Chapter 16 - An Invitation to Heaven
Ursula suggested that we sit in on Steve's last lecture of the day, something related to quantum theory that I knew nothing about. Of course I could learn, but that wasn't the point. The point was to be there, to speak to Steve once more and to make an impression that would open the door so that we could meet again.
As expected his lecture went way over my head. Integral calculus was like a foreign language to me. There was a lot of it interwoven into his lecture.
Steve seemed pleased to find us attending. He came up to us afterwards, to the last row, where we were seated. He seemed happy to see us together. He greeted Ushi with a kiss, even though she still hugged me close to her. He reached his hand out to me for a handshake. "Would you like to have supper with us?" he asked.
I was surprised at Steve's reaction. "Please take Ushi home, and stay and have supper with us," he said. "We would be honored by your presence."
Before I could answer, one of the students had taken him by the shoulder and commandeered his attention. He disappeared with the student towards the blackboard. "Seven-thirty, tonight," he called back.
I was stunned. Something big had been set into motion, which I didn't fully understand, but I did understand Ushi's arm that was still holding me tight. I remembered my own words from the cafe, "...something real, something that envelops us in Love." This Love surrounded us, and united us.
"Seven-thirty," Ushi replied to him in confirmation.
Now I was faced with the task of drawing the pieces together. How did they fit? How could I correlate his response with my attraction to Ushi and her deeply honest response that could not have gone unnoticed by Steve? Maybe it was her loving that had been the moving power at this moment?
Eventually I gave up puzzling this out. I had never been good in drawing ambiguities into one. I simply took Ushi by the arm and invited her to show me some of the sights of the old university.
Still, Steve's generous invitation continued to puzzle me.
Ushi said, not to worry, "he overpowers everyone until they get to know him." She paused, then continued, "I am ashamed, though, that I hadn't invited you first."
"I never expected that," I replied, "but let's not have any political talk tonight. If I start, shut me off."
She squeezed my hand.
In this manner, hand in hand, we strolled through the old campus. There were only a few students visible now. She was a delightful guide. Also, she showed me one of the old buildings that finally, fully met my expectations. She brought me right to it as if she had read in my face that this was the kind of history that interested me. The building wasn't exactly the kind of large granite building that I had imagined I would see. It was something in the style of an old castle, like a fortress. It took some effort by the caretaker, who knew Ushi, to open one of the heavy doors for us that was carved with a crest of lions on each panel. The halls and rooms were sheathed in dark wood. Creaky stairs led to a large upper room that occupied the entire floor. It was dimly lit. There was an odor of stale wood-polish in the air, mixed with the smell of dust and old leather.
I sat in a hard leather-covered chair at the head of the large table that dominated the middle of the room, then leaned leisurely against the high back. With my arms crossed. I imagined myself transposed into the age of King Arthur's court, an age renowned for its own renaissance, one of a few spots of hope in the landscape of mankind's long night called the Dark Ages.
I drove Ushi home as Steve had suggested, with a stop for groceries on the way. The question that I had asked myself on the beach came to mind again. Was she just as beautiful with her clothes on? I embraced this thought as a welcome relief from the tensions that are invariably associated with political discussions. The answer was spontaneous. YES, she was just as beautiful with her clothes on, perhaps even more so. The type of clothing one wears reflects an element from deep within, and what I saw was beautiful. She seemed beautiful to me in any situation. Even choosing cabbage with her was beautiful and exciting, as if there was a connection between her, the Earth, and things Earthy. I kissed her right there in the grocery store. The proprietor saw it, smiled, and looked away.
I found myself uplifted by the recognition that she reflected something profound that I felt deeply about. My being in Love with her seemed more and more an acknowledgment of myself that had remained dormant until this time. I kissed her two more times in quick succession. I think she somehow knew why. She responded shyly. Afterwards I felt ashamed.
Actually, it was Steve who intrigued me the most. I could understand Ursula. I respected her immensely. Also, I loved her deeply in a way that was different than how being in Love is generally understood. It wasn't the type of attraction that is possessive, but one that sprang from an up-welling joy in the beauty of being in Love. It flowed from an appreciation of the moments that we had shared. Steve touched me in a different way. I found in him a rare mix of humor and a depth of perception that had made our conversation appear like a game of chess. We both expected the other to comprehend what we barely comprehended ourselves, and to find in that a limit that we could challenge and move beyond. In addition to this, Steve was sensitive, gentle, kind, and secure in his feelings. He appeared untouched by what he understood was happening in the real world, though Ushi has said he was scared of what he knew. No political activist that I knew had ever been like Steve. Furthermore, Steve was a family man. He cared about Ursula, his students, his university, and his world. To me, he was a puzzle, because of this. I felt like an intruder in his world. Why had he invited me to his home? A blind man would have seen how much I cared for Ursula. Still, here I was, at his request, alone with Ursula in his own home. Together, we were getting dinner ready.
Steve arrived precisely on time. The dinner was late in getting ready. Ushi and I had everything prepared up to the stage of cooking it. The meat was marinated. The red cabbage was sliced. The potatoes were peeled and cut. The carrots peeled and sliced into long strips. Everything that we had bought on the way home was now ready for cooking. A faint sour sweet aroma filled the apartment from the marinating sauce.
I was still in the kitchen helping Ushi, when Steve came home, helping to finish the final preparation.
Steve took his coat off, washed, changed his shirt, and then kept us company. He stood in the open doorway. The dinner table had already been set up. The good plates had been put out.
Steve just smiled and shook his head. "Is the Ogarkov Plan real?" he repeated my earlier question. "I wonder if there is one person in the entire Soviet hierarchy, who would agree with us that it isn't?" he said. He turned to me and added, "when we met in my office this afternoon we weren't on the planet Earth at all. Our kind of thinking was more like the kind of thinking, that one finds associated with advanced species from outer space in science fiction movies, on rare occasions. On still rarer occasions, if one is lucky, one might also find a trace of it here." He grinned as he said this. "How many people can understand what we talked about in my office, Pete? Hardly anybody even knows about the Ogarkov Plan, and those who do, like the military planners who carry it out, can't imagine that it isn't what they believe it to be. But let me ask you a similar question," he added. "Our precious societal values, are they real?"
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