Five months ago – Arizona
Six men and women had died placing the radioactive poison in and around the manufacturing plant. Hundreds died from the sickness that spread from the contaminated facility. Thousands more were made jobless at the closing of the plant and fell victim to the crushing poverty their jobs had kept them from.
Sonti had been met at the border and was told that she was refused entry, her job at the plant was ended, there would not be placement available in other divisions of the company for several months and that she was therefore discharged.
That blow had taken a great toll on her. She was short on money and low on esteem. She had made few friends here and as the days passed without hope of a new job, she found that she kept to herself more. Sonti was an independent sort anyway. She didn’t want to impose on any of her friends, because that would show a lack of strength, a need. She fell into poverty quickly and quietly. She operated with the formula that money was earned to be spent today, not saved for tomorrow.
The bills continued to come, the apartment she had leased for two years was several months from the lease-end, and the complex managers would not let her out. ‘It’s not good for our record, you see. We don’t get a bonus for letting people out of their leases, only for getting them into a lease. You can see that makes sense, can’t you?
Ten weeks of unemployment ground away at her confidence and her bank account. Finally, her entire life seemed to arrive at a negative balance.
She left at night. Packing all the essentials she could carry in her backpack, she walked out of her apartment past the playground, the pool, the managers’ office and into the black night. Her self esteem had been shaken but she was not ready to quit. She just needed to have one break, and she would be back on top of the world.
She didn’t get that break. Instead, she found herself sharing a room with ten other people. Each of them in the same dire predicament as she was. Some worse off, carrying the burden of an addiction. The living was rough, the food scarce, the nights terrifying and sleepless, but there was a roof over her head, and at least she knew the bad guys in the room. When the sun went down outside, everyone was an enemy.
Several weeks later, Sonti was rescued in what she considered a ‘miraculous’ way – her file, of course, told the truth about the rescue.
She met him at the door of the drugstore. She had paused to look in the window and caught her reflection. Her short red hair was unkempt, unwashed. Her eyes were quiet, as if they had seen too much pain and did not want to see any more. She was a quiet person, always had been. But her shoulders were square to the world, and she moved carefully and with purpose. Her lips hinted at a smile, as if she held knowledge that no one else had, her own secret. She watched and processed and was ready for a change.
They approached the door from different sides but at the same time. She was leaving another job rejection. It’s hard to look professional when you wash in a public restroom sink. Besides, the manager of the store looked like he might want to manage her beyond the store hours. Rob was entering the store with his list, and, conveniently, Sonti was at the top of that list.
They paused at the single door. Each was waiting for the other to be first. Then they reached for the door at the same time and Rob started laughing. They both stepped back at the same time and Sonti almost smiled. She remembered it well. It seemed years since she had last had something to smile about.
Rob opened the door and stood aside for Sonti to exit. He mentioned how he had enjoyed the dance, and may he have another?
Rob was such a contrast to what Sonti had been used to in men. He was a gentle man. He never took advantage of her. He was helpful, kind and considerate. They had decided to get a cup of coffee at the local diner and although Sonti did not say it, Rob discovered the terrible conditions that she had been subjected to lately. Rob took Sonti to his home that day. “It’s only temporary. You can pay me back when you can. I have two bedrooms, and you will find that I am, at all times, a gentleman. Sonti felt that she could trust Rob and took him up on his offer. After all, how could he be worse than the group she had just come from?
She decided to leave that group completely and immediately. “I don’t have anything but what I’m wearing.” She said apologetically. Rob wasn’t phased. “No problem. You can wear some of my stuff until you are back in full swing. We’re about the same size, sort of, and the baggy look is still in.”
Robs’ grin was lopsided but seemed entirely genuine. Sonti felt more relaxed with him in five minutes than she had felt with some of the people she had known for months.
Rob talked to some people he knew and found a job for Sonti at a small manufacturing factory. The work was bad, and the pay was moderate, but the whole situation was honest. Sonti reveled in the peace and security she felt knowing that she was doing things within the law, paying her own way (almost), and being a productive part of society.
Rob and Sonti soon became close friends. Rob was so careful with their relationship that he waited five weeks before he asked her if she would go out on a date with him. “Of course I’ll go. I’ve been waiting for you to ask me! If you had waited one more week, I would have saved up enough to take you out!”
They lived a celibate lifestyle even though they shared the same few rooms together. Rob explained that he felt that they were not prepared to allow themselves that kind of intimacy this early in their relationship.
While most of their evenings were spent together, Rob spent several hours on Tuesday nights at his ‘meetings’. Since he didn’t explain them, Sonti felt she shouldn’t pry. She soon imagined that the meetings were for everything from Al Anon to Decry the Net and Recovering ‘Touch’ support groups. Her curiosity was roused but she didn’t press Rob. He had done so much for her, should she begrudge him this one secret?
Several weeks later, rob asked Sonti if she would like to go with him to his meeting on Tuesday night. Trying to suppress her excitement at finally finding out what she agreed to go and looked forward to Tuesday. All day Tuesday she wondered what she was in for, and worried that she might find it boring or something and then Rob would be offended and wouldn’t like her or worse, would make her leave, oh, he wouldn’t do that, would he?
‘Sonti’, she thought to herself, ‘you are rambling. Settle down. Breathe deeply. Be calm. AND STOP THINKING LIKE A TWIT!’
As they were leaving the apartment on their way to the meeting, Rob explained that the whole idea behind the classes or meetings he went to was to discover his ‘Potential.’ In fact, he said, the meetings were called Potential generators. “It’s where you learn to open up to your complete Potential.”
Mostly, Sonti decided, it was just relaxation techniques. Rob talked their teacher, or ‘guide’ as he liked to call himself, into letting her join. Sonti found she was good at it and advanced from relaxation to meditation. She soon became a regular attendee at the Potential meetings.
That was when things really took off for Sonti.