Truth and Visitations
by Nilanjan Dev
part 1 of 2
“Do you know, Tracy, you’re too sceptical,” said Tammy, not taking her eyes off the beer she was nursing. “Sometimes I think you just shut your mind off, refuse to accept anything that you can’t see right in front of you.”
It was Friday night and Tammy and her husband Phil were out for a drink at the local watering hole. As on most weekends, they were accompanied by their old university friend Tracy. The Oaken Cask Inn had witnessed numerous debates between these two intense ladies, and the regulars were used to their conversations’ getting loud.
Here we go again, thought Tracy, another lecture on how you have to believe in more than you can see.
Every time this discussion came up, it ended badly between the two of them. They had talked about everything, from Indian holy men who could control their heartbeats to martial arts gurus who could seemingly carry out impossible feats of strength.
Tracy’s take on the whole thing was that if such things did indeed happen, why were they not better documented? Every time a medical or scientific breakthrough occurred, it was scrutinised endlessly, the people behind the breakthroughs interviewed forever and the connotations analysed, but when something as miraculous as this happened, one never heard anything else about it after the initial vague report. But who was going to get into that again?
Tammy took another go at her beer. How she could stay so shapely when she drank the way she did was a mystery to Tracy. Maybe the fact that she was on the smallish side made her put in the extra effort to exercise and stay trim. Tracy was the complete opposite. In University she had been a tall and lanky blonde but had put on some weight after finishing med school. However, she never really cared about the extra weight, and somehow that made her seem all the more attractive.
Pushing her black hair back, Tammy continued, “I’m telling you there’s something to this. What do you say, Phil?”
Phil was always the mediator in these discussions. Once, in University, he even had to pull the two apart when they started brawling on the street after a particularly inebriated argument. He was big and square-jawed, and hardly looked the compromising, soft-spoken individual that he was.
Tammy continued, “The two of them come from different parts of the world, meet completely by chance, both get along great, and both are musicians. It’s karma! They need to record together, instead of looking for separate bands. It’s fate, they need to see the signs.”
Tracy couldn’t contain herself anymore. “Well, in this case I’m not the only one being sceptical, am I? They’re not getting together in spite of your big lectures on karma and fate...”
Sensing the two were getting too loud, Phil intervened for the umpteenth time. “You know, if it really is fate and written in the wind and all that, then they’ll come together in the end and do all right, won’t they?”
Tammy looked as if she was going to argue, but then seemed satisfied. “Yeah, you’ll see, that’s exactly what will happen.”
So typical of Tammy, thought Tracy. She was the kind who saw patterns and signs in everything. She so desperately wanted to believe that there was something more to life than could be explained by science. Perhaps it came from her background. Her father had weaned her on fairy tales and fantasy as a child, possibly to fill the vacuum created by her mother’s death. He wanted her to believe that her mother was in a happy place, watching over her, and one day they would all be reunited. Maybe it had helped Tammy get over the pain of losing her mother at such an early age. But a part of that phase had never left her.
Tracy continued “It’s not that I’m saying science can explain everything, I’m just saying that all these phenomena will one day be explained by science. If they even actually happen. But I think it’s cowardly to ascribe everything that you can’t explain to some magical, mystical power.”
“Come on girls let’s head,” said Phil. He sensed that things were going to get out of hand again if they were allowed to continue along these lines. He was a little pissed, himself, and didn’t trust himself to control matters if they escalated.
“Yeah, I’m worn out...” said Tammy, downing the last of her beer.
* * *
Phil came home to find Tammy in her study, typing away on her laptop. She kissed him and started rubbing her eyes.
“Been at this for long Hon?” asked Phil.
“Yeah, all day,” she sighed. “Nearly got it finished though.”
“Is it still the one about the Writer?”
“Yeah, almost done,” They sat down to dine on the Chinese food Phil had brought home. Tammy often had her meals in the study, much to Phil’s annoyance. The food left a smell in the study that put him off his work. However, today Tammy looked particularly exhausted, so he indulged her. But he did feel like ribbing her a bit. “Maybe there’s something to that,” said Phil, thoughtfully.
“A writer writing about a writer.”
She reached out and cuffed his wrist. “Now you’re making fun of me,” she laughed.
“No, it’s Karma,” he replied, with exaggerated seriousness. Tammy laughed even harder. “You guys are right,” she said, recalling the night before. “I know I read a little too much into things, but don’t you think Tracy is a little extreme as well? She’s a little too sceptical, sometimes even cynical about certain things.”
“You could be right. She’s just not a believer. But not many doctors that I know of are,” said Phil. “I guess they see too much of the tough side of life to really believe in all of that.”
“They’re the ones who need stuff like that the most. I talked to her about it once, and she told me that her parents were the same. Not really superstitious either. And even her grandparents were atheists. And she says that four years of being a surgeon hasn’t changed any of that. Maybe I would be the same in that situation; maybe I just don’t get enough exposure writing stories at home.”
Phil was amused at this image of Tammy as a naïve home dweller who knew nothing about the outside world. In fact she was constantly travelling — some of her most successful works had been travelogues — and her columns in several magazines and newspapers offered keen insight into various cultures and places.
Tammy’s latest work was a fictional piece based on the trials and tribulations of an aspiring author. Phil could see hints of Tammy’s own early struggles in the drafts he had seen. After she finished her degree, though she had been offered lucrative assignments in various fields, she had turned them all down to become a writer.
It was her steely determination in this respect that Phil loved. He had always given her his support, even when they were living only on his limited teacher’s income. In the end it had all paid off. Her essays, travelogues and columns over the past two or three years had made her modestly, if not immensely successful. She wrote about a variety of things besides travel, but had a particular fascination for the unexplained, the occult and visitations. She had even written a few pieces on what she felt were visitations that she herself had experienced.
“No, you guys are just two extremes, and I think that’s why you’re such good friends, even though the friendship always seems to be on the brink of destruction.” he replied. She smiled and sipped on her wine.
* * *
“What do you think, then?” said Tracy.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Phil. Tracy had just proposed a trip to Nepal and India, spending time on the foothills of the Himalayas.
“Surely in a place like that even I could become a believer,” laughed Tracy.
Tammy was thrilled by the idea of course. She had already been to India, but never to Nepal.
“Did I ever tell you that I had one of my visions when I was in Dalhousie? That’s one of the hill stations in northern India.”
“Yeah, sure,” Tracy muttered into her glass, not very sotto voce.
They were at Tracy’s place having dinner. Phil and Tammy now realised that she had called them over to propose the trip. They had all been friends for so long that there would be no awkwardness if the three of them went together. Tracy had never felt out of place with Phil and Tammy on previous trips. In her view the couple complemented each other perfectly. Whenever she and Tammy got into one of their infamous debates, Phil would always be there to calm things down and add comic relief. This helped them stay good friends, even after Phil and Tammy got engaged.
Phil often said, half seriously, that it was also the reason why Tracy was still single. Tammy disagreed. She felt it was Tracy’s no-nonsense attitude and choleric temper that men disagreed with. “You have a choleric temper and you still have me,” was Phil’s remark.
Tammy took a sip of her wine. “Yes, Tracy, I know you don’t believe in my visions, you think they’re all dreams, but I remember the feeling of that one, it was no dream.”
“Sorry,” said Tracy. “But I really believe that a lot of people who see these visions and visitations are all just hallucinating or dreaming. Take the case of that stoner in Uni. What was his name again, Joey Murphy what?”
“Danny Murphy,” corrected Tracy with impatience.
“Whatever. His next-door neighbour would come in every night for a week in the dark with fluorescent gel on his face, and he thought he was having visitations he was so stoned. I think half of the other stuff that happens is just another version of that.”
She could see that Tammy was bristling. Tammy had been one of the “believers” of Murphy’s story, and she along with the other believers were later ridiculed as much as Murphy himself when the truth finally came out.
“Anyway, about the trip...” Phil interjected, but Tracy would not be stopped.
“Hold on Phil,” Tracy said. “I have to say this. I just can’t believe that someone with Tammy’s education and intelligence can believe crap like that, and apparently think that some recurring dreams about people who happen to be dead are actual visitations! I mean I have dreams about random people, as well, and daydreams after a spliff, but I don’t think they’re visitations!”
“But you don’t see the same people day in and day out, and they don’t say the same thing,” retorted Tammy, hotly. “The people in my dreams have been trying to tell me something, and I’ll figure it out eventually.”
“I do see the same people and they do say the same thing. That’s why they’re called recurrent dreams,” shouted Tracy.
There was a moment of stony silence after this. For once, Phil did not try to intervene, but the altercation seemed to fizzle out anyway.
“Sorry, Tammy, let’s just let it go...” said Tracy after a few sips of wine. “We just never seem to learn. You can’t convert me and I can’t convert you. Why can we never leave it at that? Anyway, are you going with me then?”
Tammy still looked a little wounded. “Yeah, I guess so. I always wanted to visit Nepal anyway, and I’m about finished with what I was writing. Phil?”
“I’m in,” said Phil absently. He still seemed to be in deep thought, but suddenly came out of it. “Shall we get going, Tammy?”
* * *
“Hi Tracy, it’s Tammy”
“Hey you, how are things?” said Tracy, cradling her cell phone between her ear and shoulder. She was filling out a form at work. Luckily the door to her office was thick enough to filter out most of the noise from the halls of the hospital.
“Not bad,” replied Tammy. “Finished my story. Yourself?”
“Overworked and really looking forward to our trip,” Tracy laughed.
“Er... yeah, that’s what I wanted to talk about. My publisher wants me to stay a while and do a couple of workshops to promote my new book. I really can’t refuse, Tracy; you know what a difference something like this could make to my career.”
“Bummer. Can’t you postpone it? We already have everything arranged, tickets, hotel bookings, the works. It would be a big waste if we had to cancel.”
“You and Phil don’t have to cancel, I spoke to him and he still wants to go. I think he can live without me for a couple of weeks.”
“We-ell, if it’s okay with you guys. I really don’t know if I’ll get another chance any time soon. I don’t want to cancel if I can help it. But are you sure you want to risk Phil succumbing to my charms in your absence?” mocked Tracy.
“He’s way out of your league, sister,” laughed Tammy.
“Fair enough. I’ll call him and finalise the arrangements.”
Copyright © 2006 by Nilanjan Dev