“Now remember what I told you. It’s not about forcing it to happen, it’s about letting it flow over you, letting it surround you.” I still hold his hand because I know that if I let go, he’ll fall into the pull of the voices. With his bracelet off, I know he can handle the idea of setting up a wall for himself but he’s not quite strong enough for that wall to really be a natural presence. I don’t really know how to get him to understand that one part. I honestly can’t recall how it was explained to me.
He nods and closes his eyes, I feel his mind slowly begin to relax. It’s quieter when I’m holding onto him. The bracelet is a good blocking agent but it still lets in whispers. I know he’s gotten used to them but it doesn’t really make me feel any better. I can’t go back in time and make it so I’d met him much sooner and gotten his gift going earlier. There’s no proof that he would have taken to the teaching as he does now as it is.
I can’t help the smile that finds my face when I feel him relax as a whole. He leans back in his chair and I still let my fingers hold his. I’m not letting him go now when I know he’s at his most vulnerable. I listen to his mind from the outside as best as I can. I can tell that the bricks of his protective wall are slowly settling into place. I think that before too long he’ll be able to go about his daily life without the bracelet on for much longer periods of time.
“Feel as if you’re just floating in water, I know you can’t swim but this is your mind, it’s different. Just focus on my voice, on how the words flow. You’re just floating in water, it is everywhere. It is below you, besides you and above you. You open your mouth and water fills you. You’re not choking, you are part of the water, you’re all right. Water is you.”
Water is usually the easiest thing to get someone to focus. Even if he’s never been in a pool in his life, he has been in the shower and I bet he has been in a tub. It’s the same thing, water surrounds us we just float. Most of us in any case.
He gasps briefly as I feel his mind follow in with the water flowing over him and into him. He doesn’t struggle and he lets go. This is good. Water is a good dampener honestly and I slowly, carefully remove my hand from his. He doesn’t try to hold me back. I’m not far, my mind still is with his and as our fingers part, I feel the voices that usually attack him bounce partly off the ‘water’ as it now surrounds him. I nod to myself and I reach for his hand again.
He grasps at my fingers and his eyes shoot open the moment we touch. He hacks and coughs as if he’s just broken through the water and I chuckle gently. I only squeeze his fingers to remind him I’m there and I smile at him when he looks at me with those wide, uncertain eyes.
“That actually went rather well. In a way, your gift, our gift is a bit like water when you let it. When you’re in water, under the water more precisely, everything gets a little dulled. Sound travels differently. Now I’m not saying you absolutely have to learn to swim or that you have to change your method when it comes to blocking the voices. I’m just saying that this is another option.”
He nods and I squeeze his fingers gently.
“Let me show you something, all right?”
I’m not sure where we are though that hardly matters. When he looks around us, his smile is all there though there is a somewhat sad twist to his lips. This might be where he met Andoni. I only bring us into his mindscape, I don’t dig through his memories. Everywhere we see is from his mind and that’s just the point of everything in the end.
“Where are we?” He finally turns to me, still with that crutch, it is part of him entirely. I shrug gently and I motion to our surroundings.
“We’re somewhere in your mind. This is called a mindscape. I just opened a pathway and I brought us here. It’s easier to teach here but not everyone is comfortable with the idea of letting someone else so completely into their mind.”
He looks around again and I can almost see him trying to connect the dots in his mind. On our left there is an old sort of apartment. It looks like it has seen much better days. On our right there is nothing but empty space. His memories are somewhat strange, as if everything is set into little compartment and only bits and pieces come together. Yael’s mind is very different from this. I don’t mind, I can work with this.
“I know you’ve been up to the pool area with Mira, care to take us there?”
He looks at me as if I’ve just asked him to pull down the moon and I laugh softly. I offer him a softly sheepish sort of smile and I shrug. At times I forget that I know all I do because I’ve been here and around for a while.
“Just imagine us at the pool. Or if you’ve ever been at the beach, you could imagine us at the beach but the pool might be easier.”
He nods and closes his eyes for a moment. I brush some hair from his face and he sighs, leaning into the touch. I know how badly he misses human contact. That’s why I don’t mind spending time with him this way. He deserves company. He’s not much different than I am in the long run, still just a soul in a body and every soul needs affection.
Around us, the air shimmers and the old building disappears to be replaced by the pool. I nod to myself and I chuckle. “Very well, Armin. At some point, in the next few months, I’ll let you into my own mindscape, I’ll show you where I was born.”
His eyes widen in surprise and I know I’ve just offered him something no one else will ever be able to offer.
“Do you feel like you could try the water exercise we’ve tried here in your mind? There’s no safer place and I will never let anything come to harm you, I promise.”
He looks down at his clothes and I have to laugh again softly.
“While I have no issues with being naked, I suppose you might,” he blushes as if to answer that point, “and we can just do this with the clothes we’re wearing. This is your mind after all, you can be wearing anything you want.”
I move to sit on the edge of the pool. I roll up my pants, leave my shoes off on the side. Wet clothes in the mind are just one of those things and I hardly mind them. I’ll be dry as can be when I leave this mindscape with him.
He looks down at the pool with a somewhat uncertain look before he’s moving to sit next to me. I smile at him as he slips his crutch from his arm and leaves it on the edge of the pool. “What we’ll do just now is just float. No pulling you under. I don’t think you’re quite ready for this. Maybe next time when I let you visit my old family home.”
He nods and slowly step-hobble into the water. It is hot, not quite steamy but still hotter than I figure it usually is. Then again I haven’t been in the pool on the roof yet but I suppose it might get pretty hot with the way it is setup.
I follow him into the water. I stand next to him as he tries to get his body to float the way it was in his mind during our earlier exercise and I simply settle, I set my hands beneath his back, one near his knees and I straighten him up. For a long moment he’s tense but then he relaxes and I smile down at him.
He smiles back and closes his eyes.
“I’m going to just walk you into slightly deeper water, nothing you can’t handle. I’m still here with you, just trust me.”
He keeps his eyes closed, his breathing is still calm and steady as I head into somewhat deeper water, barely to my waist and I keep my hands to his back and knees.
After a few moments, I do pull one hand back and he remains relaxed, peaceful. I chuckle and finally pull my other hand away. Still he floats and simply breathes a sigh. Part of me had expected him to flail, I guess I shouldn’t underestimate him.
“You’re doing so well, Armin. One thing you can try, when you feel that the voices are trying too hard to get to you, is you imagine this place and this pool, you imagine you’re just floating in a sea of nothing with no one to bother you. It should help. It helped me when I was still learning to grasp the controls of my gift.”
We spent almost an hour in his mindscape, almost a dreamscape by now. He was so relaxed when we pulled back to the surface that I felt as if I’d actually done more than a good action. He slipped the bracelet back on before I released his hand.
“I can barely even hear the whispers now.”
My smile just widens and I nod. This is wonderful news. The bracelet is just meant to put up a barrier, the whispers still get through but if he’s able to essentially no longer hear the whispers then his own painless mental wall is growing stronger, this is wonderful news.
Again I reach out, brush my hand over his cheeks and he leans against the touch.
“I know you think you might end up living the rest of your life alone, Armin, but I’m more than sure someone will come along and give you all you deserve and then some. It’s just one of those feelings and I’m very rarely wrong.”
He shrugs but straightens. “I don’t mind alone.”
“Armin, everyone needs love and affection, one way or another. Even just the simplest of things like touch. It keeps us going. I’ll see you for our shared supper. You’ve been officially invited this time. It was about time you because part of the family as a whole and not as just a distant cousin.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Nuh huh, Armin, you’re coming and that’s final. It’s supper and a movie. We’ll see you there.”