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DO YOU LOVE ME, JOHN?

Dreamed 1991/7/6 by Chris Wayan

It's the future again. I'm hiking in Calefon. The woods have regrown deep: huge writhing eoks, and tall ever-peeling yukas with their spicy crescent leaves. Different as they are, the two trees have something in common: once they start branching, there is no trunk; just more and more meandering limbs, each quite sure it knows the only way to go. Just like humanity. The ancients, with all their quarrels, never dreamed they were just a trunk--a support for us, their varied descendants.

I'm on a quest--well, a pre-quest talent search. An oracle told me "Find one of each species to join your quest. Else, you're doomed to fail." And so I'm walking in the woods, in Calefon, chasing a legend up a coastal hill-trail. Chasing slowly. My feet hurt.

Ahead stand silent skyscrapers with chocolate bark. It's dark under the sober green towers, except where beams slant down like staircases, solid in the undersea shadow. But you've all read the poetry about them. The third great tree of Calefon: the rudoods.

I walk up a little creek, even now in summer a trickle of glass, nursing small ferns and the rhythmic green spangles, locally called "hosteil". I hear low voices upstream, one extraordinarily melodious, a mermaid sound. I'm in luck! (Though where the oracle's spoken, luck's a joke. But I feel silly saying I'm in fate. Luck, let's call it.)

I round a ten-foot-wide stump and there they are, the couple I'd heard of. The Man, black haired, brown skinned, stocky. Like every single one of his species: the normal human beings.

And the other--pale-blonde, delicate, and wild--so wary her pointed ears flick toward me instantly and she freezes like a deer. Big nocturnal eyes meet mine. Her breed's so elusive, or should I say reclusive, she's the first I ever glimpsed. Not in markets, not in trade fairs, not in all my travels. Beautiful, but strange--who or what did she descend from? She's not the first of her species to have fallen in love with a man of the dominant species. But they've stayed a couple--no summer-drought romance--and that is rare.

She's tense because of me, body quivering to flee, but stays by him long enough to stroke her boyfriend's face and ask, peeking from the corners of her long eyes,

"Do you love me, John?"

All the tales have it that they're shy creatures, always needing assurances. But my memory says her ritual farewell hides some key to her origin. He loves me, he loves me not...

She leaps up, all golden skin, and dashes through the bracken fern and behind the trees...in silence! Dry bracken usually crackles like guard-budgies chattering. I couldn't cross that patch silently, even with time to plan my paces. They are a magical race! Gengineered for sure.

The man glares at me. Embarrassed, I apologize, and retreat downstream.

In a minute, behind me, I hear their voices resume. She's far bolder than most of her kind. But clearly these lovers have their own business. They won't join the Quest.

I have to find and evaluate my own Blonde. (Days later I learned how wrong I was. The Blonde I sought had to evaluate me. And had been; and decided.)

Far downstream, a boulder juts into the little creek. A rare islet of sun in the redwood shadows. Shines yellow in the gloom.

I cheer up--a nice spot for lunch.

As I near, the gold glare moves. A Blonde! But she doesn't slip away. Watches me quietly as I hike toward her, loud and clumsy and slow. She looks remarkably like the other Blonde; perhaps a bit smaller. I wonder if they're all parthenogenic. I get up my nerve and ask.

"Are you related to..." I wave vaguely upstream, bewildered.

She knows exactly who I mean. Probably saw me spoil their privacy...

"My sister."

I'm relieved. I was afraid her folk would all look the same to me.

Heartened, I tell her of the Quest. To my surprise, she shows interest, asking questions that imply knowledge of far more than just her native woods. Big gaps that puzzle me till I see the pattern: much of what I took for knowledge is ingenious guessing and extrapolation from my own story. She's naive but intuitively brilliant. I want her on this quest! She senses this before I've even offered--as soon as I think it. And she lights up! She wants to come. I've certainly fallen under the spell of her breed: I'm charmed and feel honored. And more; I want her, though I feel like she's too magical to touch, really.

She rears her head, eyes wide, and I know she's smelled my secret desire. She half-hides her face, looks warily out through the luminous mane. She seems to be weighing her feelings, judging me.

She reaches out her long hand and strokes my arm.

"Do you love me, John?" she says.

My name's not John.

Now I see.

As women in the ancient times finally stood up for themselves, and learned to do what they pleased, a few women--the shy, the pious, the beautiful, the battered--clung to the old role of pleasing men, craving their approval. Slowly they dwindled, became a minority, and in the end altered their genes somehow to their Barbie ideal. As the cities filled with scraggly brown skinned assertive females--human women--the Blondes retreated to the suburbs, to the country, and at last to the wilderness. To the deep rudoods--the woods that once covered the world, and then were gone, leaving a fragile remnant.

The Blondes don't hide in the woods because they're shy. They hide from their own compulsion to please. Only when they're alone can their own desires come from the shadows. The Blondes are a fragile remnant too.

So she's the descendant, the distillation of victims. A person whose genes tell her to do what the john wants, in exchange for love. Or approval. Or scraps...

"Do you love me, John?" she asks.

And you know, I do. She's smart and beautiful--and brave, to join this quest. She's just constitutionally insecure. That's not the same as immature--or plastic. She may have Barbie doll genes, but by stepping out into the vast human world, she's shown her character. I feel a blend of desire, affection, protectiveness, and a sort of shy adoration I haven't felt since I was a teen. Perhaps those strange, ancient males felt this, and named it love.

And if this quest is to succeed, I'll have to respect her question--and meet her inhuman need for reassurance, for the answer, "yes!" Despite my own fears about that slippery word "love."

But I have my sore spots too. She has to learn MY name. I'm no extinct, pre-Crash man, no John.

No more than she's a woman.

What WE are... we'll have to invent.

A human in the redwoods meets a legendary Blonde.
LATER NOTE:

In case it isn't obvious, this shy blonde, hungry for approval, and hiding in the deep shadows for fear of her own approval-hunger, is not an anima. She's me.

It's the other, the man leading her out into the danger and light of the world, who is her guide--a Jungian animus. The "I" in the dream! I was my own animus.

Like they say: "If you want something done right, do it yourself."



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