The Sleepy Town

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A woman ambushes us from a hidden narrow passageway connected to the main Strasse coming out of the old city center. Her hair and eyes are as dark as the alley where she had manifested.  An overhead street lamp unveils a dark-complected face partly obscured by an edge of long voluminous hair and an attractive set of wide eyes. As this mysterious looking woman nearly t-bones us, she commands in French, "Bonjour, Je peux te taxer une cigarette?"

I gesture over to Amir, who efficiently dispenses a butt, like taking out a round from a chamber, hands it to the femme fatale, and offers a light. "My name's Amir, and this is my friend Neo." After a deep puff, she thanks Amir and says, "I'm Reyna. You two don't look like you're from around here. Tourists?" "Tonight we are. I'm from Afghanistan, a small village in the Kandahar province bordering Pakistan," Amir states proudly. I mention that I'm from Manhattan and ask if she lives here? "No, I'm visiting my sister and heading back home to Rabat next week. "Morocco?" I ask. "I did some work in Salé."

"Who the fuck are you guys?" Reyna blurts out, grinning, and Amir, and I explode into laughter. "We are just a couple of guys looking for something to do. What do you do for fun in this sleepy government town?" I ask. Reyna pauses for a moment and looks toward the direction of the Hauptbahnhof, the central train station serving the area. "Do you like music?" Reyna asks, looking back at us. "Of course!" Amir shouts back as if the question had offended him. "I know just the place, follow me." directs Reyna.

Earlier in the day, I met with Amir for lunch at a Biergarten near the center of town. A beautiful warm day, we sat down on a thick and sturdy wooden picnic table with a remarkable view of the Rhine. Nearby in a grassy field, we hear young men enjoying a competitive game of soccer. As we are waiting for a steward to take our order, we start to discuss our upcoming meeting with Max. Just then, I receive a call from the devil himself. "Max, welcome to the party, I have Amir with me." I can barely hear Max yell my name, over an oppressive high-pitched whine in the background. "Where are you, Max? You're cutting out; there's a lot of noise," I say while pressing the phone further against my ear, trying to hang on arduously to every jagged syllable. "I'm at the airport, walking across the tarmac - it's the only way to my office. Let me call you back, Neo," and Max disconnects.

Maximilian is a very mysterious man, a legend within our circle. When I visit the local office, no one cares to ask about my welfare. My colleagues are like teenagers wanting to meet Max, the pop artist they idolize, and want nothing to do with his unexciting manager. "How's Max doing? What crazy shit is he up to now?"

I first met Max in a cafe near the A1 outside of Salzburg. Max set the meeting place and time over the phone, but he was not forthcoming on any self-descriptive details. "Don't worry," Max said, "I'll find you." I arrived at the cafe on time, but finding Max was a challenge. I entered into the bustling coffeehouse, being careful to avoid young children running around unattended. I walked down the aisles, scanning the male patrons seated at the tables like the Terminator looking for a vague match. Wondering if I am at the wrong venue, I stepped outside to make a phone call to Max. No answer. Verifying the address I wrote down, I re-entered and saw a strange-looking man seated I did not notice before, summoning me with his hand. "You're late, Neo, and your Kleiner Brauner is cold!"

Not sure how serious I should take this man, Max looks like a vagrant except for his unfittingly expensive pair of Ray-Bans. "What's with the getup?" I ask, shooting him a quizzical look. "And is that a wig you're wearing?" It looks like a matted piece of fur folded over his head like a comb-over. Not missing a beat, Max retorted, "I had a bad hair morning and didn't want to miss our meeting." Before I could offer some practical advice like wearing a hat, Max says, "I wasn't expecting you to be so skinny. Aren't you an American? Doesn't your family feed you?"  Ever since I have known Max, he touts the importance of family and how a family should always come first, but I still get the sense from him that nothing ever gets in the way of business, including family. "Ok, Max, touché," I acknowledge, and we talk about business.

Reyna leads us through a crowded teenage hangout, an area between the station entrance and the bus stop adjacent to a busy thruway. We pass by a clique of kids who give us an intense look as if to say, "piss off!" We continue to follow Reyna as she walks blithely down a bustling boulevard, which eventually connects with a bridge that takes us over the river Rhine. The longer we walk, the quieter Reyna gets. Either she is trying to get her bearings straight, or she has something sinister planned. In German, there is an expression "to tie or strap a bear on someone." The English equivalent, "to take someone for a ride, to deceive or mislead someone." Amir feels the ominous threat of this bear, and he is texting me like a lunatic that we should abort.

No-fear Amir, as I like to call him, grew up in a world of crime, civil unrest, and armed conflict. He tells stories of the many senseless deaths at the hands of the insurgents, Taliban conspiring with police to charge exorbitant bribes at checkpoints, and imposing taxes on farmers and smugglers for the safe passage of opium and cannabis. Everyone is a target for violence: foreigners, wealthy locals, migrants, and even Afghan soldiers. There is no salvation for anyone, well except for Amir, for he was one of the lucky ones to egress when he did. He told me once that destiny is a saddled donkey and goes wherever you lead him.

After several, seemingly random, left and right turns, we end up on one of the quieter side streets of a residential neighborhood that looks nothing like the kind of nightlife I had envisioned. Maybe Amir's sixth sense is on the mark, but I want to see how this situation plays out. Standing in front of a sizeable multi-level apartment complex that looks unoccupied, Reyna announces that we have arrived. The only light source turned on for the entire property is coming from a dim lamp hanging off the wall on the right side of the building, which gives a grainy preview of a narrow stairwell that disappears below the ground. I instruct the duo to stay put while I have a look. As I cautiously descend into what could be a trap, I lose sight of Amir and Reyna and welcome by the sound of deep house music and smoke pouring through a slightly ajar door. I open the door further like prying into a package from a secret admirer, wanting to know more, but hoping it isn't a Pandora's box. Peering in to get a better glimpse through the heavy smoke and glowing red lighting, I catch the eye of a busy bartender serving drinks at a bar. He smiles and nods at me, giving me the preeminent signal that it is safe to enter. Beyond the bar, there are scores of visitors young, old, and as different from one another like the mismatched sofas they are sitting on, sprawled across the ample-sized speakeasy-style basement.

When chance encounters and unexpected moments arrive unbiddenly, like our random connection with Reyna, I wonder how much is influenced by the supernatural hand of divine power? Reyna and Amir have since become closer as a result of their blind date arranged by the Universe. Is there an underlying interconnectedness? Scientists today are shifting their thinking to believe that human bodies do not exist in isolation from one another, but rather interconnected by energy fields. Take the example of a previous study conducted showing a baby's heartbeat detected in the mother's brain waves when nearby. Or the William Braud experiments that reveal that thinking of someone right now will influence them physically. Maybe someday, we will be able to tune into our bodies and have the clairvoyance of knowing what our mate will look like before showing up on our doorstep, a familiar sensation of déjà vu that we will eventually all take for granted.


Submitted: January 01, 2020

© Copyright 2021 neo machina. All rights reserved.

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