I wish you much satisfaction,” I said, “I still have a few months of lease remaining on the boat. So, I’ll probably return here.”
“Hmm. It’s you who probably needs the wish of success,” Sevea’s departing look had a question to it.
“Thanks,” I said, with a tinge of angst in my voice. “I’ve often questioned how people might know my future before I did.”
“It’s your credentials,” she said.
“Well, guess I need to brush up on myself. I admit my closest colleague is called uncertainty. He taps me on the shoulder every now and then when I least expect it.”
“You’ve got a sense of humor. That’ll be important. Good luck Ghost.”
I pondered the future for a minute. I didn’t know. I had a place to return to when I finished the present project. One never knows what the next hour will bring. I recalled Sevea pulling her suitcase on rollers behind her heading to catch a taxi to the airport. I shook my head and asked myself, “Who are you Sevea? And is Sevea your real name? And where are you really headed?”
The act of going through Liev’s personal belongings gave me a momentary disquiet in my gut. Was I being set up? The unsettling feeling was like the gurgling I feel on empty stomach and a dull pain encircling my brain.
Each time I officially enter the personal life of another human being, I pause out of respect. This was different. There was a dozen or so envelopes from business size to manila, with papers inside and a museum curator’s badge. One manila envelope simple had the letter “Q” written on the outside. I opened the envelope. Inside was an unfolded, discolored letter size piece of paper. The writing on the page was in German. On the top left side of the page was the word, Quelle. I then noticed there was a second page also in the envelope. It was a photograph with directions underneath with the words, “look on back.” I wanted to read the letter first.
The letter in German was in calligraphic style writing. My skill in reading German was proficient though at a younger age was more fluent. It also appeared as if someone was writing the letter in a hurried fashion as it had a scribbled effect to it. Their German was less than eloquent and so was my translation.
“Mein liebstes Kind. Als mein Vater 1924 nach Palästina reiste, stieß er auf ein ungewöhnliches Artefakt. Das Artefakt gehörte einem alten Kaufmann, der keine Familie hatte. Er hat es meinem Vater für eine kleine Summe verkauft. Ich entdeckte in der Zeit, dass es aus dem 4. Jahrhundert stammt – die Bibliothek in Alexandria, Ägypten. Ich vermute, es wurde von einem berühmten Lehrer geschrieben. Ich habe es in einem Safe in einer Bank aufbewahrt. Der Schlüssel befindet sich im Umschlag mit der Bankadresse. Ich denke, es wird Ihnen am wichtigsten sein. Es tut mir leid, dass sich die Dinge so entwickelt haben, wie sie es getan haben. Wir machen, was wir zum Überleben brauchen. Bitte pass auf dich auf. Höre auf dein Herz. Dein liebender Vater, Aaron”
My rough English translation:
“My dearest child. When my father traveled to Palestine in 1924, he came across an unusual artifact. The artifact belonged to an old merchant who had no family. He sold it to my father for a small sum. I discovered in time that it dates from the 4th century and may have been housed in the library in Alexandria, Egypt. I suspect it was written by a famous teacher. I kept it in a safe in a bank. The key is in the envelope with the bank address. I think it will be most important to you. I’m sorry that things may have turned out the way they did. We do what we need to do to survive. Please take care of yourself. Listen to your heart. Your loving father, Aaron…”
I turned the envelope upside down. For some reason I thought there might be a key. There wasn’t. I looked at the photograph and then thought of the text message from Liev. The photograph was of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I reread the letter written in German. There must be another clue someplace.
I turned the photograph over as recommended. There was a note on back:
“Dear Ghost. I am writing this quickly. A portion of what I surmise as the Quelle Text is written on a single page. Look closely at the Medieval tapestry when visiting. You can figure out the rest. Feel free to keep the old briefcase and any papers in the briefcase, plus the photograph. Sevea is my confidant and will have a check for you. Remember the name Myra Tolvert. We went to school together at Columbia. Please be careful. I’m peculiar and do things not always for logical reasons.” Liev
“Who are you Liev and what roles have you played? Who is Myra Tolvert?” I asked myself out loud. I took a deep breath and began putting everything back in its place while keeping his note, letter, photograph, and a few articles he cut from a newspaper on Medieval art in the old briefcase. I closed the briefcase and looked around the room making sure everything was in the order I found it and was about to head out when there was a knock on the door.
I gingerly walked to the door and opened it. A familiar looking woman in a tan raincoat and dark burgundy high heel boots smiled at me. “Hello. You must be the Ghost. It’s me, Sevea. You looked surprised.” she said in just above a whisper as she removed her wig.
She laughed as I opened the door to let her in. “Liev said he might bequeath his father’s old leather brief case to you plus whatever contents you guys may have agreed on. Perhaps as a thank you for your work in advance.”
“Yeah. True…ah…I read the note…and…it’s unusual. But then I generally accept only unusual projects…part of my nature. I think as you know from this past summer.”
“I know that about you. Liev and…I had a special relationship that you will better understand in the next few days. I…I mean Liev needed a ghostwriter and I researched your background. You know all that information.”
I nodded my head.
Sevea laughed again. I apologize for the convoluted steps he and I requested of you.”
“Trust is not easy to come by. I appreciate the caution. So, you were the one following me in the Audi.”
“Yeah. That late 90’s Audi. And I was the one that discovered Liev in Central Park and called the police, But I wasn’t the one who set up the meeting the day before he was to meet you, “she paused and continued, “I suspect it was Myra.”
“She was an accountant and at one time the fiancé to Liev’s middle brother.”
“Listen I know what you’re searching for, and I can be of assistance, so please use me as needed. Liev was very secretive when it came to what his father gave him. I went to the park because Liev messaged me from his phone. I noticed a woman sitting next to him from a distance. I think it was Myra. She then departed and he appeared to be looking towards the museum. And then looked down. I approached him. I was worried.”
“You know when you think you know something and then find out you were wrong about it, perhaps even from the beginning, well that was the feeling the permeated the air around Liev’s brothers and their friends. He realized he didn’t know for sure. Still, he wanted to doubt they knew anything about the letter or the Quelle Text. How would they have found out? Myra didn’t know about it as far as he knew. How would she? And what would it have mean to them. Or was it something else?”
“Hm. Then what happened?”
“Liev began looking over his shoulder a lot more after Myra initially contacted him weeks ago.”
“You can be paranoid only so long.”
“It’s unhealthy and Liev knew it and said he refused to be paranoid even though it crept up on him.”
“I feel I’m just beginning to know him.”
“Liev and I finally concluded we needed another mind to help. Somebody known for his or her confidentiality and might appreciate the value of what his father gave him…and was proficient to fluent in foreign languages, German and Greek. Liev’s been so busy with his life, working yet always with side glances towards the Quelle Text. It proved to be more than he anticipated. The again, he didn’t know what to anticipate. I mean he looked and photocopied it to show a professor in theology. The professor translated the copy and asked Liev where he got it…but Liev begged off. The professor added that something was missing. Liev realized that someday he could devote more time to it. The letter and related stuff were a nostalgic link to his father. He also visited museums, libraries and listened to lectures whenever he found time from his work to know more about the person who signed it and the period in history.”
“So, he chose a ghost.”
“Yeah. You were the top candidate hands down. You stirred his curiosity. He knew if anyone could figure it out, you were the type of person that could as it was more than the text itself…the text pointed to something else. He wasn’t sure. Something was missing. Unfortunately…well…he so wanted to meet you in a more direct manner but events in his life caused him to go down a different road.”
“And our meeting at the book fair was convenient?”
“Yeah. I knew your colleague. In my experience serendipity, chance and opportunity are siblings. The odds were good. You’re a book lover and you collect odd things. You and Liev are alike in that sense. The book fair was noted for its queerness in tastes. The books for sale were sprinkled with rare and hard to find works. And his research indicated you would attend. Your colleague was supposed to have called or text you.”
“I need to ask you something.”
“Do you have any thoughts about the Central Park event?”
“Hm. Interesting you ask. On the surface it looks rather suspicious. I was hoping we could find out what the autopsy report indicated? If I read between the lines, I assume you think there’s something odd about it?”
“Yeah, I know there is something odd about it. I’ll check on it again. We can work together. I see it as a collaboration.”
“Of course. Let me give you my cellular number…. I should note that I keep two cellular phones for privacy reasons.”
“Hm. Good idea.” We exchanged our numbers.
“Do you have the key to his place?”
“Yeah, I was just going to return it to Yves.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll return it. I also have a key but didn’t want to surprise you. I want to check on a few things myself. And Yves doesn’t need to know that you have the briefcase or about the contents. All he knows is about an envelope addressed to you.”
“Of course. You don’t trust anyone.” I said as I handed her the key.
“Would it help? I’m in the process of trusting you…one must be sure. Also, did you notice any markings the body?”
“What do you mean?”
“Hmm. I don’t know. Just wondering.”
“I noticed there was a small bloody mark on his neck below the right ear. I didn’t ask about it. And the coroner didn’t offer anything.”
“Did the detective offer any insights?”
“If he knew he didn’t mention it. What are you thinking?”
“Just assessing everything. How did you learn about it?”
“Liev left a text message addressed to the Ghost on his cellar phone.”
“Then? What are you suggesting?’
“Our collaboration is essential.”
“You enjoy a good thriller?”
“Depends on…if I’m watching or participating.”
“Hmm. What do you plan to do next?”
“Check to see on about the autopsy and review the material from Liev.”
“Let’s stay in direct touch.” Sevea handed me a slip of paper with her number on it.
We hugged, shook hands and I departed from the premises and headed back to my hotel.
All appears as vanity.
Making my way back to my hotel room Sevea called me. “I meant to ask…do you have many friends you can count on during tough times?”
“Most of my friends and enemies have had the same peculiar quality about them. My friends were of the fair-weather variety as were my enemies. They disappeared when I experienced tough times.” I laughed and added. “That’s interesting you would ask.”
“I appreciate your honesty.”
Once settled in my I retrieved and reread the letter and the note on the back of the photograph. I then called the coroner’s office. There was nothing to report. That is, they couldn’t find anything unusual such as poisoning or similar cause. They suspected a heart attack. Liev’s body was just one of several bodies waiting to be disposed of. I suggested to the coroner’s assistant that a friend would have Liev’s body picked up, perhaps cremated, and delivered to the cemetery. I then called Sevea and filled her in.
“I’ll take care of him,” Sevea said. “Thanks for checking. Please keep me posted as to what you discover concerning the other matter. And if there’s anything I can do to help…well, let me know.”
I thought I’d start early the next morning and take a taxi over to the art museum. I opened the letter and reread the German. It noted the letter from the grandfather said the text was from the 4th century of the common era and allegedly from the Library of Alexandria or what remained of it. Portions of the collection were probably scattered to other parts of the Levant with pieces finding their way into the monasteries of Europe and the Middle East.
“Okay Ghost,” I spoke to the empty hotel room, “The 4th century is one of your clues and Medieval another.” If the letter was from that period? It seemed simple enough. I thought of the Medieval galleries at the Met. It was a matter of identifying the tapestry and then examining it for clues. Why go to such lengths?
I tossed and turned that night. I sent her a text after showering and breakfast. “Are you available?”
“I can be.” She texted back. And then followed with a call. “What have you found?”
“I’m going to need your help. Let’s meet at the museum.”
“Sure. What time?”
“11:00 a.m. I’ll be wearing a grey suit.”
“Good, I have grey pinstripe. We’ll look like a professional couple on lunch break,”
“My thoughts too.”
“Meet you just inside the 52nd street entrance.”
“Thanks. See you there,” I said, and then reexamined the photograph, the note on the back and the letter. I thought of the Medieval section of the museum, in particular Gallery 520, Northern European Decorative Arts. But why there if the Quelle Text was something from the Fourth century Egypt? Why the museum at all? I also wanted to stroll by the bench where Liev died before walking over to the museum.
After surveying where his death occurred, I found myself walking up the steps into the museum. Glancing around I noticed Sevea walking over to me. “Hello again,”
“Thanks for being so flexible.”
“One of my many attributes.”
“You have an idea where it’s located?”
“I think so. It’s straight ahead through the great hall to the Medieval arts.”
“Liev told me about the text though he was always somewhat tense when discussing it.”
“The same here. His father thought it was valuable and believed it had some personal if not magical value. I would’ve thought he would have put it in a safety deposit box.”
“I can tell you about that. He did have it in a safety deposit box but recently realized very little was ultimately safe in a bank’s deposit box. I think it was based on his experiences with the bank. His second to oldest brother was an investment banker. Well both his brothers were in some way associated with the banking industry. Be that as it may, he decided after seeing his brother and Myra together, he considered it wise to transfer it to a location where few people would think to look. But where? Perhaps the tapestry will tell us.”
“Hm. A metaphor. And perhaps vaguely representative of or related to the person who wrote the text?”
“He told me you had a creative mind.”
“Being a Ghost…you have to be.”
We looked at each other with a sense of anticipation and walked back to the gallery housing medieval tapestries.
“Which one are we looking for?”
“One with a unicorn on it.”
“Good.” She smiled as if she knew.
“Yeah.” What wasn’t she telling me?
“I’m ready.” She winked.
We started looking through the galleries when I spotted what I thought would be the tapestry Liev might have referred too.
We gszed at the tapestry for details when I realized something that I hadn’t noticed at first. The tapestry revealed a letter on a table with a man standing nearby looking outward towards something and or someone. And that’s when Sevea touched my arm. “You noticed the letter on the table.”
I took a picture with my phone and as we departed Sevea’s eyes were looking toward a woman about thirty feet at the entrance. “That’s Myra Tolvert.”
“Let’s walk over near where there’s crowd of people and see if we can follow the crowd out. We may…”
“What do you recommend?”
“Why we don’t we walk around awhile and then make our exit and walk over to the Loeb Boat House?”
“Let’s try it.”
“We walked into the middle of a group of people. Myra was joined by a man, and they appeared to be headed to the Medieval arts galleries at which point we made our exit and walked out of the museum and over to the boathouse.
Upon entering we found out selves at a table not far from the patio overlooking the water.
We ordered some wine and an appetizer at which point I retrieved the envelope and took out the letter. “I don’t know what to expect. It looks and feels ancient.” I looked up at Sevea.
“Our research suggested you also read Greek.” Sevea stated.
I nodded. “My Greek is proficient. Why?”
“The Quelle Text may have been translated from the Greek which may have been a translation of an earlier semitic language.”
“Liev recalled he asked you”
“And I told him my Greek skills were somewhere between proficient and rudimentary.”
“Well, he had been holding on to the text for someone like you as he trusted so few people. Apparently, his father said it possessed the quality of a question rather than answer. And the tapestry we just looked at was a key to understanding the text complexity.”
“If that’s the case then why would Liev’s two brothers be interested in it?”
“Envy? Perhaps Liev’s brothers, after they found out through Myra that he had something in his possession from their father, it perked their interest. Families are notorious when it comes to envy. Misplaced or based on the presented reality of lies. In this case, they covered up legal matters from the eyes of their youngest sibling. Coverups can create needless problems. And…jealousy is an emotional wasteland. In this case the paintings were of substantial value. The point being why bother with scurrilous maneuvers? Unless there might be something else at stake?” She then reached in her bag and took out a small business envelope containing a letter.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“You…tell me. I don’t read Greek and I am still trying to connect the dots with the tapestry.
I nodded my head as she handed me the letter.
I began reading the Greek followed by my translation:
Αγαπητέ Πατέρα, πάντα ήμουν πολύ περίεργος. Λατρεύω τα μαθηματικά, τη μουσική, τη φιλοσοφία και τις ιδέες των ποιητών των οποίων οι λέξεις μπορούν να διεισδύσουν στο μανδύα του θρησκευτικού δόγματος.
Έχετε δίκιο στις διδασκαλίες σας. Ανακάλυψα έναν ασυνήθιστο πάπυρο στη βιβλιοθήκη. Ο μελετητής περιγράφει την ιστορία του ανθρώπου. Γράφει ότι μόνο όταν ο άνθρωπος αναγνωρίζει ότι η ψυχή του δεν είναι ούτε άντρας ούτε γυναίκα, ξυπνάει. Διότι η ψυχή είναι από αίμα και νερό. Και, χωρίς τη σάρκα, δεν υπάρχει ψυχή. Ο άνδρας και η γυναίκα βρίσκουν μόνο τον σπόρο της αλήθειας όταν το αρσενικό γίνεται γυναίκα και η γυναίκα γίνεται αρσενικό.
Το γράψιμο μου θυμίζει τα γραπτά των μοναχών στην έρημο. Ο μελετητής δηλώνει ότι ένας παπύρος, που δεν είναι πλέον στην κατοχή του, προσφέρει μια εικόνα μιας παράξενης τελετής αρχαίων ανδρών και γυναικών. Θα συνεχίσω την αναζήτησή μου. Παραμένω παντρεμένος με τη γνώση. Δείτε το παρακάτω κείμενο. Είστε εξοικειωμένοι με τον Βεδικό πολιτισμό και την αρχαία λέξη που παρατίθεται; Υπατία
I looked up at Sevea an attempted a translation. “Dear Father, I have always been very curious. I love mathematics, music, philosophy, and the ideas of poets whose words can penetrate the mantle of religious doctrine. You are right in your teachings. I discovered an unusual papyrus in the library. The scholar describes the story of man. He writes that only when man recognizes that his soul is neither man nor woman, he wakes up. For the soul is of blood and water. And, without the flesh, there is no physical soul. The man and the woman find only the seed of truth when the male becomes a female, and the female becomes a male. The writing reminds me of the monks’ gnostic like writings in the Egyptian desert. The scholar states that a papyrus, no longer in his possession, offers a picture of a strange ceremony of ancient men and women. I will continue my search. I remain married to knowledge. See the text below. Are you familiar with the Vedic culture and the ancient word that is listed? Hypatia
Sevea looked at me. “Hypatia. Her father was Theron. And they refer to a writing that is missing.”
“The Quelle Text?” I asked.
“Yeah. I suspect so. The sayings about man and woman are mentioned in Gnostic literature which generally is about the immaterial as opposed to the material. As a mathematician, Hypatia, if indeed she wrote this, she must’ve been amused on some level and yet… …unless the text she refers to points to something else all-together. Perhaps that’s why she wrote her father the note. She learned much from him. They were both in Alexandria at the same time though may have traveled to various ports in the Levant.”
“And there’s the question whether my translation is correct and who wrote the text if not Hypatia? And the Greek isn’t what I consider as particularly old or ancient. It reads like it may have been copied from an earlier text.”
“Why would anyone be murdered for the text? Unless…” Sevea asked.
“If we are the only two people aware of what it says, it’s a matter of others wanting to know if they are missing out on something. It’s what they don’t know. Not knowing can create value. This may be a copy of the original or a rough translation of the original. The Greek does not read as particularly ancient or eloquent.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“In this case it looks ancient but perhaps it’s a redacted version written by a scribe but who and why? Sometimes the more complicated answer may be the best answer and not the simplest.” I observed.
“I’d like to share something with you, if you haven’t already surmised it by now.”
“What are you referring to?”
“While you were looking through Liev’s belongings did you notice something a shade different, let’s say.”
“Well…it seemed he liked silk.”
“His underwear consisted of either black silk boxers and even his t shirts were black silk, and he wore knee high hose. I figured he might be eccentric…are you suggesting he was a cross dresser of sorts? So, who isn’t with today’s fashion?”
“Liev’s birth name was Lieba. It’s Yiddish for loved one. Lieba was the young sister. Lieba became Liev. Her looks possessed both masculine and feminine qualities. She stopped wearing women’s clothes and cut her long hair in graduate school. She assumed a masculine role. We met at a wine tasting and became lovers. It was immediate and all-consuming at the time. We had experiences with men but ultimately preferred the emotional and physical comforting touch of another woman. Lieba’s experience with men and women were an emotional cauldron or crucible at times. We decided they were sexual beings, and all the labels were nonsensical and valueless. We both had experienced a patchwork of affairs. Their relationship became one where they were each other’s confidants…we both had other connections though not as intimate.”
I nodded and then asked. “Do you think Liev’s father was intuitive or prophetic?”
“Both. His father didn’t reveal everything to him. Relationships with parents can be rather entangled and troublesome. I think he wanted him to find out the meaning for sure as his father never told Lieba or Liev what he knew. It was a secretive family. No one needed to know their business outside the family itself and even within the family they kept secrets from each other. Except Aaron, the father wanted her to find out its meaning. He was worried about her. He once asked her what seemed to be a puzzle at the time. Was Quelle Text a prophetic sign? When there are few answers does the human mind return to the paleolithic rooted superstitions of one’s ancestors?”
“Was Liev fearful?”
“All there is to know about fear, Liev knew.”
“Then Liev knew there was something, it was psychological. How does one share the un-shareable?”
“I know the feeling on a very personal level. Emotional pain can indeed shatter language.”
“I’m sensing my role is moving toward interpreting and writing the story with the potential Hypatia connection.”
“You recall that Hypatia purportedly remained virtuous her whole life…dedicated her life to knowledge and assumed a role commonly held at the time for men. She dressed like men at the time. The paintings of her show her with shorter hair than common for women of the time.”
“I can see the symmetry that Aaron might have anticipated.”
“I know.” Sevea’s eyes twitched, and a tear began to form.
“I’m so sorry. That must’ve have been devastating at the park.”
“It was and wasn’t.”
“I cried off and on the entire evening but not for the reason you think. Ever since seeing Myra with the brother I felt something was amiss. I knew I…Liev trusted you. He said he knew your heart through your voice. I have multiple personalities. I was never so fortunate to be able have that ability of a singular mind. Curiosity can be profound and cause sleepless nights when one’s soul is at stake.”
I appreciated Sevea’s honesty.
“I called the coroner’s office on the way to the Met. I’d like you to help me. I will have the body cremated and keep the ashes… have them interned in a box at the cemetery where father and mother are buried.”
“No…you don’t need to say anything…I’m a pretty strong person.”
“My dear ghost…any thoughts about the cause of death.”
“Not really. I did notice his jaws had a strained look as if there were a sudden pain that was frozen on an almost serene and yet striking face.”
“May I suggest something?”
“Let’s head back to Liev’s place and talk further. I need to tell you something else.”
“I don’t understand…okay… that works for me.”
“I hate driving around the city if I don’t have too so I took a taxi to the museum. I thought my Audi would be ideal but realized I would use it only on special occasions.”
“Like following me.”
“I had to be sure.”
We took a taxi to the hotel I was staying and picked up my car and checked out and then we drove to the loft while looking over our shoulders to see if anyone was following us. Once there we settled in for a longer conversation.
Sitting at the kitchen table and sipping some coffee, “tell me more about Liev.”
Sevea just smiled. Her eyes suggested she was somewhere else in time
Six Months Earlier
“Liev, where are you?” Sevea shouted from the kitchen.
“In the office.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to yell through the walls.”
Liev walked into the living room and looked over at Sevea. “Was just going through some old papers my dad kept in German among other things.” She approached Sevea, hugging her close, her small breasts pressed against Sevea’s generous bosom, lips and tongue searching each other’s mouth.
Stepping back, she asked, “Memories?”
“Yeah, guess so. I’ve been reflecting on my work at the Met after looking through my personal papers and my mental scrapbook of memories. It’s like I need to have someone else look through the papers. See if I missed anything. During college I kept a diary and collected a lot of stuff and was always hesitant in throwing anything away, especially papers I wrote. I had a roommate and listened to her how she didn’t fit into her family or whatever and yet I said the same thing to myself. I realized I wanted to stop that punitive self-imaging. I can’t blame my stepbrothers. Sure, I felt ignored or hurt by my perception of their rudeness. I told them when I was sixteen, I wasn’t a pumpkin, which they referred to me as…why bother. The details of life that affect us. My oldest brother would ask my how the little girl was doing and pat me on the head.”
“And…you were still considered biologically a girl, but it’s not how you felt about yourself.”
“Yeah. It wasn’t exactly me when I looked into the mirror. I’m a woman and I’ve got a masculine side. The reflection in the mirror was a facsimile or copy of my outward appearance and not the total me. I was someone else I thought even when I was a child. Or perhaps I wanted to be someone else. It wasn’t my family’s fault. Was it both circumstantial and natural? I realized over the years how easy it is to be manipulated into believing things about yourself that isn’t your reality. I fought it and at times fought the wrong battles.”
“You have to know I would’ve accepted you either way.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. I adore you in your male identity and love your female body. You know I was an only child, who was rare in my family.”
“You grew up in Harlem. Was it tough?”
“Depends on how you define tough. Some days it could be, wrong place at the wrong time. Then again, an inner-city neighborhood can potentially be a rough and life changing experience. Situational.”
“My parents loved me, but my father died too soon.”
“I’m so sorry,” Liev said.
“It was a long time ago. Though there are moments at night that it feels like it happened yesterday. My mom and myself made it through. She ended up marrying a white guy from lower Manhattan. He worked on Wall Street. Never knew for sure what he did except to the repeated use of the words The Street along with the words fuck and hallelujah. Things became comfortable. He was so busy my mom didn’t care. She had her female friends. After graduation I moved to Washington D.C. for work. Got a job at the State Department. I liked the anonymity, pace, and perception that I might make a difference in a small way. It kept me busy.” Sevea said.
Liev smiled and touched her cheek, “That’s good to know. I guess we both seemed to always be fending for our own self. My mom died a month before my first period. I hated menstruation. I missed talking to her about the blood. I felt lost…. depended on my girlfriends in high school and college and the stuff I read at the library and on the Internet. Had the usual affairs in college. I experimented with a few different guys and girls. And then one day after much self-talk I looked in the mirror.”
“Who did you see?”
“I didn’t look like the person I was talking to. I mean, as I talked to the person in the mirror even as a teenager, I realized my looks didn’t correspond to my thoughts or my voice. So, I recorded my voice. After listening to my voice, I worked on it to develop it. Lower my voice slightly and try to articulate my words better. Elocution. Delivery.”
“So, I arrived at a stage where I was somewhere between who I thought I was and who I actually am.”
“You sound and look good to me.”
“You were accepting of me from the first time we met.”
“You’re easy on the eyes and I like your voice. Please know, we have each other.” Sevea said as they embraced, shed their clothes near the kitchen table, walked over to the Persian rug and laid down. Sevea positioned a leg between Liev’s thighs and could feel her wetness against her skin and slowly moved her leg then adjusted her body and pushed thrust her pussy against Liev’s and then slowly worked her way down with her lips and tongue until she reached her essence. Flicking her tongue up and down Liev’s back arched while Sevea immerser herself in the pleasures of life itself.
“Oh god, thank you!” Liev breathed.
They made love while smooth jazz played on the Sirius radio and the fireplace glowed with its flames rising from artificial logs and several candles lit around the room quivered from the movement of air. They loved each other as if it would be the last moment of their life.
“I so love making love to you in the middle of the day.” Liev sucked Sevea’s tongue and moved down to her nipples before kissing her belly button and transitioning down to taste her wetness. “You saved me,” Liev uttered between the tears forming in her eyes.
“You saved yourself, Sevea whispered.”
“Perhaps. Our meeting was truly serendipitous.”
“We only have the moment.” Sevea whispered as they laid next to each other listening to a tenor sax emanate in waves throughout the room.
Liev looked over to Sevea. “Are you going to check him out for me? I know he’s the guy but just in case.”
“You mean the ghostwriter? Yeah. I’ll make sure he’s the right choice, Mr. Liev C. Buchmann.”
“Thank you, Ms. Sevea.”
“I must go back to Washington first and check him out through friends, though I know you’ve decided to go ahead with hiring him. A close friend and colleague of his in Washington and I happen to know each other on a business level. He seemed like a genuine friend and only had positive things to say about his friend the Ghost, as his closest friends call him. He has the appropriate skill sets we’re looking for, he’s very adaptable and is a seeker. I’ll know for sure and verify if I can catch him at the bookfair which his friend said he’d be attending. His picture’s on the Internet. The next couple weeks and perhaps months should be enlightening. I’ll call you and you can continue with your communication. His friend regularly leaves him a message on his cellular phone just to check in with him. I told him that the project was very sensitive. He understood and he wouldn’t want to betray his friend’s trust. They were college classmates and helped each other out along the way, part of a study group.”
“Where did you meet the Ghost’s friend.”
“The same place I worked as a consultant. The State Department. He works down the hall from me. I heard him talking one day about his friend the Ghost.”
“And find out the surname on his birth certificate or driver’s license?”
“Will do. I think he said his first name was Gardner.”
At the Loft
Back at Liev’s place I retrieved the brief case with the letters and took them into the office and spread them out on the desk and turned the table lamp on. “What could I be missing?” I asked out loud.
Sevea peaked in the doorway, “You’ll figure it out. I know you will. It’s a cliché about a few minds are better than one,” She laughed then added, “I’ll make us some coffee.”
“Thanks.” I said, and then sat down on the desk chair looking at the papers trying to piece things together.
I reread the letter in German.
“What? Oh, a drop of cream is fine.”
Sevea came into the office with two cups of coffee, handed me one and sat on a nearby chair sipping hers. “I don’t know if this means anything, but Liev loved art museums and during his vacations would visit the museums in Europe, Canada and different parts of this country.”
“Hm. What are you suggesting?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t know. We need to look back further. Animism, Shamanism, the life of Hypatia?”
“Lieba.” Her father, Aaron always spoke her name in a deliberate voice.
“Since mom died, I know how difficult it’s been for you.”
“Well…I have asked your brothers to look out for you.”
“I know dad and…”
“Yeah, well they’re doing their best. And I know you feel you don’t fit in with the family. Mom and I talked about it before she died. And…well…”
“It’s okay. I made a promise to mom.”
“Yeah. I told her I’d be strong and promised her I’d do my best.”
“Thank you. It’s been tough. Sometimes we depend on people more than we know but don’t tell them enough how much we appreciate them.”
“You miss her.”
“Yeah. I miss her, Lieba?”
“I do too, Dad.”
“Lieba, your brothers can be selfish I know especially given the circumstances…too many people today are more selfish and greedier than ever before it seems to me. Greed is a natural part of the human condition. There’s never enough money especially within the context of market capitalism. Without money you can’t exist. Without money the only recourse is suicide or marry into someone who has money. Plus, you will discover as you age that we live in isolation and aging creates a different kind of aloneness. To complicate matters, one must stay busy to exist above mere survival. It’s also good for the heart.”
“You have us…your children,” she said, knowing his solitude was devasting without a woman he so depended on and cherished even in the most difficult times.
“Yeah, I do, I worry about you…like your mother did. I’m going to leave you some valuable art works, my car, a letter that appears to be an introduction to what is thought to be known as the Quelle Text and in time you may understand the meaning. And whatever profits there are from my estate I have instructed your older brother to divide in equal amounts.”
“Thanks dad. Tell me about the Quelle Text.”
“To this day I have jousted with my own thoughts as to its potential meaning. There’s something missing my father intimated that may have been attached to the ancient letter. The value of it is where it may lead you in spirit. Financial value? It depends on the market for such things. It exists only when and if you have a customer or potential buyer. Otherwise, the value is merely personal. The value of something is mostly in the knowledge it conveys.”
“It sounds like spiritual mystery.”
“Perhaps so… causes me to think of the kabbalah. The mystical nature of existence. Enigmatic, joyous, trivial and at times rather burdensome. The only meaning it has is what we give it each day. Whatever happens, find that which brings a smile to your face and not a frown. Each day becomes more pleasant when you can find something to smile or laugh about in the face of the absurd.”
“Dad, I do have days and nights…and…well…I wonder about my future.”
“What is it that you wonder? You are very organized, sensitive, and always seemed to plan ahead.”
“It’s more than making notes to myself every day, cleaning my room, good grades…it’s the fear of not being accepted. Not only by others…but also by me…”
“I see. First you need to accept yourself. Confidence comes from within through small accomplishments throughout the day. I can’t tell you to believe in yourself because it won’t happen until you allow it to happen. Your mother and I knew your struggles. We all have them in some measure or shape even if they seem small and meaningless to others. And if you can find yourself and know your own inner song then sing it within your heart, even if you’re the only one listening. Eventually…you will meet people who will be supportive. Seek them out. Seek those people who affirm and not negate.”
“We all hope we evolve for the sake of having a better understanding of ourselves… before we die. It sometimes takes an entire lifetime to get to know our self and for some people the day never comes because of chance or an accident and ending things prematurely. Do things that allow you to love yourself. You know that as your parents we loved you even while my brother and his wife were still alive.”
The sting of her tears formed and bled, burning her cheeks in loneliness. Fear. She promised her mother she would remain strong. And now inside her gut she was saying goodbye to her father before he also disappeared from her life. Her father understood.
“The Ghost looks like he’s deep in thought.” Sevea said with a grin as she caught me staring at the books on a shelf across the room as if meditating on their contents.
“Yeah, I was imagining Liev’s childhood while considering his intellectual interests.”
“Hmm. Look at this way…you’ve come to know some things in a month what the brothers probably didn’t know all the years they spent together in the same household. Admittedly, from the beginning the entire family had separate lives.”
“They were caught up in their own lives. They were all products of their own circumstances.”
“Precisely. Liev was an unplanned addition…the parents made the best of it.”
“I think I know our next steps.”
“He has a pile of receipts in his desk from the Strand bookstore.”
“He used to go to the Strand about once a month.”
“Yeah…oh the receipts?”
“I noticed the days on several of them.”
“Hm. He’d also stop by one or two shops browsing for…”
“What are you thinking?”
“You got me thinking. The spherical astrolabe,” she said, pointing to the instrument on top of a bookcase neat the window. “The owner said he thought it was replica of one produced during the fifteenth century. Wasn’t there an Astrolabe on the tapestry we viewed?
Sevea was taller than me
as she was taller than me and still had to use a step stool to reach up and retrieve the instrument. “Whoa! It’s heavier than I remember…”
“It’s brass,” as she lifted it up and then set it on the desk with my help.
“It’s a bit unwieldy. I don’t know for sure what this tells us about the Quelle Text or the direction to pursue…it’s curious.” I noted.
“Indeed.” As we both sat and looked at the astrolabe. “It was used for celestial calculations and navigation and even determining prayers among other applications. I’m not sure if recall how to even use it.”
“Well, having never used on, neither do I. What would the link be to the text, unless…”?
“Hypatia’s name was indirectly associated with the device during her lifetime. There were some questions as to the nature of the relationship…or is there something else?”
We both sat looking at the device.
“Perhaps so,” I said. “I recall reading that the astrolabe served as an inspiration for early mechanical clocks.”
“Hm. Thinking of measuring distances, stars and clocks, perhaps we should also consider astrology.”
“Do you know what month Liev was born in?”
“The middle of March. Pisces. Fish. He always said he was a fish out of water.”
“Hypatia was murdered in the middle of March in the year 415 C.E. Doesn’t mean anything. She may have been born in late summer or early autumn of 350 C.E. The month of his death.”
“Centuries apart…familiar coincidence.”
“I’m certain we could find uncountable numbers of mortals throughout history with similar astrological similarities, of similar countenances and familiar characteristics.”
“No doubt…setting aside the obvious might bring us closer to the not so obvious.”
We both turned and cast our eyes at the astrolabe. It was an undeniable conversation piece.
“Is there any tie-in to everything else?”
“Like the esoteric literature on the bookshelves.” I replied.
“Liev’s bewildering youth, the exotic path of his adult life, the parable of the Quelle text in juxtaposition to the astrolabe, all possess an uncommon symmetry.”
“And such an uncommon symmetry possesses the appeal of fitting together. Ambiguity has a rhythm of its own…it makes for an interesting life.” I offered.
“What do you think we need to consider next?”
“The brass spherical astrolabe may have Islamic connections but the astrolabe itself is of Greek origins.”
“Liev was a seeker.”
From academia to the secular
“Why does a double major in anthropology and business take so many religion courses?” Myra asked.
“I also have a minor in art and theater.” Liev replied.
“Always the seeker? Making money is not enough?” She asked.
“No, it’s not. I need something profound to rationalize my existence and to develop a philosophy of money. I need it…just don’t appreciate the greed surrounding it.”
“Interesting. Go to your synagogue. Aren’t your family members of…?”
“Okay…just trying to make a suggestion.”
“Thanks. I appreciate the interest. But I want to know more than the dogma presented by an orthodox Jewish rabbi, Roman Catholic priest, Protestant minister or Islamic Iman espouses. The spiritual is very personal with me. Or as Thomas Paine noted in his Age of Reason – My own mind is my own church.”
“A secular monk…” Myra joked.
“Hah! You know I thought about the meditative atmosphere of a monastery, but it was structured in such a way as the monks have to accept without question…I desire something beyond the provincial minded. I think my courses offset each other. Though the ritual of business has a religious quality about them like the military. To me it’s all intertwined.”
“Hm. I hope you find what you seek.
“Thanks…as I do.”
“Do you have an idea where you plan to work?’
“Closing in on it. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Will look forward to it.” Myra said with the touch of sarcasm in her voice.
“Myra is a traditional friend…not a confidant, not someone I might be able to depend on in a real emergency, but how do I know for sure until an emergency occurs?” I asked myself. “I like her…but… trusting her at times is like riding a roller coaster. I suppose in the scheme of things she offered good suggestions. I’ll have to make some notes in my journal.” My mind said engaged in self-talk.
Later that night Liev turned on his desk lamp in his room, turned on some Bach music and then took out his brown leather journal and a French Waterman Carene fountain pen and began writing in calligraphic style. Who am I at any given moment? What is my role?
Liev kept a diary. Beside each name of a person, he knew is a paragraph of their work, type of relationship from business to personal to professional and a sampling of their personal interests or hobbies and different numbers where they can be reached.”
Meticulous. A minibiography. All of it in black ink. Though I noticed a couple have question marks in pencil. Myra is in ink with several penciled in question marks.
Liev knew Sevea on an irregular base for a dozen years…each time she had to return…she sometimes became impatient but looked forward to their meetings, rendezvous or whatever you wish to call them. Each time they encountered each other she discovered another glimpse yet so much remained hidden…I think it’s true in most people…even though we may see them daily.
The Quelle Text?
Sevea and I combed through Liev’s belongings until we came across a 5×7 photo of the tapestry handing in the museum. The words written in English on the back: “I have found the something that points to the Quelle Text or The Source…but it’s not the Source itself…it merely points to the Source… as I’m pragmatically in agreement with it about man and woman…meaning we have to become the other if we are to understand what it means to be human…we each need to adapt the mindful characteristics of the other if we wish to enter the path toward consciousness…the text only directs our attention toward achieving a deeper understanding. Perhaps the Gnostics were more in tune with creation than all the great religions and philosophies of the world. I think Hypatia understood at least within the context of the times she was bounded by and it’s always dangerous to be unbounded by your circumstances is it not? The Quelle Text is like a door to a sanctuary. It’s an opening to the source.”
And a footnote reads: the astrolabe is an original. An expert friend of mine that has worked in anthropology and archaeology thought after examining it, that it was an original not a copy. I visited the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford, to take notes and ask questions. There were more than one brass astrolabes made during the fifteenth century. Mine appeared to be identical, except for four markings at the base of it. The markings may have been made by the designer or manufacturer to signify it was his creation. I considered the context of the culture in which it was made…meaning Islam. Yet is also points to another path in my mind. And that again is the consciousness of the human mind in relation to the world in which it exists. Awareness of the universe around us and within each of us.”
“As I mentioned to you before Ghost,” Sevea said, “every time I visited with Liev a new revelation or variation of an old one occurred.”
“I can see why.”
“So where do we go from here?”
“I think the hint is in Liev’s words – the consciousness of oneself within the world. He spent his life seeking a deeper sense of who and what he was and where he fit in…and or whether the search was a waste of time.”
Liev’s Youth & The Oldest Brother
“Yeah, my oldest brother.”
“Why can’t you call me by my first name.”
“Perhaps because I don’t feel that close to you.”
“Jesus. You have an attitude little sister.”
“Me? I’m doing my best for my mom and dad. That’s all I’m attempting. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Sorry. I know you’ve missed our mother and now of course our father. The passage of time heals. And I told you…you can stay in the house until you finish your degrees. You have dad’s car and whatever else you guys may have decided on?” He stated as a question.
“Thanks.” I wasn’t about to tell him. He probably already knew. Why did I feel left out?
“Let’s not go there.” He read my mind. “What’s done is done. Just let me know when you decide to move out.”
“You’re welcome…just remember if you want to survive…attitude, Lieba, attitude.”
“By the way, I noticed the entire house looks quite clean. You take after your mom.”
“So, I’ve been told. Guess it’s the nature of relationships. I like a clean, organized house even if its temporary, like life itself.”
“I forgot you took drama courses in high school.”
“Hah. Love your sense of humor.”
“We all need a good laugh now and then. Have you talked to your other brother?”
“No, he’s been busy with his job. You guys have the Buchman genes of money, work, money.”
“Guess I’d have to agree with you on that point. And you, the truth seeker?’
“Take care of yourself Lieba.”
“Thanks, I’ll do that.”
“Until…” He said as he departed the house.
“Bye…my oldest brother,” I said in soft spoken voice. I felt a twinge of emptiness of the hollow exchange.
“What is authentic?” I asked the rabbi after the Saturday service during in my senior year in college.
“Liev, if we seek the authentic or the truth, we might be wise to consider dropping our opinions,” Rabbi Pasternak said. He then laughed, “A Buddhist priest and friend of mine told me. You have struggles ahead of you. Most people do. It’s essential to life’s pageantry. The Torah offers guidelines and insights to the human condition. It may not offer you the truth. Nor does it offer answers or solutions, only interpretations and translations, midrash or exegesis, narratives, laws, folktale, myths, legends, proverbial sayings, lore and so forth. There’s no original manuscript written by a deity. Man’s imagination inspires him. And…if God exists and if God is truth, then the Torah is about our experience with truth. It’s contextual. It’s filled with metaphors and allegories like our individual lives. I exist in a context and set of circumstances not of my own choosing. My father was poor. Liev, you are more fortunate. You have some wealth, in experience and money. I know very few poor people who rejoice with their lot in life. Only the wealthiest have an opportunity to laugh at their allotment, until they feel physical or psychological pain. Meanwhile they look at the Stock Market or their real estate holdings regardless of their religious background. Good health is also a cornerstone upon which to rejoice. So, I try to exist based on what I perceive as my day-to-day reality. I admit there are occasions when the facts intrude upon my blissful illusions. So, I try to welcome a balance between illusion and reality, between sadness and happiness, between the flesh and the spirit. I regret I tend to lean in one direction more than the other in any twelve-hour period. I go through undisciplined phases the older I become but also more philosophical. But what is the question I must ask myself every day to survive regardless of what occurs? I must believe in myself and to know it’s healthy to be burdened with a sense of humor and an alert mind amid my inner turmoil. Liev, enjoy being you…for you and I are from stardust with a grain of the obscure creator in each of us. And we will return to dust. That’s my finite wisdom I pass along to you.”
“is there a consciousness after death?”
The rabbi merely smiled.
“Thank you for your thoughtfulness and time, Rabbi.” I never saw him after that valedictory meeting, but his words remained with me.
“And now?” Sevea asked me while we sat in Liev’s place. “Where do we go from here?”
“Perhaps we should light some candles and meditate.” I observed.