Mindy, in search of her boyfriend Dave, visits Russell, a man with psychic abilities. When she arrives at his house, she finds that he lives with his parents and is acutely agoraphobic, so much so that he does not leave the bathroom. As a scientist, Russell sometimes uses big words and talks of concepts beyond Mindy’s desire to contemplate.
“Russell?” asked Mindy. She had waited a moment before speaking, then realized his attention was so intense that he might not ever notice her presence.
Russell looked at her for the briefest of moments before shifting his gaze ever so slightly to the side. His gaze constantly shifted, as though he were intensely aware of his inability to maintain eye contact.
“Hello, Mindy,” he said, and as he spoke his stare shifted downward. His non-verbal cues were so acute that Mindy had no need to discuss his situation. Everything that needed to be said she could read in his discomfort.
“I’m sorry,” she said, nonetheless. She couldn’t help wondering what he had experienced to bring him to such a level, what had frightened him enough to shrink his world to such a small existence.
“It’s not so bad,” said Russell. “My life is still much more full than many people’s. Although my physical life is rather restricted, I live a very rich life otherwise. I reach out to people all over the world, go to places that others could not even imagine. From this little room I can make connections to the entire world.”
Whether Russell was referring to connections made through the internet or through his abilities, Mindy was not sure. Both had possibilities that neither she nor the world could yet fully imagine.
“Please, come in,” said Russell. Mindy had been hovering awkwardly outside the door. It was a larger than average bathroom, but was still only intended for one person at a time. Still, Mindy forced herself to enter. It seemed that what they had to discuss needed the privacy of being in the same room together.
“Did you bring what I asked?”
Mindy reached into her purse and pulled from it a cheap item made of plastic that looked like a miniature urn with a pedestal.
“Here,” said Mindy. She handed him the object. “This is known as the cup and ball trick. It’s the first magic trick Dave ever bought. Right from Mr. D’s shop down on Glen Ellyn Road. If you’re looking for something that Dave is connected to on a very deep level, I imagine this is as close as you’re going to come.”
“Good,” said Russell. “Something from his childhood. Something related to magic, which is his passion. I don’t think you could’ve come up with anything better. Although you too match that description,” he said in passing, not allowing Mindy time to respond or even think too much on what he said.
Russell set the magic trick down on the back of the toilet. “I told you I was a scryver. Do you know what that means?”
“Scrying is the ability to see things through the reflection of a surface which is capable of reflecting more than one image. Some people use mirrors, others water. The crystal ball is a popular method for scrying. The object is to gaze into something that allows your mind to focus in ways that it would otherwise not. Physically, it involves overcoming the body’s natural coordination of accommodation and convergence, but with it comes a shifting of the habitual neural pathways the mind is used to using. New mental pathways are formed, like water rising above the riverbanks and spilling into new avenues.”
Russell stopped talking in order to assess feedback from Mindy. It seemed that his ability to gauge feedback had come from intense practice at it, as though it was a learned rather than natural behavior. “Does that make sense?”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Mindy. She had no desire to be lost in explanations. She just wanted to know where Dave was.
“Just think of it as one of those Magic Eye pictures,” said Russell, his ability to gauge feedback obviously limited. “It looks like a repeating pattern of nothing much, but if you are able to force your eyes into behaving differently than they have been trained—not an easy thing to do—you will be able to see something you never would have thought was there. It’s the same thing with scrying. You have to divert your gaze from what you have been trained to look at in order to see what you are not ordinarily looking for. Let me show you. Like I said, it can be done with a mirror or even clear glass, but I prefer water. It seems to be more organic,” he seemed to be attempting humor.
Much to Mindy’s chagrin, Russell turned around and lifted the lid of the toilet, bent over, and stared intently into the water. Mindy didn’t come any closer.
“Uh, can’t we do this in the sink?” asked Mindy.
“Right,” said Russell, looking embarrassed. “I’m afraid I don’t get much company. I’m not used to being around people anymore.”
“How long have you stayed here?” asked Mindy, still unable to get used to Russell’s inability to leave. No, it wasn’t his inability to leave that unnerved her, it was his ability to stay. Whatever his fears, she couldn’t imagine staying in one room like this.
“A couple of years, I guess. I’ve been in the house for longer than that, though. Like I said, though. It’s not so bad. I have friends from all over the world. I get around in ways that people in times past couldn’t even imagine.”
Mindy listened to Russell’s explanation and couldn’t accept them, could not believe he accepted them himself. He knew he had a problem, but he was unwilling to deal with it. When Russell was done helping her, perhaps she could help him. She couldn’t allow another soul to limit himself in such a way. Perhaps all he needed was a gentle nudge out the door.
Russell made his way to the sink, mindful of the limited space in the room and of Mindy’s presence. In a moment, the sink was filled with water.
“Each and every wave and ripple on the water reflects back to me a different angle, a different perspective,” he was explaining to her but talking to himself as well. “It’s impossible to be consciously aware of them all, but each of them excites a certain reaction on the observer. What the result of such reactions is, I cannot say. I was not usually given the results of whatever experiments I was involved in, but then again, I lived it. There are two ways of seeing the world, scientifically and experientially. Some favor the one, some the other. The trick is to keep them in balance.”
Russell was lost in his own thoughts as he seemed to be loosening the grip his conscious mind had on his potentiality. That which made Russell who he was seemed to be unraveling in order to open up new possibilities. The idea both frightened and intrigued Mindy. Russell must have had a great amount of experience letting go of his defenses while participating in experiments, such that allowing himself free reign in front of Mindy would be no big deal. She imagined what it would require to see past one’s everyday image of the world, and she thought it similar to erasing all of one’s past history until one was like a young child whose thought process had not yet developed. She tried following Russell, letting her mind wander in ways that she had not permitted it for many, many years. She found the idea a little frightening yet intriguing. It felt like…trusting. Not trusting some other person, not even trusting herself exactly. It felt like trusting life, trusting the outside world and her relationship with it. She found herself experiencing a freedom, as though she were able to fly, or at least float, like the myriad pre-programmed reactions that she had stored up were sandbags that she were releasing from the hot air balloon that was her consciousness.