The traveler stepped out of the elevator into a dim hallway floored with dusty maroon carpet. Down the hall, a door stood open, the gentle thrum of a guitar pouring from within. The number on the wall beside the door matched the one in the listing, so the traveler approached, and stood outside the apartment to wait for the song to end.
After a few minutes the music stopped, and the traveler heard the musician lay their instrument down. “Come in,” a voice said. “I’ll be right with you.”
The traveler stepped inside, and because this is their story and not the weaver’s, we will forego the usual description of the inside of the apartment. The traveler sat down someplace comfortable, and waited for the weaver to emerge from another room.
“I’m here about the ad in the paper,” the traveler said when the weaver emerged. “You said you could help me find answers.”
“Well, I said I could help find answers,” the weaver said. “I don’t know anything about you. But let me get settled, and we’ll see what answers we can find together.” The weaver sat, and placed their tools on the table between them and the traveler: A book, a stack of playing cards, and a weathered but undecorated wooden box with a metal latch. “Is this your first weaving?” the weaver asked.
The traveler nodded.
“Then we’ll begin with the basics,” the weaver said. “I assume you don’t have a journal.”
The traveler nodded.
The weaver smiled, and produced a second book from somewhere, bound in red leather and bearing the letter M stamped into the cover in silver foil. “Here,” said the weaver. “This is your journal. You’ll use it to keep a record of this weaving, and any weaving you take part in from now on. Keep it safe, and separate from your other belongings. You may open it now.”
The traveler opened the journal and waited.
“Do you weave on behalf of yourself, or another?” the weaver asked.
“Myself.” The traveler looked down. “Should I write my name?”
The weaver laughed. “Not yet. Not for a while.” Out the window, noise from the street held the weaver’s attention. “The sound might be distracting. I can close the window, if you like.”
“Either way,” said the traveler.
“No,” said the weaver. “Not either way. Choose. Window open, or closed. If you want to find answers, you’ll have to start by giving up something, and that something is apathy. Open, or closed?”
The traveler glanced at the window. “Open,” they said.
“Very good,” said the weaver. “Now, tell me: what was the first lie you ever told?”
“I don’t remember,” said the traveler.
“You don’t remember because it was too long ago, or because you don’t want to admit it?” The weaver smiled. “Most people don’t remember, or won’t remember. Take your time. What was your first lie?”
The traveler thought. “I told my parents I had washed my face, and I hadn’t.”
The weaver smiled. “Innocent enough. A child’s lie. Now: What lie has your community or your family tried hardest to make you believe about yourself?”
The traveler blinked. “What?”
“Everyone lies,” the weaver said. “And so everyone has a version of the world they want to project onto others, whether they succeed or not. Your family, or your community, has told you something about yourself that you refuse to believe. Maybe you never believed it. What is it?”
The traveler thought for a long moment. They looked out the window.
“I can offer you a list to choose from if that would help,” the weaver said.
“They want me to be a soldier,” the traveler said abruptly. “To be a peacekeeper, like my grandfather was. But I don’t want to fight.”
“You don’t want to fight, or you don’t want to be a soldier? The two are not necessarily the same.”
“I don’t want to be a peacekeeper,” the traveler clarified. “I’ve seen what they do, in the towns they’re meant to protect. I don’t want that. Not for myself, or for my home.”
The weaver nodded, but said nothing.
The weaver shook their head. “It’s not my place to give advice. What is it that gives you strength, in life?”
The traveler sighed. “I don’t know,” they said. “My friends, if I had any.”
“What would you say is your greatest strength?” the weaver asked.
The traveler laughed. “What is this, a job interview?”
The weaver smiled. “Everyone has one thing they do very well, whether they realize it or not. But to make this easier, I’ll give you four choices: Physical or mental strength, or the strength of the tools at your disposal, or the strength of the world around you.”
The traveler hesitated. “I don’t know what my strength is.”
“If you don’t know, then you’re probably drawing on the world’s strength to get you through. And that’s okay. A lot of people rely on the world’s strength.” The weaver tapped the traveler’s journal. “Write this down: I draw my strength from the world around me. And then record Clubs as your strong suit.”
The traveler did as they were told.
“Does that feel right to you?” asked the weaver.
“I don’t know,” the traveler said.
“You say that a lot,” the weaver observed.
“Sorry,” said the traveler.
“I’m not telling you to stop,” said the weaver. “But I do need to know if you’re saying it because you’re thinking, or if it’s because you’re waiting for me to give you the answer. Because I’ll tell you this now: if I’m the only one thinking here, you won’t get the answers you’re looking for.”
“I thought you were here to find answers.”
“I’ll find plenty of answers,” said the weaver. “But if I’m the only one talking, they’re going to be my answers. The question is, what answers do you want? Mine or yours?”
“I don’t…” The traveler stopped. “Mine,” they said. “I want my answers.”
“It’s okay to say you don’t know something,” the weaver said. “What’s not okay is to stop trying to learn it. So. Your strong suit is clubs. Does it feel right?”
“No,” said the traveler. “I don’t trust the world to give me strength. I would much rather put my trust in the things I can control, the tools in my hands.”
“That’s a good thing to know about yourself,” said the weaver. “So cross out what you just wrote, and write this instead: I draw strength from my tools. And record your strong suit as Spades.”
The traveler did as they were told, and they smiled.
“What is it?” the weaver asked.
“This feels right,” said the traveler.
“I’m glad to hear that,” said the weaver.
The traveler looked at the window. “Do I have to remain seated for this? Sometimes I think better when I’m on my feet.”
“That is also a good thing to know about yourself,” the weaver said. “Yes, you can get up and move around. This room is open to explore, but please respect the privacy of my other rooms.”
“If you don’t want people exploring the other rooms, why not do your weaving somewhere else?” asked the traveler.
“Is that a challenge,” the weaver asked, “or a curiosity?”
“Curiosity,” said the traveler. “If I were concerned about privacy I might choose a space to work that isn’t inside my home.”
“A bit of intimacy helps me stay grounded,” the weaver explained. “It reminds me that I’m a person with my own needs, wants, and biases. And it helps me feel safe. Plenty of other weavers prefer to be out in public, or they set up specific spaces for their work. Everyone’s needs are different.”
The traveler thought about this, then nodded. They got up and went to the window, looked out at the rest of the city, took a deep breath in and then let it out.
“Are you settled?” the weaver asked gently. “I want to give you time to be comfortable in this space, but I do have another appointment later this afternoon.”
“I’m settled,” said the traveler. “Let’s continue.”