“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.”
From: “Evan McAllister” [firstname.lastname@example.org
To: “Ella Paris” [email@example.com
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 17:30:09 (PDT)
Subject: jacob's ladder
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
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...?
From: “Ella Paris” [firstname.lastname@example.org]
To: “Evan McAllister” [email@example.com]
Date: Sun, 05 Sep 2004 01:09:50 (EDT)
Subject: Re: jacob's ladder
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
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
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
I'm interested in what step four of the ladder is—I
can't possibly imagine what it will be...
From: “Evan McAllister” [firstname.lastname@example.org]
To: “Ella Paris” [email@example.com]
Date: Wed, 08 Sep 2004 12:01:29 (PDT)
Subject: st. ella of brooklyn
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?!