It was during this time that the third incident occurred.
I was busy staring at my television with the sound turned off so as not to disturb my sense of contentment. I had to have been sitting there for quite some time, because the wailing of the broken doorbell made me jump mildly petrified from my sofa chair. I pulled a white vest over my bare torso and opened the door.
I recognized the man on my doormat as a creature from another planet even before he opened the orifice in the lower part of his face. Over his shoulders was draped a green gown with beautiful gold patterns, and his feet looked like ice skates from the nineteen twenties. He had a few untidy tufts of hair on what could be described as his upper lip, and a similar amount of hair on his head. He stretched out his paw – it didn’t exactly look like a human hand, and I shook it. Then he made a gesture as if he was politely asking permission to enter my home; with a similar motion, I beckoned him to enter.
After we had enjoyed some fresh green tea (obviously of a much higher quality than the kind I always bought at the Seven Eleven), I asked him the reason for his visit to our planet. In perfect English, he answered that he was on a mission. His assignment was to investigate human life on planet Earth: how we live, how we work, how we get on with each other, how we manage to stay so ordered, and how we manage to live our lives in apparent contentment considering the facts of the universe.
I replied that he should not be deceived by the appearance of things. Many people, I assured him, preferred life less orderly. Many people also do not spend their lives in contentment, but rather in troubled confusion. These bits of information upset my guest. I lit a cigarette, offered it to him and refilled his glass.
He finished off the cigarette with astonishing rapidity, stared at the assorted ornaments on my coffee table, and after glancing over the pictures on my walls, started talking again. He said that he did a course on his planet on Survival in Modern Earth Civilizations; that he had even brought along a manual. He had also attended lectures on more abstract topics like “Identity”, “Commitment”, and a “Sense of Belonging”.
He then told me that the leaders of his planet – learned beings, he assured me – had informed him that he will meet a man soon after arriving who could give him some instructions on how to “fit in”. His craft had apparently dropped him off in a park not too far from here, and a few elderly gentlemen pointed in the direction of my apartment. Could I confirm the accuracy of the things he had learned in his lectures, he asked me with deep sincerity in his eyes, and could I give him a few useful tips.
I thought about my experiences of the previous few days, about the fact that I still did not know what my real name was and that I was still unsure about where I come from and where I belong. What I did know, was that life was a lot more enjoyable if you had access to some decent financial resources! Not only could I satisfy all my physical needs on a daily basis, but when I had a stomach ache a few days earlier, I went to the best hospital in the city. (It is true that my strange appearance initially made people a little uncomfortable – at that point I had not shaven for a few days, but after I had shown them my briefcase with some freshly plucked money, they became much friendlier. To tell the truth, the nurses became embroiled in what could easily be described as a fist fight with the doctors, for the privilege to take care of me.) I glanced at the strange creature in my living room, now seemingly deep in thought, and noticed the way the unusual curves of his rotund figure were emphasized by his tight-fitting bright orange outfit – his gown had been hanging behind the door by this time. The tufts of hair on his upper lip, along the sides of his face and on his underdeveloped chin, reminded me of my own appearance a few days earlier. In fact, his whole appearance contributed to my feelings of compassion towards him.
Then I looked him straight in his melancholic eyes, took a deep breath and said, “Mister Alien, I must disappoint you. I do not know much about the abstract concept of identity, or about one’s place in the world. What I do know is that if you walk straight back to that park, you’ll come across a tree that looks like a funnel. You might expect the more common earthly type of leaf on the branches, but this tree is unique. It grows money! Now, fill a few bags with this money – make sure you take enough! Then go to the nearest hotel and get yourself a room. Look in your manual on where to buy food and other items.
“Choose a name from a magazine,” I continued, “and make it your own. Make up a story about where you come from – you can say you’re from outer space, but people don’t take that seriously anymore. Say you’re from the Balkans,” I suggested, “or Northern Ireland or Arizona or some other place.
“The money, so I’ve recently discovered Mister Alien, will ensure the success of your mission, no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you tell others who you are or where you come from.”
I moved to the edge of my seat, and as if the alien creature understood the seriousness of what I wanted to say next, he did the same. “Remember!” I yelled. The creature’s eyes doubled in size. “Make sure you always have sufficient funds!” To emphasize the importance of my advice, I started hammering an invisible plank with an imaginary tool in my clenched fist. “It’s the golden rule that you should never disregard, ignore or underestimate! Make sure your bags are always filled!”
The creature starting fidgeting on his chair, so I reached for the bottle of tea. We drank a few more glasses in silence, then I walked into the kitchen to fetch a few garbage bags. When I came back, he was already up and pacing the living room. He took the bags and shook my hand. I opened the door, and he disappeared down the stairs. A few minutes after I slumped back into my chair, I fell into a deep sleep.
That, then, was the third incident that influenced my current thoughts on certain issues.
It should probably also be noted that I muttered what I knew to be my real name the moment I woke up. Nothing could have prepared me, however, for the next shock. I strolled down to Sea Breeze Park, whistling all the way, with my empty briefcase swinging in the air, and the hat with the feather on my head. Real, organic, dirty green leaves on the branches of the magic funnel tree made me weak in the knees. One could almost say it was more upsetting than the spectacle of fresh fried rice on my living room floor.