IS IT JUST ME?

John Thomas Tuft
4 min readJan 19, 2024

IS IT JUST ME?

By John Thomas Tuft

“Some people believe that the universe has grand intentions for us. That the universe has feelings. Intentions. Perhaps even dreams.” She looks at her favorite picture, a Japanese fusuma with its wooden frame and paper screen in the background, an exquisite vase filled with an ikebana arrangement of cherry blossoms in the foreground. Simplicity and harmony. “Is it just me,” she queries her visitor, “or does that sound more like our brains trying to protect themselves, as brains are wont to do?” This last said with a gentle laugh. “We consider the unknown as something to be conquered, brought to heel.” Out in the hallway we can hear the muffled noise of hesitant feet shuffling along with metal walkers, sighs, and loud whispers of laments over the quality of the food served in the dining room, the ever amorous, if rapidly dwindling supply, of old men who still know how to flirt, caress, make a woman feel special. “Is it just me,” she reaches over to lay a hand on mine, “or is the idea of mystery long gone?”

Alice is 83, widowed, and full of deep thoughts. “You know what I think? I think that if a big spaceship ever made it here and the little green creatures got out, and could speak our languages? That they’d say, you know, nobody out there wants to visit you humans. Y’all think this is all just for you!” She gives a delightful giggle at this image. “It would be in the South, of course!” Suddenly the smile is gone. “Do you think we can find more than one person who is our person to love like no other?” I’m taken aback. From the deepest recesses of the universe to the deepest recesses of the human heart in a blink. “Is it just me,” her tone is plaintive now, “or can love happen again and again?” Her fingers close around mine as she whispers, “You know what I’d do? I’d ask the aliens if they know of music.” Suddenly there are tears in both our eyes. I pull out my phone and find Pavarotti and the London Philharmonic performing “Nessun Dorma!” We listen in rapt silence. When the last note echoes in this simple room of harmony, she sighs, “What if it is just us? Doing the best that we can?”

Alice sits back, studies the Japanese print. “Play another one. Please.” I find the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Let Love In” and play it. “You think you’re so sly,” she demurs. Then she grabs my hand with surprising urgency and commands, “Come with me. There’s someone I want you to meet.” Before we go out the door, she grabs two name tags from a basket, along with a marker. On one she writes, “ALICE” and applies it to her blouse. On the other she scribbles, JACK GOO, and slaps in on my shirt pocket with a broad wink. “Let’s go, big boy!” and she’s dragging me down the hallway, through the wheelchairs and electric three wheelers, big baskets on the handlebars and big batteries behind the seats. She stops at a closed door, pauses to straighten her hair, and smooth her clothes, then knocks. Before the door opens, she winks at me again. “I like them young.” The door opens to reveal a gray-haired gentleman in his mid-70s. His face is at first blank. Then he looks at the nametags. “Alice!” Looks at mine. “Mr. Goo. Pleased to meet you. William J. Williamson, III.”

The first thing I notice when we step into William’s room, are the nametags pasted everywhere around the place. Along with bookshelves packed with thick tomes and maps of the stars on the walls. “William is an astronomer,” Alice explains. She points to the small balcony outside the sliding glass doors. A telescope points to the sky, and beyond. I skim the nametags hanging everywhere. Above a light switch, “Turn me off.” On some of the books, “I like this one.” Next to the small microwave, “3 minutes. No more.” Above the mirror, “My name is William.” On the door to the balcony, “I like stars.” The bathroom door, “Flush and check my zipper.” On the electronic device on the counter, “Ask Alexa what day it is.” Below that, “Ask Alexa if it is time to eat.” I feel an arm on my shoulder. “Mr. Goo, welcome. Would you like something to drink?” I turn and see the look of delight in Alice’s eyes as she nods. William winks at me, “She says you like Coke.” I nod. He opens the refrigerator with a flourish. It is empty except for a banana and bottle of Old Spice.

Alice produces two cans from her deep pockets. “I found them,” she says, and William brightens. He goes to the cupboards, spies the one with the nametag that reads, “Glasses” and plays host with a light step. “Do you like the universe, Mr. Goo?” he asks as we settle in with our drinks. I nod as his attention switches to looking at the nametag on Alice. “I know you, don’t I?” he asks with the innocence of a child. “Is it just me,” he goes on with a look of pride, “or is she the most beautiful woman in the world?” I am an alien discovering a new world. After a time, I bid them farewell. As I approach the door, I see one more nametag at eye level. “I love Alice.” Along with her room number.

In my car I pull up the playlist. First is “Second Chances” by Gregory Alan Isakov. After that I listen to a-ha’s version of “Crying In The Rain” while I search the sky. Is it just me, or does everyone hope that out there in the eternity and infinity of the universe, there is love? And music. There has to be music…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.

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John Thomas Tuft

John is a novelist, retired mental health counselor and minister and sheep farmer, who now lives in Roanoke, VA.