AN ANONYMOUS BENEFACTOR arrives to consult the ORACLE
Grocery store produce section, night. The VEHICLE is going retro today: She is wearing a pair of white knee-high, lace-up boots, a black miniskirt, and a raincoat made of powder-blue vinyl. There are also, of course, sunglasses. Some of this started out as hand-me-downs from CHERIE, though the miniskirt wasn't born as a miniskirt, and the raincoat was obtained from the dumpster behind a pornographer's studio, and when she found it was heavily stained with fake blood. Probably best not to ask. Many soakings and scrubbings in the bathroom sink have brought it up to spec, and the Vehicle is feeling a bit like a Bond girl, or a nineteen-sixties-era British counterintelligence agent, or at the very least like one of those girls from a Target ad, along with the minor special thrill of pretending to be someone else in public. She has shaved and made-up her face for the occasion, and is enjoying the pointed sexual appraisals directed at her by passers-by. This was, after all, part of the point, to have other people look at her and see: woman. One advantage of the raincoat is that its retro look makes a certain amount of flat-chestedness seem appropriate, which this is one area where she still feels like, perhaps, she might have been well-served to spend the money while she had money to spend.
Another advantage of the raincoat is that some small items of produce may, if necessary, be concealed in the pockets, which the Vehicle has already concealed some kiwis and is considering a bag of baby carrots, which are located at the end of the produce aisle, next to the stockroom entrance, when she hears a psst. She turns to see a STRANGER OF INDETERMINATE GENDER, in (somehow) several forms of disguise at once, wigs and fake beards and a fat suit and multiple layers of makeup, beckoning to her to enter the stockroom.
Stranger: You the Oracle?
Oracle: I am. And I know who you are, too.
Stranger: I knew you'd know. I just don't want everybody else to know. The last time I went somewhere in public, I was mobbed. I can't even go to the grocery store unless I'm in this ridiculous getup. Isn't that sad?
Oracle: You always did want to be famous. You thought maybe your life wouldn't have to change?
Stranger: Mmm-hmm. Or, yes and no. I wanted things to change. That was the whole point. But I would never have dreamed that I wouldn't be able to just go to the grocery store, or go jogging, or –
Oracle: Though the jogging is new.
Stranger: Not that new. Not anymore. I feel healthy, I feel good.
Oracle: Which raises the question of why you had to lose all that weight in the first place. You were a role model, to a lot of women, when you were heavier. They could look at you and say, if she can be that weight, and be as successful as she is, then so can I. You were an inspiration.
Stranger: Mmm-hmm. But I wasn't healthy.
Oracle: You don't think being comfortable with your natural weight is healthy?
Stranger: Being overweight is bad for you. There's heart disease, there's diabetes. I couldn't go on living like that.
Oracle: And here you are.
Stranger: And here I am. I wanted to give you something. Anonymously. I -- I know what it's like to be poor, the constant struggle. And I think you're doing, you're just doing so much for women, for people, you're really getting people to think globally about things, to think about their spiritual selves. You're just empowering everybody so much. And it's a beautiful thing. I never thought I'd see anything like it. And so I wanted to give you some money, so you don't have to worry about having a roof over your head or food to eat or clothes to wear. I mean, I know what it's like -- I grew up poor, I remember what it felt like to want things I couldn't have, how frustrating it was.
Oracle: You've come a long way, baby.
Stranger: After a while, it doesn't mean anything. I give a lot of it away, to various charities. There are days where I just want to put my feet up on the couch and eat chocolate all day, or I have fantasies about taking a walk down to the park and watching kids play. When you don't have to worry about your next meal, or what you'd do if you got sick, when you can choose who you let into your life and who to keep out, and nobody can do anything -- nobody can threaten you physically -- it’s a great thing. But you do give things up, in exchange for the control and the power.
Oracle: Absolute power corrupts anonymity.
Stranger: More or less.
Oracle: Is anonymity such a great thing?
Stranger: It's a form of freedom. You miss it when it's gone. [pause] But so. I got it in cash, because I knew a check would be traceable. And anyway I didn't know who to make the check out to. [Hands a stack of bills to the Vehicle.] That's $25,000. Invest it, spend it, save it, whatever. You know what's going to happen, I figure you know what you need to do with it.
Oracle: Thank you very much.
Stranger: It's what I do. I make money, so I can give it away. Both the making and the giving get meaningless after a while. And then, you know, there's the loneliness. Though I have Toni and Maya. They get it.
Oracle: Some things are the same all over.
Stranger: I guess so. But anyway. Get you some organic vegetables, girl. Important to eat right. Exercise. Diet and exercise, and a personal trainer. You're stuck in that body for the rest of your life, you may as well make it a nice place to be.
(Story continues at TYRANNIE TRANNIE.)