The Enlightened

An enlightened man takes a journey. A figurative one as well as a literal one.

The Enlightened man stepped out of the shower and began drying his hair.  He didn't know that he was enlightened. No one did. His friends thought him lucky and his mother thought him stupid. Strangers thought him strange. But in his friends' defense, he was lucky.

It was a Saturday and he loved Saturdays, just like everyone else. He wasn't strange. The human at the tollbooth was strange. Her voice was a thick gurgle with mostly no vowels, and she spoke quietly. But his interactions with her were brief, and fairly straightforward from the get-go. 

"Wroggle beef tuga duffas," she said. He was already handing her the money. He kept the window rolled down as he drove across the bridge, so he could smell the saltwater in the breeze. 

The Beachfront Cafe was packed with attractive, scantily dressed youth as was usual in the summer. In the cold seasons it was all gray hair and fishing rods, but every summer it was reborn into one of the most popular hangouts on the beach, on account of its incredible beer selection. 

He had a hell of a time ordering the beer he wanted, though. The humans that normally worked there had been replaced again by a younger and more attractive staff. He had given up trying to pronounce the names of the beers phonetically for them, which inevitably led to a confused conversation, and possibly an incorrect beer, which he would usually drink anyway just to avoid prolonging the transaction. He could describe the label, e.g. "blue, big cursive letters, German word", but that was only a nudge in the right direction, if that.

The shirtless blonde human with a tattoo of a surfboard spanning his chest reached into the beer cooler and pulled out three potential matches.

"Gus ka?" His voice was a raspy gust of hot, sandy air. 

"No," said the enlightened man, whom the other humans called Jeff. "It's none of those, it's still in the cooler."

"Ah, shumat, luckus?" The human wiggled another of the three bottles he was holding.

"You're shaking it up," said Jeff.

The human grinned and nodded, put the other two bottles back in the cooler, and cracked open the shaken one. It only spilled over a little, so Jeff took it anyway.

He sat down at his favorite table in front of the cafe, dug his toes into the sand, and breathed in the beauty of the scene. The ocean was unsettled today. It pounded violently against the shore, threatening to wash away the human children the moment their parents turned their backs. Ruthlessly it kept bucking off surfers and trying to swallow them before they could resurface, but there were far too many of them to keep up with. 

And then he heard something. Something so beautiful it made him stand up straight and wheel around to face it, before he could even make sense of what it was. 

Inside the cafe, there was a woman. She was talking on a phone, speaking words to someone on the other end.

"That's okay, I can do it on Monday, just make sure I get your account information by noon..." She was singing. Her voice was a nightingale. No, nothing like that. Nightingales, angels, echoes across mountaintops-- none of these things made sense either. She was something else entirely, and that was altogether more impressive.

He listened to her, riveted, as she carried on the first perfectly coherent conversation that he had never heard outside his own head. His heart drummed heavily on his chest as he realized that the conversation was now over, that she would soon be off the phone, no longer talking, yet free to speak directly to him. Not an atom of his body was interested in anything else.

"Excuse me!" he said to the woman. She looked up at him, smiling. He thought her beautiful, though she was the least attractive woman in the room presently. "I just... heard you talking," he told her. "I wanted say hi."

"You're enlightened!" she beamed. "Lovely to meet you, I'm Jessica."

"I'm what?" he asked. "I mean, I'm Jeff."

"You're enlightened, Jeff," she repeated. "Did you know?"

"No, I suppose I didn't. What do you mean, enlightened?" His heart was uncontrollable. They were understanding each other! How could this woman possibly exist?

"I mean, you see the world differently than other people do, right?"

"I guess I do," said Jeff. "They all seem to understand each other."

"They do," said Jessica. "Don't you understand them too?"

"No... I can sometimes get the gist of what they're saying, but they usually don't make any sense."

"That's because you're thinking about it too hard," she explained. "Just practice feeling out their intentions, watching their movements, hearing the fluctuations of their voices, you know. The words aren't that important."

"But what about you?!" he laughed. "I can understand you! This is brilliant!"

"I'm enlightened too," she said. "There are lots of us, it's not just you."

He gaped at her, his mind racing for an explanation that would prove that this wonderful new idea was true.

"Why haven't I ever met one before now?" he asked.

"I don't know," said Jessica. "Probably because you never looked. Must be strange, not knowing you're enlightened."

"I suppose it is, now that I think about it," said Jeff. "How long have you known you were enlightened?"

"Ever since I was a little girl. My father and brother were enlightened too, so it was just obvious."

"Sounds nice."

"It was." Her memories smiled through her. He watched them rise and then fall again, saw the shine of love in her eyes before they blinked back to the glow of the lamplit cafe. 

"Well, it was nice meeting you, Jeff. I was just grabbing a coffee," she nodded toward the paper cup in her hand. 

"Wait! No!" said Jeff urgently. "Don't leave! I've only just met you... you're the only person I can talk to!"

"Sorry, I've got to go. There are others though... just look for them!"

"How many others?"

"I don't know, lots."

"Where are they?"

"Everywhere, just go look."

"There's not some secret... special, enlightened people club, or anything?"

Jessica laughed. "Not that I know of, but you could always start one."

"Maybe I will..."

"Maybe I'll see you around then," said Jessica, this time stepping forward. For a second he was positive that she was moving in to kiss him, or whisper something, but then he realized he was blocking the doorway. His brain was still too busy to be concerned with moving out of her way. 

"Yeah, I'll, see you around," he said. She smiled one last time and turned slightly, so as to squeeze past him through the door. She smelled like laundry detergent, and it was beautiful.

The rest of Jeff's afternoon on the beach would have to wait. He abandoned his beer and sandals at the table without a backwards glance, and was off to find another one of these elusive "others".

The End

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