(continued from part 1)
The next morning, the two men scarcely did much of anything at all. In fact, the two of them failed to even greet one another as they arrived. Harold paced around the room with his left hand on his right elbow and his right hand stroking his chin. Every so often, he would stop, widen his eyes, flicker his lips, and open his mouth, only to resume his pacing. Thurmond, on the other hand, sat at his desk with his large, round chin resting plopped on his fist as usual. Occasionally, he would raise his fingers and lift up on his small glasses. Small might not quite convey the correct contrast. Thurmond was a rather large man, not tall, but bulky. On the contrary, he was a rather short man, much shorter than Harold, however, he was much broader than Harold. His eyes were large like plump almonds, and his nose was short and wide with deep, cave like nostrils. His jaw had almost no elongation, and his cheekbones drooped from the weight of his bulldog like cheeks. With all this in mind, his glasses looked like ones that a small child might wear. You see, he wasn’t blind as a bat, but he also wasn’t the sharpest eye around, especially when it came to staring at detailed sketches for hours on end. The rims of his glasses barely covered his eyes, and he fiddled with them often. In the midst of all this, he gradually stopped fiddling and started methodically lifting them, up, down, up, down, up, down.
“Harold,” he said, speaking the first words of the morning, “how many pine trees would you say you have seen in your life?”
Harold stopped pacing and squinted his eyes. Looking down at the floor, he gently tapped his pointer finger on his chin.
“Several,” he said plainly. “It would be impossible to say.”
“Of every one,” continued Thurmond very delicately, “can you say with absolute certainty that you have never, for one moment, looked upon one in particular for a second longer in consideration that it looked vaguely familiar, as if you had seen it there once before, in that exact way?”
Harold stopped tapping his finger and stood completely still for a very long moment. The two men resumed their silence yet again. It is not as if there had not been silence among them before. On the contrary, it came often. However, each man’s eyes ticked like the face of a finely developed wristwatch; rhythmic and monotonous, yet veiling an internal presence of remarkable productivity.
“Could it be,” mused Thurmond rather poignantly, “that we have each tasted only one breath of wind, smelled one scent of pine, gazed upon only one tree, heard the rush of only one breeze, and felt the bark of only one trunk?
Harold did now look over at Thurmond, and he walked over toward Thurmond’s desk. At this point, Thurmond reached up and took off his flat cap, which he wore every day. He brushed his fingers across the inner ring of it, and he spun it around in his hands slowly. Lowering it, he reached for his glasses and gently lifted the tiny frames off his nose with two of his sausage like fingers, placing them on the desk.
“My boy once had a dog,” recalled Thurmond very gently. “Small. Short little legs. It used to scamper around the house for no reason at all, panting the whole time.”
He turned his longing eyes back down to his cap and began to brush it again. Harold watched him intently.
“Occasionally,” Thurmond continued, “it would hop up next to me in my chair and rest its tiny head down on my leg, and I would stroke it with two fingers.”
He lifted two of his fingers and waved them a few times.
“I would,” he continued, “very much love to see that dog again.”
Harold moved his eyes over to the desk, which was still covered with the sketches from the day before. He reached down and shifted a few, taking a moment to look at each. He leaned down onto the desk and arranged the papers with both hands. Thurmond, who had been staring down at his cap for quite some time now, turned in his chair and looked over at what Harold was doing.
“Thurmond,” said Harold, still looking at the papers, “when we designed the prosthetic, what were some of its key qualities?”
Thurmond inhaled a deep breath and then exhaled.
“How do you mean?” he responded.
“What was its primary intention?” restated Harold.
“To,” said Thurmond, speaking with his hand, “supplant the missing arm and mimic its natural motion. To, essentially, replace that which was lost.”
“Tell me then,” said Harold, “how does a blind man know when someone is coming near him?”
“Well,” said Thurmond, “I suppose he listens.”
“Precisely,” said Harold, “the remaining senses must work harder to compensate for the missing one, for the brain is relying on them.”
Harold leaned back up from the table and stood completely straight.
“Our brain is missing something,” he said, “that is vital to memory.”
Thurmond cocked his head to the side.
“Our senses,” he continued, “are supplying the brain with abstractions that are reminiscent of the truth, however, they cannot give the whole truth.”
“Which is?” asked Thurmond.
“The past,” said Harold. “Our senses are receiving the present, yet, our memory’s sole purpose is to recall the past.”
Thurmond tightened his lips and widened his eyes.
“Our senses are attempting the translate the present,” said Harold, “and our memory is constantly looking for the truth, and occasionally, it thinks that it may have found it.”
“Fascinating,” said Thurmond.
“Truly,” said Harold. “It seems as if our present consciousness is at all times deciphering the present, in order to keep us from feeling that we are lost in the past. When we experience déjà vu, it is as if the hands of our internal clocks are twitching, making us believe that we are seeing the past rather than the present.”
“This is quite a realization,” said Thurmond.
“Could there be,” proposed Harold, “a way in which we might strengthen our mind’s ability to discern the present from the past, in order to prevent this state of confusion?”
“Perhaps,” responded Thurmond, “it is not a confusion at all.”
“How do you mean?” asked Harold.
“Perhaps,” continued Thurmond, “it is a proper thing. Perhaps our memory is occasionally providing a needed relevance.”
“Intriguing,” said Harold, who was now stroking his chin once more. “Proceed.”
“Well,” said Thurmond, “the past is recalled for a reason, is it not?”
“Indeed,” said Harold. “Without a memory of the past, there would be no reason for the present.”
“Correct,” said Thurmond. “What I am stating is that these recurring states of déjà vu are actually a very proper thing, in that they are showing us were we have been. Perhaps this is an opinion rather than a fact, but it does provide ample reasoning for the recurrence of these phenomena.”
“It very may well be an opinion,” said Harold, “however, let us run with it a moment.”
“According to this opinion,” began Harold, “the past is necessary to be recalled because the present relies upon it for relevance. Without the past, the present has no meaning, and only exists for action. In fact, it doesn’t even exist for action, but rather, it is nothing more than action.”
“I am following,” said Thurmond.
“Likewise,” said Harold, “without the present, the past does nothing, and therefore, it is nothing more than history without meaning, or past action.”
“Go on,” said Thurmond.
“Now,” said Harold, “our present conscious is aware of the past, and we have already stated that it gives due recognition to the past for its provision of relevance. Where does the future fit in to all of this?”
“The future,” said Thurmond. “I supposed it would work similarly to the past, but with the opposite connection.”
“Precisely,” said Harold. “The future alone is nothing without the past and present. The past provides relevance to the present, and the present provides need for the future. The future is what will happen, based on what has happened and what is happening because of it.”
“Go on,” said Thurmond.
“In a way,” continued Harold, “there is only the past and future, while the present is acting as a mediator between the two. It is determining the future because of the past.”
“I see,” said Thurmond. “The present seems to be the only one without meaning, yet it provides meaning to the others.”
“Precisely,” said Harold. “Therefore, it carries meaning just the same.”
“I think I understand all this just fine,” said Thurmond. “The question which has been on my mind, however, is this: At what points do the past end and the present begin? And the same for the future?”
Harold stood for a moment and raised his hand to his chin, tapping his finger on it once again. He walked around the room for a few moments, stopping every so often to do the same thing. Thurmond, on the other hand, sat at his desk as before. For a moment, it appeared as if the two men had gotten no farther than where they had been that morning.
“The past is always the past,” said Harold, breaking the silence. “The present is always the present.” He turned back toward Thurmond and walked over to him. “And, the future is always the future.”
Thurmond pushed out his chin a bit, glancing his eyes up to Harold for a moment.
“Each one exists in its own timeframe,” said Harold. “In other words, the past never becomes the present, but rather, the two are connected. It is the action that passes through each of them.”
“Explain,” said Thurmond.
“For example,” said Harold, “the words in which I am saying now are present action, but they are about to become past action, however, before I spoke them, they were future action that was determined by past action, which was you asking me to explain.”
“I see,” said Thurmond.
“Now everything which we have said is past action,” said Harold.
“It is quite a peculiar thing,” said Thurmond.
“Indeed,” said Harold.
The two men stood smiling faintly for a moment of silence which was at first very content, but which soon became rather uncomfortable. Harold cocked his head to the side and curled his eyebrows. Thurmond looked over at him and watched, waiting for him to speak.
“Thurmond,” said Harold, “you seem to have made a remarkable discovery.”
Thurmond adjusted in his chair.
“How do you mean?” he said
“I mean,” said Harold, “that the question you asked seems to have brought up a rather curious realization.”
“I am not sure I follow,” said Thurmond, who was now searching for Harold’s focus.
Harold was walking around now, however, he was doing so in a much different fashion than usual. His hands were on his chin, but he was not stroking it or tapping it, but rather, he was raising his hands to wipe his face and stroke his near hairless head. A few times, he even stumbled, only to pay no attention to the fact.
“Harold?” said Thurmond curiously.
“Hmm?” said Harold, not looking at him.
He continued to walk around the room aimlessly, until finally he looked over at Thurmond and realized that neither of them was speaking. Thurmond turned his head a bit and blinked a few times at him. Harold did the same.
“Are you…” said Thurmond slowly, “alright?”
“Yes,” said Harold nodding.
The two men looked at one another for a rather long moment.
“You were saying something,” said Thurmond.
“Was I?” said Harold, though not in a confused manner.
“Yes,” said Thurmond. “You were about to explain your realization.”
Harold smiled at him rather strangely, but didn’t speak for a moment. Thurmond curled his eyebrows and looked at him in a very confused manner. Suddenly, Harold stopped smiling, and straightened his posture.
“Oh my!” he said. “I didn’t explain anything, did I?”
“No,” said Thurmond. “Nothing at all.”
“Oh dear,” said Harold. “I do apologize.”
“It is quite alright,” said Thurmond. “But please, if you will.”
“Yes, of course,” said Harold as he straightened his shoulders and stepped over to the other side of the room, looking rather embarrassed. “At what point did the past begin?”
“I am not sure,” said Thurmond. “I suppose it began at the point in which the first action took place.”
“Ah,” said Harold, “but then it would be present action.”
Thurmond turned his eyes down and reworked his thoughts for a moment.
“At what point does the future end?” asked Harold.
Thurmond looked up at him, but he did not speak.
“Thurmond,” said Harold, “Every present action is determined by the past, and it determines the future. We have already stated this.”
“Yes,” said Thurmond.
“If this is the case,” said Harold, “then the first action, which you spoke of, happened because of a past action or state.”
Thurmond looked down at his desk and took off his glasses.
“The past determines the future,” said Harold. “It always has.”
Thurmond looked up at him.
“Thurmond,” said Harold, “we have seen the future. Déjà vu is helping us to determine it. Why else would these memories recur?”
Thurmond watched but said nothing.
“The past gives relevance to the future,” said Harold. “In the same way, our memory is relevant in determining the future! Why, it isn’t confusion at all!”
Thurmond said nothing, but he began to smile, and he rested back in his chair.
“You were right, Thurmond!” said Harold. “Our minds are not confused at all!”
The men both started laughing, and Harold slapped Thurmond on the shoulder. Thurmond rubbed his hands over his face, covering it completely.
“I’m afraid I have to disagree with you,” laughed Thurmond. “At this moment, my mind is very confused. In fact, due to the past conversation, I am presently feeling the effects of what may very well be a future migraine.”
The men laughed and Harold pulled up a chair, sitting down for the first time all day.
“Yes,” said Harold, “but don’t fret. The future will hold a migraine in which you have never before experienced.”
The men laughed harder this time. Thurmond took off his hat and wiped water from his eyes.
“You know,” he said, “I think you were right. The present migraine of this moment is worse than the one of the last.”
Harold dropped his head back in his chair and laughed, and Thurmond was now in a laughing fit, constantly wiping tears from his giant, beady eyes.
“Well,” laughed Harold, “as with all past migraines, the future should hold relief.”
“Yes,” laughed Thurmond. “Perhaps the next moment shall be better than the last.”
“Yes,” agreed Harold. “Perhaps.”