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Julie's Story

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2228. New York City.

            Every morning, Julie wakes at six-thirty, eats, showers, and dresses – in color-block suits perfectly ironed, carefully coordinated to match her shirt, shoes, stockings, and accessories.

            The blue earrings go with the blue shell… the gold ones match everything…

            She adds gel to her wet hair, and does her best to tame the unruly dark locks into something presentable, and she applies her make-up – lipstick, eyeliner – and covers any skin blemishes with concealer.

            All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances…

            Back in high school, she was an actress, a singer, a dancer. She was known for the power of her voice, and had set her dreams on Broadway. Now she remains silently in the background, a pretty prop, an eternal “extra” in someone else’s play.

            Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

            She pins her insignia badge to her jacket lapel, slips on her leather gloves, and examines herself in the mirror.

            Perfect hair. Perfect clothes. Perfect smile.

            All dressed up, and nowhere to go.

            The Business Division has placed her with Centimia Corporation, a mid-size firm located on the twenty-second story of a New York City skyscraper. The days rolled by, one after the next, boredom punctuated with moments of awkwardness.

            This day, when she arrives at work, the elevator door opens, and four people step on, but one of them spots Julie and reaches for the button to close the carriage doors. “I’m sorry, this car is full,” she snaps, coldly.

            “But… hey!”

            The door closes in Julie’s face. She can feel waves of annoyance from several people behind her. The don’t say anything aloud, but she can feel them blaming her for making them late.

            She turns to the man standing next to her. “Did you see that? The lift was half-empty!”

            Uncomfortable, he shrugs. “Well, you are in the Corps. I can’t really blame her. Your kind make people nervous, you know?”

            Julie’s stomach sinks. She takes the stairs, stopping several times to catch her breath on the way up. It’s better this way, she tells herself, trying not to let the incident get to her. I get some exercise.

            When she finally reaches her floor, she catches sight of Mr. Johansen, standing with several other normals and looking her up and down like a choice cut of meat, and she wants to dive back into the stairwell instead.

            Mr. Johansen has never put a hand on Julie – she knows he tried that once before with another telepath, and was reprimanded for it when finally spotted by other normals. But he didn’t stop his lechery, only has become more subtle. Whenever he sees her, he envisions her naked, his hands all over her, and hers over him, in very sexual ways.

            She can’t report him for his “fantasies,” no matter how unwanted and invasive they are for her, or no matter how intentional she feels his conduct is. She knows it gives him a thrill to force the images on her, knowing there isn’t a damn thing she can do about it. All the normals can see is a look, all they can hear is an occasional whistle.[1]

            That day, he spends the business meeting thinking about pulling off her gloves and sucking on her fingers.[2] The other side’s telepath[3] – Corps raised – turns beet red and has to excuse himself, during time which the meeting is adjourned. When the session ends, Julie goes to the bathroom and hides in a stall, shaking, feeling violated. Does Mr. Johansen go home every night and watch telepath pornography? she wonders. Some normals, she knew, were entirely too obsessed with the telepath “hand fetish,” either with mocking telepath culture, or with making everything all about themselves.[4] To such men, others' boundaries were meaningless, even as they whined about supposed violations of their own. They would always make excuses for their behavior, always try to make it someone else's fault. It was, after all, only what they "did" that mattered, not what they "thought," even as they intentionally forced unwanted sexual thoughts on the telepaths they fetishized.

            If Julie didn't like it, such men would say, it was her own fault - they'd done nothing he wrong, only what "anyone else" would do. She shouldn't be able to feel their thoughts in the first place. Her senses weren't "right."[5]

            Julie's counterpart at the table, the other company's telepath, tells Julie some days later that in the onslaught of Mr. Johansen's vulgar "fantasies," he’d come within an inch of quitting, mid-meeting. There was, as he put it, only so much he could take. Instead, he’d returned to the meeting and put up tight mental blocks, hoping to God it wasn’t all an intentional ploy to get him to tune out so Centimia could cheat his client.[6]

            Julie knows that Mr. Johansen isn’t nearly so clever.

 

[1] Garibaldi treats Talia this way, thinking unwanted and intrusive sexual thoughts about Talia in her presence, stalking her by always following her when she takes the bullet car, staring at her rear end when she walks by, etc.. See Mind War, A Voice in the Wilderness I, and other episodes. See also Final Reckoning, p. 162-164 (full quotation below in the notes).

[2] Hands are especially sexualized in telepath culture. See, for example, Final Reckoning, p. 68

[3] Each side can hire its own telepath, or can agree to split the cost of just one. See JMSNews, 4/19/1995: “Both sides can hire their own teeps (telepaths), or jointly hire the same one, who is adjudged neutral.”

[4] Final Reckoning, p. 68

[5] Final Reckoning, p. 163

[6] Certain normals wouldn’t be above this, or other tricks (legal or otherwise) to fool telepaths. See JMSNews, 1/9/1993: “The background on that business meeting is similar to all such uses of telepaths: both sides agree to the presence of a telepath to monitor the negotiations. If one were to demur, the deal would be off because the person clearly has something to hide. Which is why there is a good market for various kinds of shields that don’t LOOK like or feel like shields unless the telepath knows what to look for. You can also just try and hide it and hope that the telepath isn’t looking too deep or isn't really paying attention, which is what that guy was doing. (May have been reciting the “tensor” rhyme trying to keep his brain occupied.)”