A Conversation for Pilgrims' Inn

The Pilgrims' Inn, Chapter 42: Existential Moment

Post 1

paulh, hiding under my bed

Ozymandius opened the door of the Inn and looked at a scene that was both too familiar and too personal. This was not supposed to happen, for reasons too numerous to mention.

The most obvious reason was that he was looking at himself, or at least the version that had existed thirty years earlier, when he was a callow youth fresh out of school and ensconced in his first fulltime, professional job. A little economy car was parked in front of a 12-by-48-foot gray mobile home with white trim. His first house. His first car. Not the Taj Mahal nor a limousine, but he owned them free and clear. What a great feeling! There were no gray hairs on his head. His skin was smooth.

Oh, to be that young again. To have a future.

His younger self looked in the direction of the Inn, but registered nothing.

"He can't see you," the oracle said from the back of the Inn. "You can look back, but your younger self can't look forward. Unfair, I know, but there you have it."

Florence Nightingale Foster came over from the trailer next door, with a casserole. "Welcome to the Park," she said with a smile.

She was joined by Mrs. Peterson, who lived on the other side. "Caledonia Grove Trailer Park welcomes you," Mrs. Peterson said, her face lit up by the sort of smile that Ozymandius hadn't seen in years. He had forgotten what she was like before the health problems had begun. "I've brought you some coneflowers to plant around the front of your place," she said.

Emily Webb, who lived a few doors down, was passing by. She gave a friendly wave. A tear came to the older Ozymandius's eyes at the thought of what lay ahead for poor Emily: death in childhood ten years later, a kind of death that hardly ever happened to anyone any more. Emily had been named after a character in a play by Thornton Wilder. Ironic that she should die in the same way as the person she was named for.

The young Ozymandius enjoyed the welcome of his neighbors. You need to appreciate how precious life is, the older Ozymandius thought to himself. He tried to close the door and pull back from this, but the door refused to close.

"You need to grapple with this," the oracle said, not unkindly. "You've traveled in time and space, but now you need to take a journey inward. You're the lucky one; you've lived while a few others have not made it. Mrs. Peterson didn't need a cane or a walker in those days."

And now a couple of guys on motorcycles roared past. They didn't acknowledge the young Ozymandius. An older man walked past, with a dog on a leash. The dog was big, unfriendly, and noisy. Ozymandius shrank back a bit. "Do you live in the park?" the man barked.

"I just moved in," young Ozymandius said.

"Let's see how long you last," the man snapped. He continued on down the street.

"The park owners are not easy to get along with, and this spills over into the mood in the park," Mrs. Peterson said to young Ozymandius. "A lot of the long-term residents are old and resentful. They think young people will act up and be noisy and messy. If you're not on your best behavior, they'll complain about you. They may even blame you for things that aren't your fault."

But thirty years later, Ozymandius was one of the longterm residents who worried about young newcomers. He also worried about his frail elders, but for different reasons. He watched his younger self walk down the street on an errand. While he was out, the older Ozymandius walked into the trailer. The place wasn't yet cluttered with twenty years' worth of stuff -- how he loved to collect things! The lights over the kitchen and bathroom sink still worked. The linoleum was not yet worn away in half a dozen spots. There was an exercise mat next to his bed -- he had had to stop doing those exercises when they started driving his blood pressure up.

He walked back out of the trailer and looked at the little arborvitae tree in the front yard between his trailer and Florence's trailer. It was only a few feet high. Thirty years would give it thirty more feet of height and sprawling lower branches that had to be pruned heavily to give his car room to park.

He went back into the Inn. "Do we have to stay here for very long?" Ozymandius asked the oracle.

"No. This is just a reminder that introspection is necessary, painful though it can be at times. It helps you become grounded after traveling too much."

"I'm not now, and never have been, a fictional character," Ozymandius protested.

"All of us are fictitious," the oracle said. "We present a front to the world that is meant to tell whatever story we want it to believe. When you summon up memories of what you used to be, you remember what you want to remember. But I didn't bring you here to feel bad about yourself. You'e older, and you're wiser. You have more of a story to tell."


The Pilgrims' Inn, Chapter 42: Existential Moment

Post 2

SashaQ - happysad

smiley - tea

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The Pilgrims' Inn, Chapter 42: Existential Moment

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