In my world there is little or no understanding so I find it calming to play with the understanding other people think they have of each other. The time is just after midnight. I start doing my meditation exercise, using Twitter to focus attention on a certain producer in the TV business. He made the mistake of thinking people who are misunderstood don't understand other people's weaknesses. I am out to destroy this man's reputation, and I am succeeding. I didn't really expect to, so for me each key stroke is Christmas time.*
I send tweets, check the stats to see exactly how many are visiting the linked site, watch as Twitter progressively filters down its broadcast of tweet suggestions to new users, users interested in the subject, users who know users who follow, etc. The chart line soon begins to angle at 45 degrees down to a flat line, this happening within 10 minutes or so.
About one in the morning I am still playing with Twitter in the kitchen of the Chinese woman's apartment. She is a modern woman of about 40 who says her greatest love in life is money. She doesn't love to use it, she only likes to make it increase. That's what she says. She's mad. One day she tells me:
- I feel insulted by you. I have never been so insulted in my life.
- You know, when someone thinks well of you, it means little or nothing. When someone thinks badly, it's the same. It is you that respects the judgment. If you respect me, you should respect my judgment, whatever you thinks that is. If you don't respect me, then it doesn't matter.
- Women are not logical. You know that. And what is your judgment of me?
- Nothing bad. Nothing at all. Why should I judge you?
- I know you do.
- I judge your behavior, like everyone else's. I don't have a problem separating action from person, as long as there is something left over from the action to like, to get along with, to go on with. Sure, I don't love money, and you've told me it's the most important thing in the world to you.
- What do you love?
- You know: Books. I love stories.
- I like your stories.
- So we have something in common. Isn't it enough?
I sleep on her couch in exchange for teaching her English. She complains daily I am cheating her, her couch is very valuable, she could rent it out for more than my lessons were worth, she can get free lessons from the Public Library, from the unpaid intern just assigned to her at her job working for the Veteran's Administration in West L.A.
She'd been repeatedly frustrated, not to say made furious, by my not having a phone. She can't send me emails from work, her computer is monitored. When I said I didn't have any money to pay for one she called me a liar - she was always calling me a liar - but finally overcoming her reluctance to lose value and capital she unlocked the closet door and dug out a telephone, its plastic package unopened, complete with 5 dollars credit. I am to use it only to receive her messages, and am ordered to carry it at all times.
This evening the ringing sound of the phone surprises me. What is that? Who could be calling me? The sound seems to be coming from somewhere in the living room, where my, that is, the Chinese woman's couch is. Coming from the table drawer, the phone left and forgotten there a week before.
I pull out the drawer, flip open the phone, and see there's a message.
I stand still a moment before reading: the loud signal might have awakened the sleeping beast in the bedroom. All clear.
The message is from Angel.
The display informs me there is only enough credit for one more message. I send a reply: write me an email, here's the address.
I walk outside, softly closing the door, go to the fire station across the street where there is wifi from the city of Beverly Hills. Angel wants me to come to the strip club where she works. My problem is, I don't have any money, not even a dollar. I write her an email, say I want to meet and talk when she is off. I'm not comfortable in clubs. She answers she'll make me comfortable. I say why not meet when she is off work, then we can talk uninterrupted. No point to meet, if were just going to talk, she replies. Tomorrow then? Yes, she'll write me the next day. But she doesn't.
Today I received another email from Angel. Her email hasn't been working, she explains. It's been a couple of months.
What I've heard is true: the phone is for meeting, email is to avoid meeting. So we didn't meet. In two weeks time I was on the plane flying back to Europe.
I had met Angel only once, at Starbucks in Beverly Hills, the lucky Starbucks. She was engaged on an errand gone terribly wrong with an older man who had to fight to get out his words. I gave her directions as best I could, invited her to sit down and rest a while at my table. When she was ready to leave she slipped a folded piece of paper into my jacket pocket. It was her telephone number, she said. She said she saw by my ring that I was married, but I had no idea how much I had helped her. We were two people whose lives were in a mess. Maybe we should know each other.
But that was not to be. I am up at the Citadel, out of the country. I feel a great relief. Everything is the same here at the hotel, the fortress on the hill overlooking Budapest. The things I liked before are here still. The simple arm chair, the humming of mysterious machinery in the next room. Much goes on here that I don't understand. Overall there's a stunning disregard for business efficiency, money being made on more ancient principles.
Here I am out of history. For a while.