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Ch. 6: Depth of Field

Ch. 6: Depth of Field
This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series UMM Holland

“Hey Lisa,” I started. “Seriously, I don’t really know where that came from and I don’t understand it.” I took a deep breath.

“I know.”

“But I don’t know. I’m really glad you know, but I don’t know,” I had to just ask my question. Again. “Could you just tell me what’s going on?” I waited for a second and then added. “Please?”

We kept walking, but I decided that I wasn’t going to say anything else and not allow myself anymore brilliantly clever commentary. It seemed like Lisa was trying to figure out how to tell me something and, as I learned in debating class, don’t give in with a crutch of more talking, just leave the silence. At some point, it’s on your side and you need to let it work for you.

The hard part was that I had no idea what she was going to say and the silence was battling with my patience. Like a full-on civil war re-enactment complete with muskets and those fanatics who do that sort of thing every year.

With every effort that I could muster, I stayed silent and waited. We walked. I looked into more and more windows. In one window, a man looked down at me and it was obvious he was looking right at me. As soon as he realized I was looking at him, he gave me a quick smile and winked. C’mon, seriously? I would have said aloud had I not vowed forever silence.

There was a sparkle in the eye that blinked. No green emeralds, but more like a fake movie-eye-blink sparkle. He quickly winked again and the sparkle was gone. His eyes stayed on me as I kept walking. Whatever. This was all getting to be a little much.

I wanted so much to tell Lisa about the guy, but then again, she probably knew. Duh. This was getting predictable. I was just about to break my vow of silence and let her know that I had things to do and needed to, uh, do some things and get a move on and I’d leave the emeralds and glowing marbles to her and her little world. I was done.

I looked over to her ready to make a bold statement and saw tears in her eyes. For this, I could break my silence.

“Hey, what’s up? Are you OK?” I asked.

“Yes, thanks, I’m fine,” she sniffed and wiped one of her eyes. “I just don’t quite know how to break this to you, do you know what I mean?”

I didn’t answer, but my answer was No, I have no idea what you mean and it was obvious by the blank stare on my face and lack of verbal response.

“No, of course you don’t know what I mean. You’ve been asking me all afternoon what I mean and I continue to not tell you. Please bear with me, I’m trying to get it out to you in a way you can understand.”

“OK,” was about all I could say. It’s hard to help people with things you don’t understand.

“How did they tell you about it? What was it like for you? You said you were in my same shoes?”

“I fought it,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on and I thought it was a dream or even an awake sickness or a nightmare, but I was awake and it was daytime and they were real people and so was I and it was all just so bizarre.”

I nodded, letting her continue.

“At some point, I realized that they weren’t going to give up, so I decided to give in. I just said to myself, ‘Fine, let them play their game. I’ll play along and then sneak away.'”

“OK, now we’re getting somewhere!” I said with maybe too much excitement.

“That’s how you feel, right?”

“Well, a little, but you’re not scary and I have to admit, I’m curious.”

“Glad I’m not scary,” Lisa said with a smile. I was happy to see a smile again. “But are you scared?”

“Oddly,” I said quickly, “No.”

“Good. That’s a good sign. A good sign that things will go well.”

“So what happened next?” I asked, not wanting to lose the momentum.

“It all went away for a time and I thought maybe it had been just a one-time thing,” she stopped, but clearly wasn’t done. “But it wasn’t.”

“Is that like my story with Italy?” I asked.


“So I’m sort of in phase two?”


“What happens now?”

“You’re not going to want to hear this,” she said and looked at me with something of a smile that was being held hostage by a frown.

“Try me,” I gave her the best of my bravado.

“I have to leave you.”

I didn’t quite know how to react to that one, so as I tend to do, I let my gut feeling take over.

“I don’t want you to leave,” I said in the least scary, least needy kind of way. But I was scared of her leaving and was feeling pretty needy.

“I know.”

“Will I see you again?” I asked.

“It depends.”

“Yeah, I thought the answer might be something like that,” I said. “In fact, I’m going to resist even asking what it depends on.”

“Smart move,” she exhaled audibly and looked to me to check that I was OK.

“Don’t leave me just yet, OK?” I asked.

“I won’t,” she said. “But I might just sort of disappear at some point.”

“So you can disappear?”

“Well, not like you’re thinking,” she laughed and was again at ease. You could tell she wanted to be at ease, that she wanted to tell me more, to tell me everything, but something was holding her back. “Not like poof and I’m gone in a cloud of smoke or anything.”

“Thanks for the warning at least.”

“Yeah, you’re welcome.”

“You know I’m trying to make this as easy on you as I can, right?”

“I think I know, yes.” I said, trying to sound sincere. I thought for a second. “Do I have a choice in this? Can I choose to not do whatever it is we’re talking about? Can I just walk away and not join or do whatever it is we’re doing?”

“Yes, absolutely,” she said with conviction.



“But what?” I asked.

“But, well,” she paused to try to formulate her words. “Once you know a little bit more, you won’t only won’t want to turn around and run, but you’ll want more and more.”

“Oh,” was all that I could say. “It sounds like a drug.”

“It’s kind of like a drug.”

“But it’s not a drug.”

“It’s not a drug.”

“Can we play 20 questions?” I asked. “Like is it animal, mineral, plant?”

“Yes, but you’re not going to guess what it is.”

“Is it animal, mineral, or plant?”


“None of those?”


“Oh, what’s left?”

“You tell me.”


“Can I see it right now?”


“But how do I know what to look for?”

“If you knew that, I wouldn’t be here.”


“It’s one of my roles to help you see what you can already see until you can see it for yourself.”

“Oh,” I said instead of saying nothing. “How do you do that?”

“Like this,” she said and she put her hand on my arm as we walked further on the canal.

“I don’t see anything,” I said like a 7-year old with the patience of a 6-year old.

“Keep seeing,” she said calmly. Her voice was a little different.

“What am I looking for?”

“If I told you, you wouldn’t be able to see it.”

“That makes no sense,” I said.

“I know, but go with it.”

“Oh,” came my all-too-regular response.

“Stop looking and start seeing,” she again hushed me into a calmer state.

“How do you see and not look? What’s the difference? Am I going to get a manual?”


“Any tips from a seasoned pro like yourself?”

She was silent for a moment. “OK, here’s one. You know when you’re looking through a window, like into a shop? You can choose what to focus on, what you see. You can either pull your focus back and see the window itself and the scratches on it and maybe a reflection or you can look through the glass and see what’s inside the shop. Know what I mean?”

“Yes. Thank you,” I said and tried to do that but there wasn’t a window to help me focus. I looked ahead of me. I focused on a tree as we walked by it. I went really close in and saw Lisa’s hand on my forearm. I felt like a movie producer, panning and scanning, zooming in and out.

Coming towards us were a group of people, seven of them. I saw something.

I felt a twinge on my forearm and saw that Lisa had lessened her grip, but was resting softly as we walked slowly. She tapped with her finger on my arm and it opened up what seemed like that shop window pane and immediately two of the seven people coming towards me took on something of a filter. The other five were just as they were, but the two were somehow different.

“I can see,” I said quietly.

“Good,” she said even more quietly next to me and she lessened her grip even more. Maybe she was just hovering her hand above my arm now.

As the people came closer, I could again see the two of them in what seemed like a different light, as if a light was shining down on them, like an interrogation lamp in a thriller movie. But nothing like the glowing marble or any twinkling eyes.

I squinted and then closed one eye and then opened it and then closed the other. No help. Still the same difference.

“I could use that manual, Lisa,” I said, but kept looking straight ahead and trying to not try to look, no, wait to see. What was I supposed to be doing again? Oh yes, trying to not try. Yeah, put that in the manual. I smiled at my probably-award-winning humor and was about to tell Lisa of the whacked thoughts swirling around in my head like a toilet bowl in Australia when one of the two who looked different looked directly at me.

It was as if I knew her, but she didn’t look at all familiar. I scoured the database of my memory but came up with a big zero. Her face was so clear, her eyes so bright and everything around her was fuzzy and getting even more so. It was like playing with the aperture on a camera.

Suddenly, she looked at little worried and her eyes directed me towards the other one of the group who I could see clearly. As I switched to that one, I saw that it was a much younger man, a boy really, maybe early twenties. I didn’t have too much time to figure it out as he also stared into me, but this time he pointed with his head, with his eyes, to my feet and also had something of a look of concern on his face.

I decided to finally look down where they were looking and saw that I was about to step into the canal. There was something of an anchor to tie up the boats and this one was depressed into the street and my foot was about to step onto the anchor.

I quickly pulled up my foot so as to not land on the anchor but as I did, I lost my balance and started to fall into the canal. It happened in both slow motion and hyper speed at the same time and while I tried to figure that out, my body, in the full speed that gravity tends to help out with, was falling into the canal.

I reached for anything that was around me and only found a bicycle to save me. I got a good grip onto the back wheel as my fingers interlaced through the rim and the spokes and I knew this could hold me until the bike started coming with me.

Of course, no card-carrying Amsterdammer would lock his bike up to nothing, but within half a second I found out what the bike was locked up to: another bike. A domino of sorts began and the two bicycles were following me into the canal.

As I fell backward I looked back up to the street to see who might help me and there was no one. As I debated how this was possible, time sped up and the next thing I knew, I was in the water.

The one bike was hanging from the cable to the other bike which was cabled to a pole. I pulled myself up and climbed up over the seat and the handlebars and got myself up onto the ledge of the canal to rest on the warm cobblestones.

I had never fallen into a canal before. There was a first time for everything. I had to tell Lisa about how many bikes fall into canals every year. But she wasn’t right in front of me. I looked towards where the group was headed and they were gone. I was in the water for maybe ten seconds. Where could they all have gone?

Lisa wasn’t to the left. She wasn’t to the right? For no logical reason, I opened my mouth and rather than say something profound or ask questions about what in the world was going on, I just called out.


Series Navigation<< Ch. 5: Take me where I need to go. Show me what I need to learn.Ch. 7: Mirror, mirror on the wall … who’s the guy behind me? >>

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