Mar took a walk near the river. The day, scorching hot, required a dip in the water. She found a sandy spot, made accessible by a flat, curved path that sloped gently down from a rounded rocky embankment. The wasn’t too steep for her old legs. She arrived near the shore, and sat in one of the wooden chairs. About thirty-and-two chairs had been made and placed here. Some local teenagers, she recognized their faces but not all their names, played hacky sack. Their hair, all in thick locks, reflected the current fashion. Yes, Park had fashions; Mar thought about this and smiled. They had always wanted the place to be big enough to experience social changes; they never wanted it to become a cult. The major influx of people from the Bay Area and Washington DC before the Carrington Event brought rich cultural diversity. And, after decades, Park had developed its own culture, along with many sub-cultures. A cult it was not. Mar smiled as the sun’s rays warmed her exposed legs. She had taken her trousers off. No one minded. Nakedness was not a shameful thing here.
A boy, or man, of some – is he about eighteen? – Mar thought as he walked over, offered her a joint.
“Hello. Here, Mar, would you care for some – it’s an old strain, my father calls it white widow.” He stood completely naked. His tan muscular body, his large penis, his chiseled face and chest, caught Mar’s attention, but not in a way that excited one sexually, but rather as a sculpture entrances its viewer aesthetically.
“Certainly, thank you… B… Darn, you’re name?”
“Yes, your father is a good man – we trade cannabis occasionally. I remember you… Oh, well, I hated it when people would say this to me as a child, ‘I remember you as a baby.’ But I do remember you.”
“I don’t hate it. I don’t hate you saying it. It’s nice to be remembered for so long. I just turned nineteen. We are…” He pointed at the twenty-and-four others, some in circles playing with bean bags, some laid out on the beach; what a beautiful cornucopia of bodies of various colors, shapes and sizes – Mar mused to herself; the few wearing clothing donned mostly beige, white or dark blue shorts and shirts. Most were naked. Brook continued, after looking at his companions, “We are having a little party… I play the violin, and Davey, he plays the flute, and Cyntoia, she’s playing the banjo, and well, we have a little symphony orchestra of roundabout sorts. Would you mind if we make some music?”
“Mind, not one bit, Brook! Not one bit. I need a little diversion, a little distraction, from my worries.”
“We know, as much as possible, about the situation; and, we, everyone here, supports you. In the election, we all voted for you and Shattered. I think almost everyone under twenty-and-one voted for… uh… opening up.” Mar didn’t have it in her to tell him that they had placed their names on the ballot during a drunken evening and almost forgot they were even candidates. Celebrity, they don’t even use the word anymore, but I guess I am one again, ha! – Mar said to herself, but she did giggle a bit out loud.
“Well, it’s good to know the next generation has some sense. Yes, play on! I am just going to sit in this big wooden chair and rest my eyes on this hot summer day.”
“Would you like some cushions?” Brook said, his taught body again catching Mar’s one opened eye. If I was about eighty-years younger – she briefly thought.
Brook brought over two cushions, one for Mar’s bottom and one for her back. “Anything else I can get you? Some water?”
“No, I’ll holler out if I need anything… Wait, you all are going to be playing music; I don’t want to interrupt. Got a jug of water?”
“Plenty.” Brook brought a large, oddly shaped glass gallon jug – with one side rounded and the other side flat; it had a small aperture for drinking, about three inches wide, at the top. Mar poured some down her mouth, letting a little bit dribble down her chin and onto her shirt. The sun rays had moved during the course of her conversation with Brook; it now fell more on her right side. What a lovely young man, and so innocent, or – at least innocent by the standards of what I grew up on – Mar ruminated. She was not tired enough to sleep, but she hadn’t energy enough to keep her eyes open. Just resting my eyes, oh I remember my mother saying that. I didn’t believe it, and here I am.
Music began to play. At first it was an odd cacophony. Then the group of teenagers – after a bit of warming up – began playing the oddest and most beautiful version of Vassily Kalinnikov’s Symphony Number One that Mar had ever heard. Several of the teenagers had taken up violins, one – of course – interjected with her banjo at the right moments, her dark hands plucking at the newly built instrument, and several of the others played a medley: two flutes, two oboes, an English horn, two clarinets, and two bassoons. Mar took in the hot breeze, the sounds, smoked another joint and recalled the first time she had heard this symphony. It was in Amsterdam. A long time ago. A very long time ago, before the calamity. She had been an optimistic technophile. Interviewed, feted, paid well, she lived in Europe, then San Francisco, then taught in her native South Carolina for one year. She eventually ended up in Marin and bought a place in Park. Ha that headline – Mar recalled the time when she was declared one of “The top five quantum computing geniuses” by an influential international news-sphere, Cambria. Her thesis on graviphotons, proving their existence, in 2029, had been an immediate sensation. Her work on interstellar travel, using a self-directed AI augmentation of the Alcubierre metric, turned her into one of the world’s greatest scientist celebrities since Einstein. Those days are gone – and I am glad they are. She spoke thusly to herself on this calm, warm afternoon as the teenagers of Park played their symphony. So long ago. Time isn’t something one must even want to relive. Remember, yes. But relive? No, I can’t imagine the horror! Who would want that? Would I do it again, ha! ha! no. Would I do it differently? Not at all.
*featured image: Portrait of an old woman by Giorgione (1500-1510)
Oil on canvas,Acquisition in 1856, purchased from the Manfrin Collection