The beginning of my June story starts here... Who knows where it will end? Don't

look for modern stuff, like TGA-4 or whatever. I am going to write about a man will be 61 very soon and something strange that happened to him in his late 50s, where, as Rod Serling would have said he crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Okay, I'm derivative sometimes, but all writers are. CHRISTIAN BARZOY, TOBACCO BROKER by Devon Pitlor I. The "heart attack"

eginnings are a tricky business in fiction. You have

the details all tangled up in your head, but you really don't know where to start or where your one and only fan (because you always must believe you have at least one) would like you to start or where you really should start. Suppose that I should say that today in the United States being a tobacco commodities broker (as was Christian Barzoy) is a very tenuous business. To make it short, let's just say that U.S. tobacco has to be sold somewhere else but in this country, like in the Third World where we can maintain huge percentages of smokers who are, sadly for the tobacco industry, diminishing in North America. Typical boring start coming from an economics major...sorry. I can't help it. Okay, let's go to the pretty little town of Raleigh, North Carolina, right in the dying heart of the American tobacco industry. There we find 58 year old Christian

Barzoy waiting for a connecting flight to Charlotte. The story will therefore begin in the airport at Raleigh and continue on to the airport in Charlotte. Damn, this is sounding dull. I hope I can do better. Like every other middle aged executive in commodities exchange, Christian Barzoy was well past his prime, but his life had been surprisingly fulfilling. He had married a very pretty woman named Alaina at an early age and had produced three rather appealing children who, as we open this story, were now moderately successful adults. He had chanced to visit his oldest daughter, Alexis, while in Raleigh and now was returning home to Baltimore when he suffered his "heart attack." Christian's "heart attack" was no usual heart attack [or else I would not have bored you with the quotation marks]. It was, in fact, a very welcome "heart attack" and one that was very natural to have in a busy place like an airport. It was the sort of "heart attack" that Christian had enjoyed since he had first crossed the threshhold into adolescence many eons before. Okay, I drop the quotation marks now. You get the point. Christian's heart attack was somewhat like a real one. His pulse raced, his heart pounded, he got slightly dizzy, needed to sit down and breath deeply. He knew what was coming, and, above all, he knew what caused it. Once in his twenties, he had even gone to an emergency room because of a stronger version of the same heart attack. And what is coming is that when an hour or so later, when Christian will arrive at Charlotte's bustling airport, he will suffer a much stronger version of the same attack---and this time if Christian didn't have a lifetime history of such attacks, he would have indeed

been afraid and summoned emergency personnel which he did not do either in Raleigh that day or later in Charlotte. Instead he sat back and enjoyed them. He could not after all these years explain them, but he knew what caused them. And for Christian Barzoy, ageing tobacco broker, that was, after all, "kinda nice." II. One in ten estimate Christian Barzoy had long ago explained himself to himself. His favorite phrase was "one in ten thousand...that's my estimate." What he was estimating was the ratio of women or girls on earth whose mere appearance exercised such a dramatic effect on him---upon first sight---that he would suffer the thunderstruck symptoms of these so-called heart attacks and be transfixed like a moth to the setting sun for as long as the vision endured. Now this is not a story about some horny guy who was having a libidinal surfeit of testosterone and going into seizures over women because he wanted sex. It is the story of a man who was really lucky to have ever found a wife and married in the first place. Not because he was twisted, weird or unattractive--because he was none of these--but because only about one in ten thousand women appealed to him in any way whatsoever. Not charming women. Not smart women. Not accommodating women but beautiful women, women who had a certain type of look that he had spent his

lifetime trying to define cogently to himself. It was not about sex or body shapes either. It was mostly about faces. Certain types of faces, and Christian did not discriminate between children or senior citizens or anything in between. More about the children aspect in the next installment---which will be called "Pedophilia" and will not be about pedophilia at all, just in case some prurient reader might think I am heading in that direction. The "look" could be pretty commonly defined too. Perfect facial symmetry, thick to long hair, full pouty lips, widely spaced , deep and dramatic eyes, a good chin, nice cheekbones. It sounded like a catalogue of adjectives from any man's wish list, but for Christian there was a certain---indescribable---combination of these characteristics which---if the recipe was right--took his breath away and caused him all the visible symptoms of a stroke or heart attack. The "recipe" was not from Playboy or Penthouse either. Nor was it from Hollywood. Women considered great beauties by the general masses usually bored Christian and had always done so, even to the point that his college friends had once considered him stricken with homosexual qualities based simply on the number of aspiring females he had turned down or ignored completely. Christian himself was far above average in his looks, and he could galvanize the attention of nearly any female he wanted, but the fact was that he wanted so very few. For many in his circle of friends, he just HAD to be gay. Even though he wasn't. Christian had no idea where his one in ten thousand came from either.

He just knew her when he saw her. The one before the girl in the Raleigh airport had been overweight too. She worked in a diner behind the counter and had greasy hair. Christian's son and his son's friends laughed when he pointed her out to them. But Christian was having one of his heart attacks because of her and didn't care. Now in Raleigh the woman, a mere girl of between 20 and 25 and not an hour older, was sitting opposite to him in the airport concourse and reading a book, or trying to read a book because a mannish older woman with a man's hair cut brushed to one side of a very male hair part was assailing her with some sort of hushyhush conversation the subject of which Christian could not divine. Christian knew not to make any approaches and was well aware of his age. He simply say back and stared. He wore sunglasses indoors exactly on the chance that this rare event would occur and he could look without being obvious. The mannish woman talked and talked, and the sublime object of Christian's heart attack politely listened, forgetting her book. For a moment or two, Christian even thought of rescuing her, but he thought better of it. Events like this, though rarer and rarer, had occurred all his life. The symptoms of being overcome by such beauty did not diminish with time, and Christian was relieved when at length the girl and he boarded separate flights and the episode was over.

He thought of Alaina, his divorced wife. It was one of those thoughts where the entirety of their rather satisfying life together was featured on a timeline which came all at and raising kids...watching the kids leave home...and finally an amicable divorce because....because, well, it was just over between them. Whatever bonfire had once been lit had slowly but pleasantly burned itself out, and it was just time to separate. And that was the end of the episode in Raleigh. No more about that. I can't make up more because there was no more. But what is to follow a little more than an hour later is more interesting. I hope. III. Pedophilia Christian Barzoy had over two hours to kill in the Charlotte airport, so he did the natural thing and went into a bar. The bar was attached to an overpriced pizza joint. The music was overpowering. First, "Because" by the Dave Clark Five, followed by Peter Gordon's old chestnut "World Without Love," as rendered by Paul McCartney and then, as if to put a 20th Century revival clamp on the crowded atmosphere, the Eagle's "You Can't Hide Your Cheating Eyes," all of it like stepping into a time capsule, but this time a capsule filled with savage modern adults and their children talking into mobile phones and thumbing their way through a series

of endless messages to unseen parties inhabiting god knows where in the cybersphere. She could not have been older than 15 and was sitting at a table halfway between the bar and the pizza parlor with a group of adults who if not her parents could have and should have been. A barely pubescent body filling out a rather skimpy sun dress. Long, artificially kinked hair, slightly protruding teeth concealed by irregular but full lips, wide almond-shaped eyes and an abstract far away look aimed vaguely in the direction of the parked jets beyond the window. It had happened before. Someone desperately underaged. But it did not matter, and there was no hint of pedophilic desire in the reaction which welled up in Christian's heart and chest. Long ago, he had put immutable restraints on himself with every person who had ever produced this reaction in him....and with a mere child he would be especially cautious. His life had followed the maxim of "Do no harm, but think whatever you want." So being totally entranced by a teenage girl did not make him feel guilty or worried in the slightest because he knew he would remain inert in his actions as he always had. The thing which bothered Christian was, first, the absolute intensity of the reaction to this girl and, secondly, how soon it had come on the heels of the day's first episode in Raleigh. He could not remember when in one day he had experienced two such reactions. In truth, as he caught furtive looks at the young girl, he did start to worry about his actual heart. At age 58, anything could happen, and for a moment, he felt like fleeing the bar but realized that he may become

too obvious and even stagger. The child exercised that strong an effect on him. Hers was a supernal beauty which escaped the confines of mere words and vapid descriptions. He drank his rum and coke and said "No big deal" to himself. Nothing was going to harm him, so he might as well enjoy the reaction. After all, he had relished visual episodes like this for over 35 years. Nothing was new here, just a way of passing the time. But then suddenly, and without warning it happened--the preternatural, the unexplained, the intrusion of a totally bizarre reality upon the banality of the crowded airport bar scene. It began when the girl looked up briefly and into his eyes. But that was no big deal. He simply averted his gaze, and he was indeed wearing sun glasses. "Just like an old pervert," he thought quietly to himself. But he knew he was not an old pervert and how to make sure he did not look or act like one. He had years of experience in these matters. They were not about encounters or sex or anything of the type. But what happened next requires some explaining... And it is family safe, in case you are wondering. Work safe and family safe and Christian safe---because, as I have said, this is not the story of a child molester or sex freak. It is the story of an ageing tobacco broker and his encounter with the surreal. The next section will be called "What happened" and will be hard to write. As a footnote, I remind my readers [if I even have any, which is doubtful] that English is not my first language,

and sometimes I have trouble...oh well. To be continued if I can. IV. What happened There is an old and rather stupid saying in my language that goes something like this: When you die, your whole life flashes for one instant before your eyes. I have always found it stupid because who knows what anyone thinks right before they die? But having lived 42 years myself, I do know that you can usually conjure your entire life up rather rapidly in one piece as a compressed timeline if you try. Christian Barzoy, like me and most others, was able to do this. His time with Alaina and his kids could easily flash across the screen of his consciousness if he wanted. Of course, there were visual highlights in the mental images. Sometimes the highlights were the most inconsequential things. Something like his son Brian asking him to take the wrapper off a chocolate bar or his beautiful wife Alaina dropping a screwdriver in the swimming pool. Boring stuff...but visual moments in the timeline nonetheless. That is how memories of a lifetime occur. They follow the timeline but the flashpoints visuals are random and oftimes meaningless. Sitting in a Charlotte airport bar, Christian Barzoy suddenly had his mental field filled with quite another version of his life, and when it came it was all real , all valid. It was completely visual and compressed...years compressed together. As in one solid movie running at

lightning speed in his brain, he "saw" himself meeting Gina at a church he had never attended. He saw himself holding hands with her outside of brown brick school building that he had never set foot in. He felt her grasping him around the waist from the rear of a motorcycle seat that he never owned. He heard himself arguing with her parents (whom he never knew) about their marriage and where it would take place (which it never did). He languished in the panorama of long years with Gina and buying a series of houses in towns where --in reality-- he had never visited. He saw her making oatmeal for the kids before they left for school. He saw her waving goodbye to him as she drove off with a man who would replace him as a husband. In short, he experienced his whole life with Gina in a time, in an era, in icons of random experience that never existed. The good, the banal, the exciting, the less than exciting and the very bad. A lifetime...and with Gina, and who in the hell was Gina? That was her before him he knew, not a day older than 15 as she sat there munching cheap airport pizza, her exquisite beauty ignored as is the custom by parents who no doubt never even noticed her much anymore. In some other version....some other timeline...Christian and she were the same age, had played together as children, dated, married and made a life...and it was all as real a memory as anything that he had ever had with his real wife Alaina. It was not a fantasy. It was a solid and unquestionable memory. Fear gripped Christian's chest. Nothing of the sort had ever happened to him before. He had never had anything close to this vivid memory of the unreal....let alone with a child over 40 years younger than himself. But nonetheless it was all

there. He pulled it forth again and again as he sat there. Other moments appeared at will. Gina losing a toe. Him slapping her and regretting for months afterward. The names of their children and where they had birthmarks and little scars from play accidents. The kind of toothpaste Gina bought for the family. Little stuff. Some big stuff. But lots and lots of stuff. Terrorized, Christian attempted to pay for his drink and rush out of the airport bar, but something held him back. It was a fear for his own sanity. A weird idea came into his head. The girl had taken notice of him only once, and the bar-pizza joint was packed, as are all such establishments in busy airports. Nobody, least of all this 15 year old girl, was concerned about him in the slightest. So a plan... Deliberately he stood up and pretended to hail someone far off in the terminal outside the door of the bar. He looked up over everyone's shoulders, put his hand to his mouth, and shouted "Gina" at the top of his lungs. But in a place like this everyone was shouting for everyone else, so his was not strange behavior in any way. But he saw what he saw. The girl, who ordinarily should have paid him no attention, was startled and for an instant thought he was calling to her. So her name really was Gina. How could he have known that? She made some little joke with one of the adults at her table that "Other people have my name." That was enough to turn Christian into a totem of fear and cause him to walk unsteadily out of the bar and as far down the concourse as his wobbly legs would carry him. For a few minutes, he felt he was going to pass out and die. But the memory was still there like a long panorama:

his "life" with Gina. Fortunately for Christian, the memory became less distinct with distance. But he could still conjure it. In fact, he could conjure it for weeks afterward until something new happened. But when he brought the memory forth, he felt guilt and was for the first time in his life scared. It was a version of some other timeline that had never happened, but it was still there and could not be removed by the sheer force of logic or will. The next section will be the epilogue of Christian's story. It will involve how he finally dealt with these new an implanted memories of life he never actually lived....and then, unfortunately, another shocking revelation. To my one reader, if I ever have one, the end will be short now. I promise. V. Epilogue Endings should come fast and be conclusive and summarize well---and mine will. Christian Barzoy, shaken to the very root of his being, returned to his lonely apartment in Baltimore and tried unsuccessfully to resume his daily routine, visited a psychotherapist in vain, tried to date some workmate-again in vain, tried to regain his composure---again in vain, and eventually thought of killing himself, which he never did because they exact same thing happened to him again during a business trip to Richmond, Virginia. The stunning face...the "heart attack"....the cold

sweat...but this time it was Rhonda, and Rhonda was somewhere in her mid thirties. Rhonda had the recipe of facial looks which had magnetized and thunderstruck Christian all his life, and his life with Rhonda---whom he never "married" but only "lived" with---totally supplanted the story of Gina. The real version of Christian's life, which involved Alaina and his actual children, never faded in the least, but Gina vanished as soon as the mental version of his life with Rhonda came into focus. Calmly he ascertained whether the beautiful woman on the Richmond Grain Exchange trading floor was in fact called Rhonda. She said she was and wondered abstractly how he knew. He made up some lie about how all commodities brokers know of one another, and the subject was dismissed. Still he remembered everything about his "life" with Rhonda: The annoying way she had of calling an orgasm "blowing your cookies" over and over again to the point of triteness. The time she convinced him to use footpowder in his shoes because his feet sweated and became foul smelling. How she left him short handed with the rent month after month. His faux life with Gina, part and parcel in memory, became his faux life with Rhona, and that life was far more annoying if nothing else. Life with Rhonda had been, in effect, less than satsifying. And then there is more, but I shall allow the reader to draw in the lines between the numbers and color the squares. The next one came at age 60 for Christian. The girl must have been around 26. He saw her in a park in Baltimore when he was walking his dog. Her name was Davila and

she was from Arizona and, of course, they had lived there and he worked on Porsche engines for a living. By the time Davila arrived into Christian's memory as a lifelong conjugal panorama, Christian had come to accept these false memories as just another peculiarity in his life. The real Davila had been in the park for only minutes before she disappeared walking out the main gate and not taking even a sideways glance at Christian. But two weeks later Christian was sent my his company to Chicago and was eating alone in a crowded beef restaurant in the Loop. He had never been in Chicago in his life. Out of the corner of his eye he became vaguely aware of a rather plain woman examining him with a certain degree of furtivity which he recognized as one of his own tactics when overcome by the beauty of his "one in ten thousand." The restaurant was full of business people taking very little interest in strangers, but suddenly the woman stood up and shouted "Christian" at an unseen person near the front door. There was no Christian. HE was Christian, and he knew it. And though he did not acknowledge it, he realized for the first time in his life that he was not alone. He wondered in silence what memories her "life" must have had of him in a version that he would never share. by Devon Pitlor, 26 May 2008

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