It’s been a helluva month in Ravens Park, my great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandson’s neighborhood in the 51st ward of Chicago in the year 4885. Still part of the United States of America L.L.C. Yeah, they incorporated. When the ninteenth Bush Administration made it official that corporations were, in fact, people and people make up the government they decided to cut out the middleman. And pass on the savings to us.
4885. It’s been the coldest Chicago February in over 60 years, with an average temperature of 129 degrees Fahrenheit. Which everybody loves even though it does get the Global Warming Deniers riled up. “See”, they say. “See, it’s only 129...tell me it’s gittin’ hotter,” and they pick their noses. So, some things never change, I guess. The bad news is the planet barely supports life anymore. The good news is that discrimination and hate have been nearly eradicated with the only universally despised group being Vegans.
Some people spend their entire lives, birth to death, indoors but my great times twenty grandson donned his protective gear and ventured outside, of course, to meet a girl. In a world where relationships happen exclusively online, meeting in person is a rare and momentous thing. But this girl was bold and brash. She was different and that made him curious. Curious enough to follow her anywhere. He’d asked her out on a date to see The City Life Supplement but she said she wanted to do something fun instead. I’m just happy we’re still around.
She’d arranged for them to meet outside of Welles Park, and then she scaled the fence to get inside and he followed her again. He knew now where they were headed. There was only one reason to go to Welles Park, to see the tree. An old, old Oak tree which was presumed to be the last of it’s kind. It clung stubbornly to life, just a few of the branches were still teeming with green foliage while others were bare or sporting dry, brittle, sad little leaves. Dilapidated. It’s like if Gary Busey was a tree. That’s what the last tree looks like. Still, it’s height, it’s girth was awe inspiring. if you’ve never seen one in person and he suddenly wanted to cry, from a regretful nostalgia for something he’d never known.
She found the shade under the tree and laid on her back. He followed. She sighed and said, “Isn’t this nice?” He looked up and saw the play of light and shadow, the warm glow of the sun creating a halo around every leaf, every branch, and he had to say that “nice” was an understatement. She agreed wholeheartedly and took his hand...well glove. He was at a loss as to what to say next so he did what I would have done. He told a mediocre joke. He said, “Do you know how to find a Vegan at a dinner party?”
“I don’t,” she said.
“Don’t worry, She will find you. ”
She laughed. Oh, a real human laugh. It was music. God, she hated Vegans. He loved that about her.
Then she let go of his hand and removed her glove and before he could make a move to stop her she reached up and took off her protective hood and visor and her respirator and he saw her full face, smiling, still laughing at his joke. He saw her blue eyes, the freckles on her nose. He saw her hair, rich amber, shining in the sunlight. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
He knew, in theory, what was happening inside of his body. Everyone understood their chemical makeup and its effect on their perception. His instinctual need to mate that was still a biological priority combined with the ocular information he was receiving created an electrical impulse in his medial prefrontal cortex, a bundle of nerve fibers that then zing that electricity through the hemispheres of his brain adjusting the chemical faucets in his body. A sudden decrease in Testosterone and increase in neutrophins, have him feeling lust and tenderness at the same time. His respirator is taxed because of his sudden shortness of breath. Endorphins give him a sense of exhilaration that he’s now unconsciously attributing to seeing her face. He knows every nook and cranny of his mind and physical self, he can follow that initial impulse from his eye to the front of his mind and through every nerve ending to the tips of his toes. It is, biological. This “Love”, at this point in human knowledge, is black and white. It is merely science.
But now that he’s here, there is a grey mist, hovering, something unexplainable Maybe it’s just an undiscovered chemical, but he cannot explain what possessed him to remove his hood, and respirator. To take off his glove and touch her face with his bare skin, to lean forward and take the time to lean over and kiss her lips. He laid back and saw, as if in a series of snapshots, a leaf from the tree dislodged by the breeze and drift slowly to the ground.
Before he could put together the metaphor he knew was there the leaf touched the earth and they both transported in a flash to somewhere entirely different. I know it’s 4885 but that still doesn’t happen very often. It was still a park but there were trees everywhere growing tall, and green. Lush, soft grass was as far as they could see. They sat up to find that they were not alone. Welles was swarming with people laying about, running, laughing. Dogs were running and catching what appeared to be some form of hurling discs.
My descendant and his new girlfriend stood and realized they were not wearing their protective suits any longer. They were barefoot. He was wearing short pants and simple cotton shirt. She was wearing a yellow sun dress like can only be seen in the oldest history books. Her shoulders and even the very tops of her breasts were exposed to the world. And he thought her hair had been nice.
In the distance they saw a gathering of people beckoning to them. Inviting. They took each others’ hands and walked towards the group. As they got closer they both began recognizing faces. Her grandfather was manning a grill. Impossibly it seemed, his mother and father were sitting together enjoying some cool beverage. How could that be? It was all very confusing. He looked back to the tree they’d been resting under just a moment before and then back at the gathering...Once again that uncertainty nagged, that grey mist was here, as well. He decided to ignore it. They both smiled, and nearly skipping, joined the party.
Meanwhile, you are terror stricken as you run from the location where the fence had been breached. You know exactly where to find the trespassers. You just pray you aren’t too late. “No, no, no,” you scream in your mind. “Not again. Not on my watch.” You run as fast as your suit allows, pushing your respirator with each panicked breath.
“I am the worst security guard in the history of Welles park,” you think as the foot of the tree comes into sight and you stop. “Those damn fools,” you think. “What possesses these people? What in the world could possess these people?”
And that’s the story in Ravens Park where February, 4885 seems a lot like June, 2013.