Like the uncontrollable urge to sneeze, then to sneeze again, Bakoda Pak returns to The Outfit after attempting to adjust to day to day life in the real world. He has been an assassin, would always be his old boss told him and assigned him to infiltrate a citrus in California and discretely dispatch the politically untouchable owner. Bakoda expects to find total exploitation of undocumented workers there but finds what could be considered a paradise instead. And as in Eden he is tempted to his own peril.
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He sat on the other side of the desk from me steepling. That’s the authoritative gesture where you have your hands clasped in front of you, generally just below your chin and your index fingers pointing up like a steeple. It’s pretty much unconscious and people use it when they feel they are in control of the situation and the conversation.
He said, “I like to call this a ‘sneeze’.”
“Yeah, so what does that mean and what does it have to do with me?” I asked with a bit of an edge. I could tell that he was enjoying this as he paused, his hands still poised just under his chin.
He continued, “Hey, man, you know the feeling. You know you can’t stop it. It’s going to happen. And then you sneeze. And not once, never once, always at least twice or more. It’s nature and you can’t control it no matter how hard that you try. Then sometime later you feel that tickle and a message is sent to your brain and it happens again, no matter how hard you try to control it because it is beyond physical or psychological control."
I just looked at him, bewildered and after a pause asked, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
It took enough mental energy and compromise for me to end up here, and now to put up with this from my old station head. I just wanted my old job back, pure and simple, not some abstract lesson about the mind, self-control and the physiological need to sneeze.
But he was my old boss and held the floor. He was clearly enjoying it—he always did as I knew that from years of experience. He really wasn’t a bad guy, he just enjoyed getting on my nerves when he figured he could get away with it. Then again I got a buzz out of upsetting his wagon from time to time as well.
He ignored my question and continued, “I’m talking about things that are beyond one’s control, and no matter how hard we try to control them, things that must happen over and over again no matter what. No matter how our rational vision of our life’s plan contradicts our absolute and total need to continue on what we know deep inside is one’s true destiny.”
“Again I ask,” I rolled my eyes and shook my head slowly from side to side like a petulant teenager, “what does that have to do with me? You aren’t making a lot of sense, at least from my perspective.”
“Well, this is all about you and your perspective; it’s why you’re here, Bakoda, that is, Bakoda Pak or whatever you want to be called. That’s a pretty unorthodox choice of names, you know, but that’s your business. American Indian by any chance?”
“No, just a name I took. There is a story behind it but it doesn’t have anything to do with anything but to fuck up you guys, your profile and psych guys. It’s just a name, but there is a story and reason and I’ll bet you have someone or more than one of those folks working on it right now in their spare time to figure out. You figure everything else out about us, those like me, so I thought I would give you a challenge. I would even bet that you have a bet on this too, same as the one about when I would come back.”
He waved his right hand dismissively, trying to act like he didn’t care and returned to steepling and considering thoughtfully before continuing. But I knew that I was right. It was going to drive him nuts until he figured it out. I particularly enjoyed that leverage over an agency that prided itself in knowing more about its people and others and their motivations than it even knew about itself.
I sat back and steepled with my hands clasped together. Quid pro quo.
He still tried to ignore me.
A few moments later he broke the silence and resumed, “Again the sneeze thing is all about you and your basic compulsion. You can’t stand to be away even though you said that you gave it up. You are what you are and you always will be. I wouldn’t want to be in your head but you are and I can use you.”
He was right, so I said, “Ok, what’s up?”
Then I reflected about how I ended up here back in a world that had I walked away from. Had promised myself that I would never come back to again.
But somehow I had to admit, if only to myself, I was comfortable being here and looking forward to what the future would hold.