Over the years, I had become adept at picking up Leonard's subtle signals. He would invite me over for tea and while we sat in near-silence, he would pull out a drawing to show me, or play me part of a new song. His sense of humour, timing, and ceremony, made even fleeting gestures and remarks seem weighty and significant. He would tell a joke, or switch on the TV -- with hypnotic effect. The flow of time would appear to stop for a moment or two, long enough to slip into a semi-trance. These little tricks had once fascinated me, but now they were getting threadbare.
Behind the show lurked a strange agenda that seemed to involve mass murder in the name of religion.
I saw him less and less often, and almost always in private.These little audiences isolated me from his entourage, who at times behaved like a corps of palace bodyguards with orders to keep me away from the great man. Sometimes I picked up the impression that they had been told I was seriously unbalanced but when I asked him why this was, Leonard hinted that they all were just "jealous."
The spaghetti Bolognese dinner left a long aftertaste that lasted for days, weeks, months. It harkened back to the period, a decade earlier, when Leonard had been in the habit of hinting that we were getting married, whenever we were alone together. He never had actually stated it outright, leaving himself plenty of leverage for plausible deniability. "I hardly know that woman. I never asked her to marry me. She imagined we have some kind of relationship." Women were lined up around the block, ready to believe anything Leonard said.
I figured these games were part of the life of a pop star, an unstable occupation at best. And if Leonard had decided that the best management policy was to lie to everyone, in varying degrees, it was all the more reason to distance myself from him. However, I was still next door, occupying the cheapest apartment in the whole Plateau Mont Royal, with my own garden, and many other benefits. Why move away? I could just "separate, without separating" -- as the Roshi had suggested.
It had been one thing to recover from the realization that Leonard frequently lied to women, almost as if it was his mission in life to leave a trail of bodies in his romantic wake. So much the worse, I thought, for the ones who were stupid enough to fall for it and never got up again. But this latest "proposal" seemed reserved for hardy survivors like me, women who hung around the neighbourhood past their due date, pursuing badly-defined career objectives such as "writing" which I was what I was doing for a living. By writing fiction, I was unravelling the puzzle of my life, despite the fact that most of the essential pieces were missing. Leonard was aware of the chapter of my history that involved the Allan Memorial Institute and secret LSD experiments on children, but he chose to keep that knowledge to himself. As with so much else at the time, secrecy denied us all access to information that could have freed many.
There was a way to cure the suffering , but it involved taking the red pill and telling the truth. Instead, Leonard preferred to play the role of a cultural Godfather to a generation of damaged children who were slowly growing into confused adults. His core beliefs, however, were very friendly to the powerful people who had done most of the damage. He feared and respected power above everything.
Now he was proposing something new: possible entry into the secretive world where global plans are hatched and put into action. If he was joking, it wasn't funny. For years he had been dropping hints about the people who stood behind him, painting them in a brighter light than they deserved, and allowing me to think they were like the sincere young people who studied with the Roshi when in fact they were from a different world altogether -- the world Leonard had once tried to escape in the early 70s when he landed at Mount Baldy and met the Roshi -- the world of shadow government and its various secretive projects, in which nothing is what it seems, and where agendas remain hidden until they spill out into the open.
Over the years I had known Leonard, I had grown accustomed to his peculiar views on things. I'd mistakenly believed they were personal, eccentric, and possibly intended to be taken ironically. But now I began to think they indicated membership in some lunatic fringe group with big ambitions. Who were they?
My first thought was they might be descended from the followers of 17th century false messiah Sabbatai Zvi. Whoever they were, it didn't seem likely that they could ever occupy a mainstream position in politics or society. I certainly would never have climbed on a bandwagon under the banner of war and depopulation. But then, I also failed to realize Leonard's career was about to take off as never before. Of course, his new repertoire had something to do with that -- he was now writing songs that spoke in undertones to people in high places who were looking for music to accompany their secret orchestrations.
A lot has changed in the last twenty years, and much of it involves the mainstreaming of hidden doctrines and agendas. Along with the rise of neo-conservatives in North America, we have witnessed the rise to fame and fortune of Montreal singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen,