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Week 3 – Influence

In early August of 2005 I found myself in a Miami bar lazily drinking a beer and occasionally glancing at the TV above the bar. The man sitting on the stool next to me held a Vodka on the rocks in one hand, his eyes absorbing whatever was on television. He was well-built, muscular, but not overly so, with a handsome, square-shaped face and white-flecked, brown, wavy hair. His shirt looked expensive, button-up with a stylish striped design. At one point he repeated something from the TV. As the conversation was mostly one-sided, I have left out my negligible contribution.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Ha! Screw that!

People are responsible for themselves alone. That’s it. People who try to take responsibility for others never come out ahead.

Take my grandfather. He was a doctor. My dad said he had a special gift for it. “The healing touch.” I never met my grandpa, since he died in the war. But he saved a lot of people, according to my grandmother. As if it was a good thing. He died, and she had to raise three kids, including my Mom, on her own. He could have been a family practice doctor, leave a lot of money to his kids, live a comfortable life with his wife. And what he chose to do instead was better? Fuck that.

My dad wanted me to be a doctor. Especially when he thought I had the healing touch. We had these blueberry bushes, and Dad noticed that after I picked blueberries, they would grow right back the next day. So he started testing me. He’d ask me to touch the leaf of a dying houseplant, and when I did, the plant would start growing again. Once he even asked me to touch a dead plant, hanging over the lip of its pot. I did, and the next day it was healthy as ever.

That’s when he told me about my grandpa’s “healing touch”. Mom never talked about it with me, and Dad thought they were just exaggerated stories, until he started watching me. Grandpa was known to touch a person and heal them. Thing was, I had no interest in being a doctor. It’s too much responsibility, you know? Even as a kid, I knew I didn’t want that. So I started shutting it down. Dad would bring me a sick plant, and I’d do everything he asked –touch it, water it, breathe on it, whatever, and nothing would happen. The plant would just end up the same or maybe a little worse, if I could manage it.

So my Dad sat me down to tell me I didn’t have the healing touch and that it was okay. I had it, but I figured out that it wasn’t so much about healing. It’s about finding the vulnerability in a system. What you do beyond that is where choice comes in.

I’ve always figured that my purpose in life is to be comfortable. I don’t need a lot of money. I just need food, shelter, sex. The basics. So I use my gifts to meet those needs.

My job? There are other ways to get money than with a job. Sure, I was a mechanic for awhile, and I did some work with computers, but I didn’t like or understand either one that much – I was just able to use “the touch” to move and adjust things by feeling them out. I could have been a weatherman, too. I can feel what weather is coming. I could have developed that skill, learned the meteorology vocabulary. But at this point I just use it to feel out when it’s going to rain, how hot the day is going to be, when I need to prepare for a hurricane. Sometimes I can tell weeks or a month in advance, depending on how strong a storm it’s going to be. That’s come in handy a couple of times here in Florida. I only get flood insurance in time to cover me before a flood, then I cancel as soon as I get my payout.

But I’m not really a “job” kind of person. The easiest way to get by in the world is to hook up with rich women.

Oh yeah. Sex is one of the easiest things to manipulate. See that woman at the end of the bar? Not the blonde. Her friend. If I wanted to screw her, I’d send her a drink to feel out how she reacts and get her to make eye contact with me. If that goes well, I’d go sit next to her and talk, and look only at her, not her friend. She’s probably used to people looking at her blonde friend, and not doing that makes her feel special. No, that’s not the touch. That’s just psychology.

I don’t always have to actually touch her for it to take effect, but it’s a lot more potent if I do.  It’s hard to describe, but I feel something in the warmth of someone’s body, something missing, like in her cells or something. Then something in my cells or whatever shift around and sort of flow into her, fill that empty place. I could be touching her anywhere – her hand, her shoulder, her knee. And then I take my hand away. It’s like holding a delicious meal under a hungry person’s nose but not letting them eat it. Then I’m in.

Age difference? Ha. I’ve been at this since I was a teenager, but I swear, the older I get, the younger the women are that want me. Now that I’m in my 50’s I can get any age pussy I want. Within legal limits, of course.

But I’ve converted to older women. They’re the ones with the money. Florida’s the place to be. Rich old men are dropping like flies, leaving rich old women lonely and ready to go.

Of course I don’t meet them in bars. Senior centers are the place. That’s where I met my current wife. Widow of a billionaire boatmaker. I know. Jackpot, right? She’s in her 70’s. In good shape. And seriously, with the touch, I don’t have to spend much time getting her off. It’s quick. Yeah, old and wrinkly isn’t really my type, but rich is, so there you go.

Plus, her husband left her a boat company, and I love sailing. Just me and the water and nobody I have to adjust myself to.

Do I have political aspirations? Funny you should ask. You remember the Bush/Gore race of 2000?

Let me tell you a story.

To set the stage, I’ll start with high school, where I figured out how to make people flunk tests. There was this one smart girl I desperately wanted to fuck, but she had no interest. So on SAT test day our senior year, I made sure I sat next to her, and I bumped her arm. Not physically, but with energy-like – I don’t know how to explain it – and I made her put down wrong answers. Multiple choice works best for this sort of thing.

We got our grades back weeks later. When I see her by the bus stop after school, I ask how she did. She literally falls apart in my arms, sobbing so I practically had to hold her up. Of course I fucked her after that.

Anyway, back to the 2000 presidential election. Bush and Gore are way too close for my comfort. I’m in Palm Beach volunteering in voting booths that year, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to affect the voting of old people. Touch lingers longer in their bodies – kind of like it takes them longer to get rid of a cold. Plus that antiquated voting system! Hanging chads galore. It was practically made to be tampered with.

I also had a hand in the scrub lists. You know, the ones where felons were removed from voting lists. But eventually they found listings to be inaccurate. In fact, some of the felonies listed happened at a future date. I’m not taking full credit of course. Ralph Nader helped, too.

I didn’t like Bush much, but Al Gore got on my nerves, with his global warming crap.

Oh, I believe in global warming. It’s definitely happening. I know because influencing things around me isn’t just a one way street. Opening up those channels to touch others lets things come over to my side, too. That’s how my grandfather could heal people I suppose. He gave them health, but he had to take in some of the sickness to know what was wrong. It’s the same when I’m influencing other people. In order to move around and adjust something inside them, I have to let a little bit inside me. With things, like voting cards, it’s nothing. With people, it’s a pain, but I’ve learned to keep most of it, whatever it is, out. I take only the little bit I need for my purposes and push the rest back.

But with the environment? Forget it. Try to escape from that. Global warming is everywhere, man. It’s in the air we all breathe. The ground we walk on.  It’s not just temperature. I can’t shut out global warming any more than I can make myself stop breathing. It’s something I feel every second of every day, surrounding me like a smell that just keeps getting worse, or an itch that’s slowly spreading all over my body.

So why get Bush elected? Listen, if you got cancer, a really nasty, incurable one, and you’re given a month to live, how do you want to spend those last days? Do you want to make yourself sick with chemotherapy or radiation, lose your hair and spend a fortune just to prolong your life a few more days? Not me. I say have a party, get yourself a DNR bracelet, and let loose.

But Gore just wanted to prolong the agony. All these environmentalists don’t get it. The world is sick of us. It’s trying to buck us off like a horse that can’t handle the weight. But it’s a horse that’s dying! I say let the world die, and put us all out of our misery. I figured Bush would stall things long enough to fast forward us into global death. But stupid tree-huggers are doing their best to drag it out. Drive a prius, go solar, eat vegetarian. Ridiculous. Bandaids.

Listen, I can feel hurricanes a month before they happen. Global warming is 10 times that feeling, but always there. And getting stronger.

At this point he took one last drink, set his glass on the bar, and stood up with a loud sigh. As he stood up, he put on his jacket and dug into his pocket. He pulled out a hundred-dollar bill and put it on the counter.

Before leaving, he took one more thing out of his pocket. “My card,” he said, setting it on the counter before me. “If you ever need a boat.”

About a week later, I called the number on the card, which said, “Benson’s Boat-Builders”. A woman’s voice answered, nasally and scratchy with age. When I asked for Mr. Benson, the woman hesitated, then said, “Mr. Benson died seven years ago.”

“I was given a card,” I said. “By a gentleman who didn’t give me his name…”

The pause lasted awhile, and I wondered if she was still there.

“Ma’am? Is this Mrs.Benson?”

“My name changed when I remarried,” she said. “I think my husband may have given you that card.”

“May I speak with him?”

“He passed away about a week ago. He was out sailing and got caught in Hurricane Katrina.”

I gave the woman my condolences and immediately wrote down whatever I could remember of my conversation with her husband.