The Chinese Laundry
Sitting at the Chinese Laundry Cafe after class, Michelle leaned
forward with both hands wrapped around her coffee cup, her sheepskin duffle
coat draped over the back of her chair.
"I wanted to ask a question
but I couldn't," she confessed.
was the question?"
was something like: Is choosing ones niche like magnifying ones muse?"
"Hmm, good question."
so, then maybe ones chosen path should be that which inspires your muse to magnify ones inner music." She spoke with her
usual Vancouver twang.
music; I've never thought of that connection before." Reid looked at the
reflection from three mirrors hanging on the yellow and turquoise wall and
caught the profile of her angular nose. Pretending to be in thought, he looked
for his own profile but instead saw a black dragon painted above him.
"You know, I'm always so amazed at
Bakhurst's mind," she said. "The man has some sort of photographic
memory the way he can quote a philosopher on a whim, like that Kierkegaard
quote he said today."
"I wrote it down." Reid pulled out
wish I could remember it."
"Here it is." Reid's foot began thumping to the beat of
the music. "There are many people who reach their conclusions about life like
schoolboys: they cheat their master by copying the answer out of a book without
having worked out the sum for themselves."
"I like that one."
is a classic." Michelle liked to use the word classic as an expression in the same way as
Englishmen would be tempted to say brilliant. It had become a staple in her diet of words.
have a feeling that Kierkegaard quote was directed towards me for some
"Why?" She smiled.
because he doesn't want me to get by without doing all the readings."
I thought the same thing."
Reid looked out the window and said:
"Don't you feel like you need more time to work out the sum; that there
just aren't enough hours in a day to read it all."
"Or do it all. The larger the equation, the larger the
sum." Sue's eyes were timeless green and steady.
"These days one has to be
an übermensch to get their sums worked
out in time." Michelle leaned forward again to speak.
"Übermensch, excuse me?" Eyelashes catching the
"Über meaning over and mensch meaning man, though it's not gender
is actually more like the English word human than man."
" Über, I've heard that before."
"Overman is the exact translation. It's been translated as superman but that's not quite
accurate. It's more like beyond man, or a man that thrives on overcoming."
"Overman has - to me - a much different
connotation that superman."
one. I agree." He nodded. "Zarathustra is Nietzsche's übermensch. He exercises his will to power to overcome and become who he
is. In a
nutshell that's the overman." When he looked at her he realized that he
genuinely liked talking with her about ideas, and this broke down his fear.
"Do you have your Funk & Wagnall's on you?" This was fun.
don't you pull that puppy out and flip to W."
Grinning, she pulled it out. "The word is will."
"Will, okay." A moment of
flipping pages and she spoke: "Here we are then, will." Michelle cocked her
head slightly to mimic Bakhurst and read:
will: (wil) n. 1.
The power of conscious, deliberate action; the faculty by which the rational
mind makes choice of its ends of action, and directs the energies in carrying
out its determinations; in popular usage, choice, purpose, or directive
effort. 2. The act or experience of
exercising this faculty; a volition or a choice. 3. Strong determination; practical enthusiasm; energy of
character: He works with a will; also, self control. 4. That
which has been resolved or determined upon; a purpose...
Reading on in silence, she skipped a part. As
Michelle spoke she subconsciously expressed herself using her hands and
7. A conscious inclination towards any end or
course; a wish. 8. A request or command
- at will, as one pleases. - v. willed,
will-ing; third person singular,
[resent indicative wills. v.t. 1. To decide upon;
chose. 2. To resolve upon as an action
or course; determine to do. 3. To give,
devise, or bequeath by a will. 4. To
control, as a hypnotized person, by the exercise of will. 5. Archaic To have a wish for; desire. - v.i. 6. To exercise the will. [Old
She looked up from her journal with a warm sheen on
her skin, her long scarf hanging down the fine definition of her neck.
power of conscious deliberate action; direct effort; volition; practical
enthusiasm; energy of character; a purpose,"
he said, distilling what he had heard.
"This is what leads one to their
as you say, become who you are," she said. He nodded.
"Very interesting." She laughed
at him for grabbing his chin like Bakhurst.
what are you going to do about it?"
with working out the answer?" He knew with Michelle he needed to give it
some thought so he mulled for a moment.
I need time."
know, the first step to becoming who you are is to first find out how, then from there it's a
function of effort
and time." Michelle Chatsworth smiled.
"How are you going to do that?"
need time off from commerce. I need to get away for a while." He thought of Nietzsche
and waiting to long to act.
will you do?"
sure. What about you?"
around, maybe tree-plant for some cash over the summer."
would you go? "Southeast Asia?"
there too. Definitely." Michelle's bottom lip quivered and her hair fell
from behind her ear.
don't you do that next year Reid?" She kicked his foot under the table.
"I could join you." She pulled her hair behind her ear.
what, drop out?" The thought of that independence threatened his fragile
with me in Sydney."
going to Sydney?"
begin second-year at the University of Sydney next January." Her hair fell
off her ear again but she left it hanging over her cheek. Reid saw her skiing
background from the fine creases around the edges of her smile.
going to be living in Australia next year?" Michelle reached for her
coffee and nodded. Her smile crinkled her Nordic wrinkles. "Michelle, nice one." She crossed her
arms from the cold November draft coming through the old windows.
"Well, why don't you?"
"It doesn't fit, that's why. Ah, and my Dad would freak, that's
another. Besides, it's too late anyway." He looked up at the large Chinese
umbrella that hung from the ceiling over the corner bar.
"Stop being so repressed Reid. It'll give you
problems in the future." He fidgeted. "And never say never."
"Repressed? Come on." The word struck him in his solar plexus
like an electric volt of angst. He thought somewhere in his cluttered mind that
he looked like his father when he was angry, even with his stiff upper lip.
"You can do so many different things
Reid. The problem for you is overchoice."
mean überchoice." He tried to smile but couldn't.
my opinion your dad sounds like a dreamstealer." When he looked at the flicker in her
pupil the radiance through her green eyes was like sunlight. He felt a wind of
insecurity from her confidence, seeing how she was changing before his eyes.
Reid." Her ethereal face caught Reid's frightful glance; he tried to usher
the words out of his mind but he had been listening.