No answer 

The search for understanding is not always conclusive

I really have better ways of wasting my time. Like I could have spent the last two days helping Lary plot to overthrow the gentrification of his neighborhood. He lives in a warehouse on Pryor Street that used to be surrounded by trash and passed-out alcoholics, an environment he much preferred over the Tudor houses with picket fences now popping up around him faster than mushrooms in a field.

"Hurry up, I'm gonna run up the street waving my gun," he yells into my voicemail. He knows I love to be there when he pretends to be a dangerous lunatic. The lunatic part he doesn't even have to fake. In all it's a pretty effective method of scaring off potential homebuyers.

I used to worry a police officer would shoot his ass, as police officers seem to be famed for doing, especially with Lary waving a real gun and not a cell phone or wallet or whatever it was that prompted police to pump 41 bullets into that poor guy in New York that one time, but I guess officers in Atlanta are different. I once ran to one in Lary's neighborhood to complain of bullets being fired a few doors down. That Lary was firing them is beside the point, as he was firing them at an escaping intruder.

Anyway, the officer did not even answer me. Not really. Evidently the Special Olympics wheelchair race was due to whiz by any minute, and the officer was reluctant to leave his post, you know, in case the athletes were endangered or anything. So I guess bullets flying around did not constitute a danger. See what I mean? That's no answer.

"Answer the phone," Lary implores. But I can't. For the past two days I have been in the middle of a complete computer-modem meltdown, trapped in the dungeon of tech support and voicemail.

Don't get me wrong, the tech-support people are really nice, and as my sole means of interaction with the outside world for the last 48 hours, they've been quite entertaining. They tell me of past cases, like last September when a couple called to complain that their computer was possessed. "It types out words all by itself!" they shrieked. "It's doing it now!" Ominous phrases clicked on the screen before them, "Thousands dead," "World Trade Center," "terrorist attack." The tech-support guy kept his head, though. He could hear the television news in the background and quickly surmised that their computer had a voice-activated data-input system of which they must have been unaware.

"It's not Satan," he told them, but to them that was no answer. They were not consoled.

Neither am I. Every time I try to connect to the Internet, this error code pops up on my screen: "There Is No Answer," which is just the worst possible message. I mean, even the wrong answer is better than no answer. Humans need answers. I remember in college when my philosophy professor's daughter, a classmate of mine, was murdered by a psychotic carpet cleaner. I'm serious. He abducted her after her car ran out of gas. She was missing for days. I went to a Catholic college, which held daily prayer vigils for her sake, hoping she would be found, and she was. Their prayers got an answer, unfortunately it was the wrong one.

And it's funny, because the study of philosophy hardly ever offers answers of any sort, instead placing importance on questions. I have to wonder if that was any comfort to my professor at that time, the questions that must have tormented him then. His girl, a beautiful human heart walking around in the world wearing a sundress and sandals, extinguished in a brief uprising of evil. "Did she call for me?" he must have asked himself. I hope he didn't dwell too long on that question without inventing an answer. I hope he concluded that "yes, she did call for me." And I hope that through the thread that connected them -- connects them still -- she found him. To this day I find myself inwardly imploring who knows what to please let this man tell himself he answered her call, and please somehow let it be true.

The afternoon after hearing the sad news, I remember walking home down the stone steps facing the sun as it set over the ocean in the distance. The sight knocked me on my ass. I sat there, literally frozen by the radiance of the sight before me, trying not to reach for it as I had in the past. But I could never help myself. I reached for it. Jesus Christ, how can such a cesspit like this planet, full of killer carpet cleaners and other catalysts of hollow human awfulness, also be the instrument of such immeasurable beauty? Is there any answer to that?

Today, confined as I've been in voicemail jail with no buffer between me and my thoughts, these questions keep creeping back. Finally the tech-support person picks up the line. "What exactly does the error message say?" she asks.

"There. Is. No. Answer," I repeated. There is no answer, I thought, but I'm reaching for one anyway.

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