The cell phone rings just as I wake from my nightmare on thanksgiving night. It is a recording: The voice says, “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” A Pungent smell like burnt rubber hits me. What happens? I run out of the homestay (which is called, The House of the Rising Sun”)and see my aromatic flower tea van in flame! The homestay workers are fighting the fire with a garden hose. “Alas, my van load of fragrant tea!” I sit on the stone steps and cry. After they put out the fire the front desk clerk consoles me by saying that only two back tires are burned and that the paint on the van has turned “a Whiter Shade of Pale”. Otherwise the damage is minimal. I inspect the goods and find that they are amazingly in tact. After replacing the two tires at a garage down the block, I make a fragrant tea and eat some dough nuts at a cafe named “Proud Mary”. The whole street seems to be lined with shops of names from some songs of yesteryear! As I watch the names walking down this street which is just outside Dronesville but I have never seen before until I check into the homestay, I cannot help but wonder whether I am dreaming in broad daylight or whether I have been teleported to another time and space.
Someone has sent the above quote from Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man” (1952) to my cell phone. Have I become invisible to the Dronesville’ residents? Or have they (including all living creatures and food) turned invisible to me? I return to my van and try to think hard. Where am I and what have I become? My high tech robot does not work anymore. Neither is my cell phone except for that incoming recorded call by a stranger or robot. “Excuse me, Miss,” I decide to stick my head out of the window and ask a pedestrian, “What is this place?” She looks surprised, “Why, it’s the Twilight Zone, of course!” My first response is to duck under the van seat. “Impossible!!!”
As tech-know millennial nerd, we do not fear the high-tech unknown. But we are quite uncomfortable with anything of the past unknown. I park near a park and see some children playing and singing. One little girl sings, “Somewhere over the rainbow…” So I get down and ask her, “Where is the place over the rainbow?” She looks surprised, “Don’t you know? Of course it’s there!” She points toward Dronesville. OK. Point noted. I decide to give it a try again, entering Dronesville as an official aromatic flower tea seller.
I switch on the radio and hear a blast of 1976 songs with pessimistic and depressing titles like: Silly Love Songs, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Disco Lady, Play That Funky Music, Kiss and Say Goodbye, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Sailing, Take the Money and Run, Takin it to the Streets, Let’s Call it Quits, Still Crazy After All These Years, Crazy on You, It Keeps You Running, Jailbreak, chain Gang Medley… What? There is no choice? A nerd can only take this much. I switch off.
As I approach Dronesville I realize that Dronesville seems not the Dronesville I used to know. It looks period. The houses seem different. Like a newly established housing estate. The place seems brighter and more cheerful. I park my van near my grandaunt’s house and ring the door bell. A young boy with a mop of unruly hair opens the door. “Who are you? ” I am surprised to see a kid of around seven in this house of ancient elders. He grins, two front teeth missing, “Who are you?” He asks me, his mischievous eyes twinkling.
He looks familiar. The missing front teeth reminds me of someone close. Who? I search my memory. Who has missing front teeth? I remember seeing a photo before. A grinning boy with a gap in his mouth. What! I know who he is. I ask the boy the date and he tells me. Yes. I know who he is. He shows me into the kitchen and we sit at the beautiful oak table and talk. Without asking me, he takes out two Yoo-hoo* drinks from the icebox and offers me one. Yes, my favorite at seven. We sit there, looking, or rather, staring, at each other.
“Where are the grown ups?” I finally ask. He shrugs his shoulder, “Somewhere? I suppose,” and continues to stare. Typical answer of a nerd. Not committing to giving any definite information until we are sure what benefits we receive in exchange. I put my hand into my pocket and take out my cell phone and show him, “Well, you know what this is?” I switch on the iPhone and show him the features. He looks incredulous. “May I try it?” He is definitely interested. I let him try a bit and take it back, “Wait, where are the grown-ups?” (To Be Continued)
BTW (by the way) it’s snowing out there. It’s Not This Time of Year Without… snow?
Notes on “Yoo-hoo” (From Wikipedia) Not to be confused with Yahoo!.
Yoo-hoo is an American brand of chocolate beverage that originated in New Jersey in 1926 and that is currently manufactured by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
Since it is neither a soda nor a milk drink, Yoo-hoo’s actual ingredients have long been the topic of speculation. Its official ingredients are water, high fructose corn syrup, whey (from milk), and less than 2% of: cocoa (alkali process), nonfat dry milk, natural and artificial flavors…Yoo-hoo comes in several flavors,including chocolate, double fudge, and strawberry.