In which Alice and Keisha have a long-dreaded conversation, and Keisha is reunited with an old friend.
We open the episode with Alice narrating, waxing poetic on the beauty of Tennessee’s forests:
The mountains in Tennessee look almost tropical this morning. Mist over foret canopy, lakes with low bridges. I don’t know what I pictured when I pictured this place, but it wasn’t this. I guess I didn’t picture it. Never bothered to.
Keisha then jumps in, talking about how a lot of major cities have certain buildings that serve as major landmarks, e.g., the Empire State Building in New York City. Comically, Nashville (which is currently where they are) has what she calls the Batman building. It’s actually called the AT&T Building, according to the Google search I just did, but it really is shaped like Batman’s head.
Alice takes over at this point, and she hears a tap on the door to the truck’s cab. Due to a combination of training and general anxiety, this jolts her awake, which in turn wakes up Keisha. Alice motions for her wife to be quiet, and then throws open the door.
The kid screamed. It was a teenage girl. My brain was putting together the words “Oh, you must be-” when Keisha screamed too and threw herself past me.
“Sylvia! Sylvia, you’re safe!”
“Oh, you must be Sylvia,” I said.
The girl nodded into Keisha’s shoulder.
Then there are the credits, followed by Alice describing what Praxis has been up to. Basically, the groups have been meeting about every three months over the past year and a half. She admits that she knew that this process wasn’t going to move very quickly, adding, “The only way to overthrow power is by driving in the thinnest edge of the wedge and then methodically and constantly tapping it for years, until there’s enough leverage for what only looks from the outside like a sudden upheaval.”
She also adds that the Praxis meetings “had taken on a religious aspect,” in that it seems like the group’s members have kinda started to worship the oracles. However, they haven’t exactly been trying to put a stop to this, because “worship and rituals can be tools, used for good or bad.”
They also have been telling members to go out and start their own, smaller groups, since Alice and Keisha can’t be there to oversee the entire operation.
There’s a break, and Keisha picks up from when Sylvia came to to truck. She gives her some food and water, and then asks her to explain exactly what the hell she’s been doing this whole time, and if she had found what she was looking for.
“Yes and no,” she said. She had gone looking for the oracles, just as she said she would. And, like us, she discovered quick that the oracles are only findable when they choose to be found. There is no stumbling on them. They come to you.
Still, she visited every dusty roadside stop that hadn’t seen action since the 70s, and she poked into the corners and the back rooms. She started to get a sense for the find of places that they were drawn to. She discovered, like us, that even when finally encountered, the oracles had difficulty communicaing with people who experience time through a fundtamentally different filter. The more she found and talked to them, the more she felt it was most similar to the way her mind worked when she first woke up, when her thoughts were flat, and straddled what was real and unreal equally. So she would meditate for hours in the mornings, trying to hold onto and extend that way of thinking so she might be able to understand them better.
Sylvia had eventually come to realize that the oracles aren’t really a creature so much as a purpose, and that purpose is to stand agains Thistle. So she decided, even though she might not be able to understand how they communicate, that she would “go on continuing their purpose herself.” She then adds that she also realized that if she wanted to do that, then she would need to find Keisha. So that’s what she did.
There’s another break, and Keisha continues, this time talking about the motel where they’re staying. She notes that it’s mostly occupied by a bunch of teens there to learn about how to break into the country music scene. She compares Nashville and country music to LA and the movies, or New York and theater, or “Las Vegas to utter despair.”
Another break, and Alice once again takes over, this time relaying story that she says she wasn’t there for, but that she heard about later, about a Praxis meeting in closed coffee shop, a group started by the convenience store cashier from Swansea.
He told the others again about what we had told him, passing along our stories as best he could, and, like anyone, sort of making it up anytime he needed to fill the gaps. In this wasy, our story spread. In much less of a direct fashion than a big headline, but in a way that people would actually receive.
The rest of the group then takes turns telling their own stories bout “what they had seenn that hadn’t been possible, and defiitely hadn’t been right,” and are relieved that there are people around them that believe what had happened to them.
Keisha picks up again with Sylvia, after another break. Sylvia tells her, somewhat ominously, that “it’s all gonna end soon.” Keisha acknowledges that this conflict is “coming to a head,” though they still have no clue about how this is all going to actually end. She tells Sylvia that the three of them could be together for itk, and Sylvia agrees, adding that they “scattered out real good” and that the end was the only thing that could get them to get it together enough to meet back up.
Keisha asks Sylvia about the nickname she used to go by when she was younger:
“Forget it, she said.
“Nobody calls me Skip anymore.”
“Alright,” I said.
She took my hand. “You can call me Skip if you want. Shit, woul can call me whatever. I know what you mean by it.”
I put my arm around her, this runaway teenager who I would never be able to protect as much as she deserved. We sate like that for a long while, but we couldn’t sit like that forever. Couldn’t do anything forever.
Another break, and then Alice takes over to describe a conversation she’d been dreading; Keisha tells her that they need to talk about what happens after.
Alice admits that they’ve been staying together because they had a purpose, and that she’s afraid that their relationship won’t survive the ending of that purpose, if they survive it at all. However, after a deep breath, Keisha says something that Alice really doesn’t expect her to:
“I forgive you,” she said. “I forgive you completely.”
I felt this wash of happiness, and also surprise because they were not the words I was expecting, but she brushed aside my hand as I moved it towrd her.
“I’m not finished,” she said.
After another break, Alice continues narrating about the smaller Praxis groups people have been settign up, both large and small. Mostly what she’s talking about is how her and Keisha’s story has changed in the retellings, like a giant game of telephone. Basically, Keisha and Alice, in the minds of these groups, have basically become mytical figures, capable of beating back waves of Thistle Men and controlling the oracles.
Alice isn’t really sure how to feel about this, but knows that there isn’t really anything she can do about it.
Keisha picks up after another break. She says that in the time since Praxis’s founding, it’s been picking up speed, which Bay & Creek and Thistle have both noticed. They eventually find a piece of paper slid under their motel room door, and a horribly familiar silhouette out of the window. They get ready to fight, but when nothing happens, pick up and read the paper.
It’s adressed to Alice, and is asking them to meet at some remote spot in Indiana, signed “Lucy.” Keisha takes this too mean that Bay & Creek are ready to negotiate, and Alice concurs. Keisha then says to “put out the call” to their allies.
After another break, Keisha continues from her earlier conversation with Alice:
“I’m not finished,” I said to Alice. “I’m not forgiving you for your sake. I need to hear all of this, not just the parts you want to hear. I don’t know if you deserve forgiveness, and maybe I don’t care. Maybe there isn’t some great balance sheet where the equation of guilt can be figured until it’s equal on both sides. And maybe it’s just what the person who was hurt feels, right or wrong. And if so then…I don’t wanna think about what you deserve. I want to think about what I deserve.”
I paused. The heaviest part was out of me now, and I could see clear through to the finish.
“I deserve to live a happy life,” I said. “I deserve to have my wife who I love at my side. I deserve to wake easy in the morning, and to fall asleep easy at night. I deserve to not have what you did intruding into our lives. So I want you to understand this: in order to have what I deserve, I must forgive you. But I’m not forgiving you for you. I’m forgiving you because it’s what I deserve.”
Alice nods to her that she understands, and the two of them proceed to share a passionate kiss.
There’s one last break, and Keisha continues with something that happens the night before they’re set to leave for their meeting in Indiana. They hear a knock on the door, and Keisha answers to find Sylvia standing in the hallway.
Sylvia says that she feels strange, and Keisha notes that she actually looks extremely ill. Keisha takes her into the room as Alice comes over to them, concerned.
And then Sylvia fell to the ground and began to tremble. Tears splashed off her face as she shook.
“I understand,” she said. “I understand.”
And in a terrible moment, I did too.
And that’s where the episode ends.
So, some thoughts. First, my prediction at the end of my post about the previous episode did not come true; in fact it was pretty much the opposite. Still, there are interesting things being said here about the purpose of forgiveness. Basically, forgiveness isn’t really for the sake of the person being forgiven, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s more for the sake of the person doing the forgiving, so they can move on with their lives.
Then there’s the ending of the episode. I have my ideas about what’s happening, but, seeing as how my last prediction was way off the mark, i could be wrong.
But anyway, my thought is this: the Thistle Men were once human. Why couldn’t that be the same for the oracles?
It’s something to think about while waiting for the next episode to come out.
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