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a 21st century love story

part IV

“The third installment of A 21st Century Love Story found Evan and Ella worlds apart and facing into the harsh truths of reality unmasked. Compelled by the urgency of her deepest aspirations, Ella arrived in India, desperate to change the world for the better—only to find that life doesn't always go as planned. Meanwhile, Evan, challenged by a heated dispute with his parents, contemplated suicide beneath the soul-numbing gaze of the California sun.... Series fans will enjoy the continuing saga of this online romance, which once again reveals the ontological inferno of American youth, wherein the husks of old meanings are discarded and new ones made.”
—The Savannah Sun-Times

From: “Evan McAllister” []
To: “Ella Paris” []
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 17:30:09 (PDT)

Subject: jacob's ladder

dearest ella,

it's so good to hear from you. it's been a while, huh? i'm sorry i didn't write to you sooner. i wanted to respect your space.

yes, i am still seeing a shrink! he's actually a very rockin' dude. since you asked, his name is dr. jacob tabberson, and he's created this seven-step path to body-mind-soul integration called “jacob's ladder.” i laughed the first time i heard about it, when my sister started going to him, but i'm definitely not laughing anymore. wait—actually i've been laughing a lot lately! but only at myself. (the third rung of the ladder: don't take yourself so seriously!) jacob is also a very spiritual guy, who had his first mystical breakthrough while he was—get this—surfing in hawaii. so as you can imagine, we always have plenty to talk about. i think my sessions with him are really helping me straighten myself out, and helping me become more mature and responsible and caring and all that. it's cool.

but what about YOU? how's life in india these days? have you learned hindi yet? are you still smoking those indian cigarettes? do you realize it's been almost a year since we last saw each other...?

miss you,


From: “Ella Paris” []
To: “Evan McAllister” []
Date: Sun, 05 Sep 2004 01:09:50 (EDT)
Subject: Re: jacob's ladder

Dear Evan, Well well, it's been a long time since I've heard from you. So, step three of the Jacob's Ladder is “don't take yourself so seriously”? Are you sure that's a problem you need to work on? (ha) Just seeing if all that therapy has made you lose your sense of humor... One of the reasons I wrote you was because I was at a party the other night and I met a guy who reminded me of you. He's about as useful to the world as you are—all he does is travel around the globe attending meditation courses. He just got back from one in Bodhgaya, a small town in northern India where the Buddha supposedly got enlightened. He also had this shaggy blond hair just like you. I only talked to him for a few minutes but it brought back a lot of memories. I really started missing you!

Right now I'm actually writing from the Missionaries of Charity base in Calcutta, otherwise known as Mother Teresa's. Can you believe it? I'm here as a “pre-aspirant” which is a six month work period that leads to the “aspirant” level and so forth until you become a nun. I'll anticipate all your questions and say right now that I don't know if I am going to stay here longer than six months, and I'm not sure that I want to become a nun—it's such a huge commitment...

Have you ever heard how it works? The nuns drive trucks around the city “collecting” the sickest, most decrepit, and incapacitated people they can find in the gutters, garbage heaps and shanties. Then they bring them back to one of our buildings around the city, where someone like me has been scrubbing floors and washing the sheets and generally trying to keep things as antiseptic as possible. We give whoever they have brought their own stretcher, and we dress their sores and wounds, and give them warm food. And then we do that every day for them until they die. Not a day goes by that we don't bring tens of bodies to the burning ghats by the river to be cremated. By the time we return someone else has already filled their cot. A few of the sick actually get better while they are here because they are receiving some nutrition regularly for the first time in their lives. Eventually one of the nuns will have to ask them to leave to make room for others. I've come to see the whole process as one of bearing witness to these people who have been neglected since birth—to let them die with some degree of dignity even if all that means is having food in their bellies and clean bandages. We have to acknowledge them, even if it is just in the last minutes of their life, as human beings. Every day you just think about Life and Death, about what it all means, there is very little respite. I've noticed something interesting about the nuns though. Instead of becoming cold or stoic, they seem to become warmer and more human. Is that some kind of miracle? Faced with the total inhumanity of these dying people's plight they become more human. God, I am in total awe of them... I myself find some relief from work by going out whenever I get a chance, going dancing or on a long motorcycle ride around the city. I have a friend here who has one and after a long day we tear around like we don't have a care in the world.

I'm interested in what step four of the ladder is—I can't possibly imagine what it will be... Ella

From: “Evan McAllister” []
To: “Ella Paris” []
Date: Wed, 08 Sep 2004 12:01:29 (PDT)
Subject: st. ella of brooklyn

dearest ella,

wow. i figured you'd be deeply involved with something really positive by now—but i had no idea it'd be carrying on the work of mother teresa! you constantly amaze me. i would never have guessed that you'd even consider becoming a NUN!! i'm really glad you're not “100% sure.” let's keep that percentage decreasing even further, huh?

you asked about the fourth rung of jacob's ladder. well, it's actually cool what's been happening—i've been seeing the fourth rung popping up literally everywhere in my life, many times a day. jacob told me that it is a sign of the “natural progression” of our work together. what is the fourth rung? simply put: “learn to love. care about yourself, care about others, and care about the universe. love until it hurts.” it sounds simple, right? but the power of it runs deep—as you yourself must be realizing. your work in india is a perfect expression of the fourth rung. that's actually a great example of how this keeps mysteriously appearing—i've been contemplating nothing but the nature of care and love, and then you write me this incredible email about that very same thing!

what's most interesting is how all the facets of the fourth rung actually fit together. for instance, how do we love the universe? by loving ourselves! because we are the universe, the universe is not some abstract concept—we literally are it! when i finally realized this, the fourth rung blasted wide open for me, and i suddenly saw what the problem has been all along: i've been completely divided about how much i'm actually willing to love myself. when i told jacob i'd realized this, he had tears in his eyes.

ella, i'm sorry i've been so distant—both physically and emotionally. i've actually been avoiding intimacy not just with other people, but with my own soul. you and i are not separate, el. not really. we've been living a lie.

all my love,


p.s. who have you been riding around on a motorcycle with? one of the nuns?!

[ continue ]


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