"I think something is wrong with me," I said, trying to keep the melodrama out of my voice as I sat down next to the new flashing and whirring piece of equipment in Dad's laboratory basement. His latest project involved modifying the "aura detector" he had bought from his friend Gustrha so that it was more sensitive and could detect the aura of people from a distance.
"Everyone thinks that at one time or another. Don't believe it. It's just the world trying to get you to exterminate yourself. It's an 'eat or be eaten' world out there, and if the predators and bullies can get you to take yourself out, then it's less work for them," said Dad. He was in one of his rare brooding moods. I was starting to regret having said anything at all.
"The Swarovski crystals seem to work in the new aura detecting equipment," I said, trying to change the subject. "At least the equipment seems to be picking up signals really well."
Dad leaned over and made an adjustment to one line of crystals. They glittered as the white light source behind them made them emit a dazzling, prismatic array of colors. The aura detector was a combination of radiometer and signals detection, which could pick up frequency signatures at depth or at a distance. Every substance had a frequency, so the uses of the equipment were basically speaking, innumerable. Once one knew the correct frequency, they could then tune in the device and locate the strength and location of the source.
"Here, hold this," he instructed me. I held a gold wire that was attached to a thin gold mesh. "It's 18 karat. I think it is better than the 14 karat, or even the 24 karat."
Leaning over the equipment, he fussed around, then paused. Flipping a few switches, he paused again. "This can't be right," he said. "There is very little likelihood that you're really as negative as this is reading."
"Well, I don't know about that," I said darkly. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. Something is wrong."
"Are you having trouble with your medication?" he asked.
"No. It doesn't have anything to do with seizure disorder," I said. I stood up and went to a table that contained a stack of topographic maps waiting to be filed. I recognized the top one immediately. It was of Jacob Lake, Arizona, near where Dad and I had explored the Blue Cave years ago, in a quest for the famed "Pink Lady Bandits Treasure.
"I'm sure that whatever you're feeling is completely normal," said Dad. "If you're feeling bad because of thoughts about a guy, you should put those thoughts out of your mind. Men are not honest. They are opportunists. You should never blame yourself for anything."
I could tell my conversation with Dad would be reassuring and would make me feel better about myself, but it would not solve anything. I continued to have the same problem no matter what I did, no matter how much I tried to change my behavior, my attitudes, my approach. Nothing helped.
"Dad. I am doomed. I will never be able to have a successful relationship," I said.
"Why do you say that?" asked Dad. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he wasn't really listening. A crystal had dislodged itself and he was using a gold wire to try to guide it back into its holder.
"I can't stand the idea of having anyone coming into the place where I'm living," I said. "The idea really bothers me."
"Well, you have to admit that the place you're in is a real disgrace," said Dad. I thought of the gaping hole in the ceiling where the sheetrock had been removed in anticipation of doing serious repairs on leaking pipes and roof.
"Yes, but even when I'm in a place I'm not ashamed of, I still feel the same way. I just feel as though something is crawling around inside me. It's horrible. Like having a tropical worm crawling under my skin and then bursting out," I said.
"Love is not enough. Instead, it makes it worse. The skin crawling feeling just gets worse," I continued.
"Sounds like leishmaniasis, not love," said Dad.
I picked up the stack of topographic maps and straightened them out.
"I'll get these filed," I said. "Sorry I've let them stack up."
Successful at last with the errant Swarovski crystal, Dad leaned back in his chair and surveyed me briefly.
"I know it must be hard. You're all alone, and you don't really have anyone you can talk to or relate to," he said. "You're probably attracting all the wrong types. There are people who are attracted to quiet types, and they probably think you won't judge them, plus you are probably coming across as defenseless. It's all in your aura, you know. You can't do anything to change it - it's your spectral fingerprint."
"Do you really think that's it?" I asked.
"Absolutely. Your aura is very fragile. This means that your frequency will be easily damaged by another person. You have to protect yourself."
"I don't know how," I said. "And, what I'm doing is ineffectual. Nothing seems to do much good. I'm a fool. I keep trying."
With that, the machine lit up in a blinding rainbow show of prisms and jagged pure color. Dad emitted a low whistle. "Well, I certainly didn't expect that."