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The Garden
part 1
by Feech

        I believe in lights.
        Not Light, necessarily, anymore, but lights.
        I work on the Light belief.
        I work _with_ lights.
        I have to work on the Light belief, at least I try to, because all of a sudden when I got SCABS everything spiritual changed around in its meaning and the way I can incorporate the terminology...
        Word. Light.
        You can't have one without the other, I used to think.
        I used to think they were one and the same.
        When I got all ripped up and rearranged and put back together with SCABS, while I entertained strange dreams and I suppose a number of medical professionals did their best to save me, which they did, technically, I suppose, since my memories from before are for the main part intact, everything changed.
        Everything. God, the universe, everything.
        If Christ is the Word, I can't be the same kind of listener I was before.
        And if there is Light, where does it have to come from? If it has to come from without, then Feech can't see it.
        If I can't hear the Word, am I too taken that much farther from the Light?
        If I don't believe in the Word, and the Light, which is where I now stand, then the only thing left is Feeling.
        Vibrations of the Lord?
        Does that count for Word?
        And do the disease-induced colors that cross Feech's field of non-vision count as Light anymore than my lighting instruments' glow counts as Light?
        Jesus healed the blind man.
        Does that mean he had to be healed to see Christ?
        And the deaf man healed, too, to go with Him?
        But when we die, we all go somewhere.
        I mean, if there wasn't a soul, I wouldn't remember _anything_. My whole dang body changed right around my consciousness.
        I think. Unless I looked like this before. Unless SCABS is the removal of an illusion from which we all suffer... Unless my ears were nonexistent and my human life was one long dream and anything but vibrations in my lungs and head was _imagined_ hearing, and all sights I see now are true, but all sights Feech saw then were false. If SCABS is the lifting of a lie, then I can't believe in Light and there is no Word to hear, because I was saved _before_ I had my SCABS.
        I don't talk about it much now.
        I know what Teresa would say: that if God exists then He has his eye on the sparrow, and what's the difference between a sparrow and a SCAB?
        I suppose that since I attest to the existence of my soul, and what she would say makes sense, then there's really no question.
        But that whole "sparrow" thing is taking the Bible literally, and if you do that, then...
        Let me see, it's Genesis, I believe I've got it memorized here... Let me get it...
        "Then the Lord God said to the serpent: 'Because you have done this, you shall be banned.... I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.'"
        I believe I got that right, and the chapter is three, the book is Genesis, but I don't remember the verses.
        Teresa says that the explanation for _that_, if it happened, is that-- get this-- Adam and Eve had a viper for a pet, one that they trusted, and because they trusted it a demon possessed it to use that trust against them.
        Then she would tell me, if we were having this conversation and she were here now, that it doesn't matter anyway, because people are just trying to explain the natural mammalian fear of snakes with that passage.
        It's lonely around here.
        I know, I know, I get that way after every graduation and I always bounce back with the incoming new students needing this and that and putting on their shows and... I don't know; this year I remember my own graduation a lot. And it's been all summer and most of the Fall semester that they've been gone, and I'm still not really seeing and interacting with the new kids the way I used to.
        What about the young group? The ones who didn't graduate with Feech? I don't know. I must admit... I didn't pay much attention to them.
        I was too smitten with Feech.
        Now almost the entire group _associated_ with her is gone.
        The Hayden Heath Theatre Department is in full swing with this and that project and everyone is socializing and having the times of their lives and I haven't been to an improv group meeting in three weeks. Straight. Again. I went once in between there, so it doesn't count as seven weeks straight, but the point is that this is just not like me.
        I spend a lot of time up in the lighting racks and hangings, just feeling like I'm a little closer to God in some kind of literal sense. Like light equals Light, and if Jim or someone else were to turn them on with me up there, without knowing where I was and without my involvement or prompting, that would be like some kind of spiritual happening that would help to revive the saving of my soul from before I got this body.
        Feech, though, would say that my soul is as pure as the next serpent's, and then she would chuckle...
        You know, it's not fair, but I'm remembering her from before her SCABS.
        Since she had her own self twisted around by this physical revelation she hasn't been able to see and she's been dark and sort of empty, like she never was before.
        It drove Gabe nuts, the last months she was here before so many of them trucked off to Pennsylvania and John and Bahni were already off working with that Children's Theatre and Alan got left behind once again.
        I don't mind being left behind, really I don't mind it.
        Or... At least I _didn't_ mind it.
        But Lawrence Kelly offered me a job, too. As Technical Director. He said he was impressed with the man who trained me and that he was leaving the position open for a time if I didn't want it, but that he would take me in an instant.
        He's the sort of extremely flattering man that can kind of take us Theatre People aback. He got to Gabe first and practically handed him a part, and now they're all out there with his Repertory group.
        I could still go.
        The position's still open.
        I've even talked about it with Jim, and he's pointed out that there are enough students around here who are in the same situation I was a few years ago, and who would love to stay and work in a place like Hayden Heath for awhile.
        I wouldn't have to feel guilty about going. Gabe keeps writing to me and telling me that he's tried everything and would I _please_ get out there and snap his friend out of this funk, so she could start enjoying herself and he could stop worrying. He says that the rest of them are doing great.
        Great. Wonderful. I don't know... This is a pretty good job, here...
        And there's the main reason I didn't go in the first place, which is Teresa (Feech, to just about everyone) herself.
        I mean, why would I go out there for anything else?
        I'm already assistant to the Technical Director in a university where my future is assured, where it didn't matter that in my Junior year I went to the hospital with flu symptoms and woke up some weeks later as a twenty-eight-foot long Burmese python. It was then that I started to panic, because I thought for sure that even Hayden Heath wouldn't want me. When it turned out they did, that I was all right with them despite some of the other SCABS' fears of reptiles, then I swung back the other way to a kind of naive hope and wrote my first email on my dicky old PC back to my girlfriend in my home town.
        Her reply came back wishing me luck in my new life and saying she'd pray for my soul, and she was sorry to hear that we would never be able to see each other again.
        It wouldn't pay to write another letter, I knew.
        It wasn't me, it was her, and how could I blame her?
        Heck, I think I might have even put a grass snake down the back of her dress one spring when we were in seventh grade.
        Yeah, I was immature. Yeah, she screamed. I laughed, along with a number of the other boys. There weren't many girls in our school who could abide snakes.
        Well, according to the Bible, none of the human race can, according to God's decree. Which is why Teresa says we should not take that part of the story so literally.
        Anyway, she would say, that part was talking about vipers, not constrictors.
        So what?
        Vipers are people too, aren't they? And constrictors have been known to strike at people's ankles. And there is nothing of the man left in me...
        I take that back. The lights, the theatre, the vibrations, the smells, they still do something for me. I like my job, and I like my life. I am Alan as much as I was before, just so... _different_.
        Too different for God to recognize me?
        Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm back to worrying about who God is and what He looks like and whether Santa will find our house this year, like I did when I was a little kid. God is all-knowing, maybe, but I'm not. I don't know how to define this thing that has taken over me. I just know Hayden Heath is a safe and good place to be in this form and as this person.
        Yet I do not want Feech to come back. It's not fair to expect the designer and painter of before to live in the scents and sounds and voices of a place where she is no longer able to do these things. Besides, I knew she'd make one heck of a good director, and it sounds like Mr. Ross out in Pennsylvania is heading her that way, according to Gabe.
        No more painting. It's not fair. At least snakes have something to... To, well, not to hear with, but to _experience_ sounds the way snakes experience them. She's still a human, for all practical purposes. She's had her sight taken away.
        Is it fair of me to expect _myself_ to stay in a place where I can no longer see _Feech_?
        That's kind of like being blind where you can't paint, isn't it.
        I wanted her to just _ask_ me to come. If she would have just _asked_ me. But she barely even talked to me at all after she got back from Wisconsin. Jax took me aside about it recently, railing at me for not getting the fuck out there to that theatre where Feech is working. It reminded me of Gabe, only angrier.
        Of course, part of it was that Jax has never gotten that close to me voluntarily before, except to bite the heck out of my neck one time, and he stood there bristling with his teeth chattering and his tail whipping back and forth on the cement scene shop floor while he tried to articulate with shivering hands.
        I wanted to know why he had come to me voluntarily.
        He wanted to know why I didn't get the hint that if she wasn't responding to me then she was testing me and I was supposed to go prove myself to her or something.
        Where did he get the information that I was emailing her and not getting any replies? From Heather, cute new kid working with Kilroy in the sound booth. Whatever. Everyone seems to think that Teresa wants me and just doesn't want to say anything.
        It never stopped her _before_. And if Gabe can't get her attention, who's to say I could?
        On the other hand, maybe she just needs a hug. From me. Maybe.
        Yeah, from the resident snake at Hayden Heath University. Yeah, I'm sure they all want me out at this great up-and-coming Theatre in Pennsylvania.
        It's so quiet around here...
        They don't even pound on the cabinets for me anymore. I think... Well... Yes, that one's my fault. There's not even a reason to talk to me half the time, and I help out where I have to and where I can but I'm probably about as fun to seek interaction with as is someone like Jim (to most people).
        I really have withdrawn quite a bit since Feech got SCABS. Even before she graduated. I think Jax and Gabe and I all feel a little guilty.
        So why do they try to pin the miracle cure on me?
        I mean, if we're all going to sit around blaming ourselves for her, what makes them think that my advances-- other than the unanswered emails that I type out regularly-- are going to make any more difference than theirs? Why in the world would it make any difference to her other than that my hugs happen to be cold and theirs warm?
        Heck, Gabe's out there already. If he can't do anything, maybe it's up to someone else entirely, out of our hands.
        But I don't want it to be.
        If only she'd ask me. She always used to ask, before. She used to act like she wanted to be around me.
        Maybe... Pretending to be friends with a snake got to be too much effort after the onset of blindness.
        But she always smelled honest.
        In my apartment, the upstairs of a house three blocks from the Performing Arts Center, I type every few weeks on my frogging old PC. It used to be every few days, then every week. But now I just send out an email every few weeks, knowing perfectly well that she's getting them and that there is no problem with her Braille pad; Gabriel checked on that when we exchanged messages one night and he realized she was still not contacting me.
        I wish I knew what she was thinking and feeling.
        If there was anything I could _do_.
        The last thing I want to do is to take that TD position if my presence away from her, at Hayden Heath, is the only thing good about me for Feech.
        I type with the tip of my tail, and this leaves me open for some problems until I get yet another part to update the _new_ computer in the corner of my living space, so I have a little bent, adjustable bar for two-key necessaries, such as sending.
        When she talked to me, Feech used to tease me a little bit, not enough to hurt, about how all my efforts at emailing looked a little like some old ee cummings poem or something by Bradford Medoc. That last is a pseudonym if I ever heard one. Sometimes I debate taking on a pseudonym for the university playbills, just because I could if I wanted to. I don't know what it would be, though. Python Molorus. You see I'm not very creative. I'm more of a technical, I'll build-your-vision sort of a person.
        My long-sided chest expands and resets when I sigh. I usually sigh when I coil on the pad in front of my computer.
        Okay, another try...
        I wish I knew what to say...

        hi feech/teresa,
        i dont suppose you miss me or anything

        No, no way, too harsh. I wish I knew how to _help_ someone in this way. Jax and Gabe are the artists. Why don't _they_ do something?
        Somewhere in my mind, the answer clearly is that they feel that by riding _me_ about it, they are truly doing what they think is best to get Feech to snap out of her darkness.
        If anyone could cure her blindness, her father would have found them, and anyway Feech should be able to deal with something like this. I mean, wouldn't it be just like her to say that you never can tell with that Martian Flu and that she might as well put up with it while it lasts, until things turn around or she dies when she's ninety?
        Yeah, she'd say that.
        What is she afraid of?
        Me, I suppose... No. That's putting a whole load of importance on one person in one capacity within the Department where she used to study. If she's really worried about what I think...
        But then, the other boys do think she is. They think I can do something, that she's waiting. I just don't know. I've never had anything like this happen to me. I don't really think Jim has, either, and he's the closest thing to an advisor that I've got.
        I'm running out of cute things to say about the Freshmen. I'm running out of patience with myself for feeling so rotten whenever another night goes by and I check my mail and there's nothing.
        I fantasize at night. I admit it. I imagine that she's in bed with me and sometimes I even think that I can really feel her, when I get into the right frame of mind. Sometimes I wonder if I'm deliberately avoiding getting too involved in the whole question of what she thinks, because to end the question could very well be to end the possibilities of what I fantasize about.
        Or am I just kidding myself that it could ever happen?
        Yeah, I'm just kidding myself... But if Feech needs me in _some_ way, any way at all, isn't there any way she can tell me? Did I do something wrong back when she was a Norm that made her think she couldn't be with me as the Theatre friends we were? Or is it just that I'm a snake? That's all it took with a lot of people. What if... What if her new form is more afraid of serpents, even though the physical changes are very subtle?
        She never acted or smelled afraid. Just masked. Like she was afraid to _show_ something, but not phobic as someone would be of a reptile.
        I don't know. Maybe they're right. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm just plain _wrong_, everything about me, and they're wrong thinking I'm right for her. Or something.

        hi teresa
        i miss you. hope it's going well out in pennsylvania.
        miss all of you, gabe included. tell him i said hi and will email him soon.
        heard from john-bahn. they are both well, enjoying children's theatre.
        jim hopes you all are well out there.

        My writing doesn't look _anything_ like poetry.
        Maybe I should leave off the punctuation or something.
        I wonder if she reads it.

        i have several

        No, don't want to tell her about the colors of paint I have splattered all over me lately. She used to love talking about that. Last thing I want to do is write as if I'm trying to make her jealous.
        On the other hand, what am I supposed to tell her? The colors are _me_. They're part of my life. It just doesn't seem fair, waving it in her face like that. Especially since she said she _does_ see colors, just not real ones... Not the ones in front of her physical eyes.
        Well, Alan, are you going to write to her about yourself or not?
        The worst that could happen is that she'd not want to communicate, theoretically, and that has already happened.
        But what if she _is_ reading this, and she _does_ get upset, and she was _about_ to contact me for the first time since moving out there?
        They say she does a great job. I'd love to see her at it. I'd like to get involved. This place seems so different this year, without her.
        Sure, Hayden Heath is great. And crowded, spilling over with eager students and layer upon layer of vibrations and scents... I don't feel left out, but I do feel left behind, and kind of swept along with a group that just doesn't touch me the way that group did... Maybe I do belong with them. All of them, not just Feech.
        But if I do, and it turns out she doesn't want me there, and I just make things worse... Wouldn't I rather stay where I'm useful?
        How useful am I here, anyway?
        Someone else could do my job. Not exactly the way I do, but someone could do it...

   colors stuck to my skin and scales today.
        i need a good soak and a scritch i think; can you send scritches through email
        i don't think anyone else around here is quite as good as you are at those... hope you're giving a lot of them to the folks out there

        Gabe says she's not, that she's not nearly as physical as she used to be, and that maybe if she had me she would start coming out of it; he thinks she always felt most comfortable with me out of all the Department people.
        I don't know... She didn't seem at all comfortable when she came back blind, but then who would be? I wanted to cry for her. I didn't know what to do. We knew the situation, and we knew that things would be changed, but she acted so different that it kind of threw all of us.

        i'll tell jim i wrote to you and said hi for him.
        please take care of yourself. i'll write to you soon.
        love, alan

        We always sign our notes "love" around here. Which kind of leaves me stuck for something a little more intimate to sign off with. I long to hold you against me, please tell me what to do, don't you think it would be easier to talk than keep so silent... Nope, none of that really seems to be called for here.
        I thought we were going to be really good friends. It just felt like a certain progression. And Jax and Gabe are practically trying to force the idea down my throat, now. Not that friendship and romance don't occur to me every day, not that I don't try to find cabinets that haven't been opened in a while that might still hold particles of her scent from last year.
        If they would let me just think!
        If they would let me just think, they know perfectly well, I would slide around in my dreamlike state with a past perfect Teresa in my mind and do not one thing about it.
        She could have asked me to come with her.
        _I_ could have gone _with_ her.
        _Damn_ it, how the _hell_ am I supposed to know who's supposed to do what when?
        She could have _asked_ me...
        She's testing you, Jax spelled, you dumbshit, go to her...
        Well, what the heck does he know. If he's so insightful why didn't he end up with her? Choosing between furry, tall, well-dressed and artistic (not to mention insightful) and long, heavy, cold and dull seems really not to leave too much to wonder on.
        But she did seem to like me.
        I mean, sometimes we just sat around and she scritched me and spelled odds and ends from the day to me and I even noted some of my spiritual concerns and she used to reply to them readily, like she had some sort of store built up in case a serpent ever asked her these things.
        Jax said she was a shithead-- although I suppose he said it in a nice way, if such a thing can be done. Around me, his tone and demeanor were and are always influenced a bit by the constant glinting of his eyes and that chattering that moves his lips and cheeks all the time. I know he's agitated around me and I don't blame him. It's just that I hope he meant to say good things about Feech, because I found her store of answers comforting and, even if I didn't always agree with it, at the least entertaining.
        And we both smelled like sawdust and paint and the Performing Arts classrooms. It was like sitting with a female, human version of myself, like part of me asked and the other part answered.
        I don't know.
        I send the email.
        I may as well; it gives me something to go to sleep on, to fantasize on. It occurs to me that snakes never close their eyes.
        I mean, I never close my eyes.
        There is some symbolic irony to this that I never know just how much to dwell on.
        Deaf and blind.
        Damn... I miss her.

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