"Jack, I don't know what's wrong with you, lately. You've been acting SO strangely. It's like I don't even know you anymore."
Jack's Mom sat a plate of eggs and bacon in front of him, then buttered some toast.
They lived on the second floor of an old two flat, and the kitchen, though large and roomy with big windows, was gloomy. The tall building on that side, where the windows were, blocked out all the light that might have come in, and the big building across the alley blocked the light from the back porch, as well. The funny thing was, it had never bothered him, before.
Suddenly, it did. Suddenly, he didn't like this constant gloom in the apartment. His room, next to the kitchen, was just as bad. Just as dark, all the time. You always had to have the lights on.
This morning it had happened again. He was shaving and staring at his face in the mirror and it didn't make any sense to him. Like when you think of a word, over and over until it loses its meaning - until you lose the context and it becomes ... strange. Almost like a foreign word. That's what it was like, looking at his face in the mirror. It was like a foreign word.
"I don't know, Ma. I've been a little out of sorts, lately. I'll be okay. Don't you worry."
He picked up his toast and took a bite, then laid into his bacon and eggs.
"It's okay, Jack. It's just that you're all I've got. I worry about you, you know? But you eat your breakfast and we can go down to the green grocer and pick up some stuff for supper, tonight."
"I'm going out, Ma. I'm going for a walk. I ... I need to go for a walk."
"Ah, there you go, Jack. You NEVER go out. You're always in this house with your books and your computers and your online games and I see you when you're hungry. Sometimes. You never shower. You seldom shave. You wear the same clothes until they're ready to stand by themselves and the stink'll kill ya. But in the last month all of that seems, somehow, to have changed. You sleep at night, now. You shower and shave every morning. You eat. Regular meals, Jack. You're eating regular meals! What has come over you?"
"I told you, I'm just a little out of sorts, that's all. Now don't worry. I'm going out as soon as I finish this. I won't be long. I just feel like ... I HAVE to go out ... it's almost like I'm looking for something ... but I don't know what. I just have this URGE."
"Do you want another cup of coffee before ya go?"
Jack finished his food, wiped his mouth on his napkin, stood up, leaned over, and kissed his Mom on her forehead.
"No, Ma. I don't. I'll be back in a little while."
Jack had been wandering around for most of an hour. It was a bright and sunny day, even though it was cold and your breath made a cloud in the air. He liked this. He looked around and realized he had no idea where he was, but he didn't care. He stopped and looked at himself in the reflection of the glass in a doorway, and felt that funny "stranger" thing again - when the door opened. A woman stepped out, a bundled up baby in her arms, and a purse, and a "baby bag". Her hands were quite full and now she was struggling to lock the door behind her.
"Here. Let me help." He smiled and held out his hand to take her keys. Instead, she looked at him for just a moment and then thrust the baby into his arms and said, "Hold her".
She turned back to lock the door and her keys fell to the ground and then she dropped her purse and things scattered all over the sidewalk. Jack started to bend over to help her pick up her belongings but she said, "I've got it. You just hold Jennie."
Jack stood up and looked at the little face so close to his.
"Hi, Jennie", he cooed. "You're a little cutie, you are."
He reached up his free hand and tickled the end of her nose with his finger. She reached out and grabbed his fingers in her two little hands. He bent his head to kiss her little hands but she placed a hand on each of his cheeks and rubbed her nose against his."
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!???"
Jack was startled and aghast. The mother reached over and grabbed her baby.
"I'm sorry. I wasn't doing anything. We just ... connected."
The mother, frightened at herself for giving her baby to a total stranger, more than anything else, didn't say anything. She just collected herself, arranged her baby, and purse, and baby bag. She turned and started to walk away.
Jack looked after her.
"Her name isn't Jennie, you know."
A statement. Not a question.
The mother stopped. She didn't turn around. She just stopped to listen.
Jack continued, "Jennie isn't supposed to be her name."
"Oh it isn't, is it? And just what is her name supposed to be?"
"Arta. Her name is supposed to be Arta."
There are cultures, ancient long lived cultures, that believe in the Circle of Life. Cultures that believe the soul never dies - that death is a doorway to another existence - that the soul looks out through other eyes with no memory of where it's been. Who it's been. And yet, who is to say that sometimes, just sometimes, connections are made that are meant to last, and nothing can or will, stand in the way.