“Dude,” I exclaim the moment I see him walk into the warmup area. “You’re looking all febrile.”
Concerned by his flushed appearance, I start to wonder if Ruod is in any condition to be exercising.
“Yeah, it’s all the love I’ve been handling,” he says nonchalantly, setting down his bag of workout gear on the studio floor, by the wall closest to us.
“Oh, okay. Nothing like that particular emotion to make you feverish,” I remark, relieved.
“So what’s with all the exposure to love?” I ask, knowing that he hasn’t exactly been drowning in the powerful stuff for a while now.
“It comes with my new job. As an emotional redistributionist,” he tells me, putting on his sweat-absorbing headband.
“You’re one of those dudes who moves emotions around?” I reply incredulously, speaking more loudly to be heard over the nearby group of activists now vigorously exercising their voices.
“I’m a newbie, but yeah, basically.”
“I had no idea you were doing that kind of work.”
“Yeah, by newbie, I meant exactly that. I’m the greenest guy there,” he tells me as we start stretching.
He begins with, as always, his imagination. Giving him ample space, I make efforts to limber up my patience, which hasn’t been as pliable as I’d like lately.
“But I didn’t know you had any interest in doing emotion reallocation work,” I remark.
“Well, neither did I. I really didn’t figure this out consciously until Jozine mentioned that I might be good at it because I’ve always had a habit of handling people’s emotions carefully, conveying them attentively and all that. Then I realized I’ve been sort of already redistributing emotions among us.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” I agree upon some reflection. “You’re always sharing your emotions and getting us to share ours.”
“Right. So I thought I’d give it a shot, despite being wary of dealing with the emotions of strangers—especially when it comes to love.”
“Man, that would really make me nervous. Isn’t that a huge responsibility?”
“Dude, it’s weird how quickly I got used to it. Once I became comfortable with my interactions with the people involved, much of the job is formulaic. It’s pretty much a standardized procedure. Ask someone to become a donor, make sure he or she is comfortable donating, get the love or arrange a pickup, then match the donation to a recipient or process the donation for other purposes.”
Just as I open my mouth to reply, my intuition is jostled by someone’s will. I shift my gaze to the direction the force came from.
My eyes meet those of a girl across the studio who says to me, “My bad! Misgauged the reach of my volition.”
“No problem,” I tell her. “Be careful of overextension,” I add.
She nods amiably, and I look once again at my friend.
“Yeah,” I say to Ruod, recalling what I was about to tell him. “It makes sense that there’s a whole routine worked out for it, but still. . . the work doesn’t make you feel weird at all? Removing a significant chunk of love from someone’s life?”
“Well, you know, a lot of the stuff would otherwise go unexpressed and unmanifested. So by doing this, the love we redistribute has more of a chance to develop in the world. Plus, it’s all consensual and there are all those financial incentives, especially for big time donors too.”
“But you’re basically eliminating any possibility that the donors could ever experience or manifest the love they’ve given up.”
“That’s true. But most of the folks I’ve worked with so far are emotionally affluent or can’t competently handle their emotions. For the latter, their manifestations of love are prone to be awkward and problematic—or even detrimental and destructive. Better they put their love into capable hands and hopefully benefit from the healthier forms this love can take, at least indirectly.”
“Hm, I see.”
“I’ll admit redistribution isn’t necessarily the best way to go,” he quickly adds. “But it really does help people in emotional need. You should see some of the recipients I’ve worked with. They’re doing so much better now with the love we’ve been able to give them.”
“Yeah, I mean, I know it’s definitely got beneficial aspects. . . ”
“Right. And this system we’ve got also has altruistic and democratic orientations. For now.”
“For now?” I echo, stunned.
My friend sighs and says, “Yeah, I’ve heard rumors that rogue redistributionists are trying to enact protocols for the appropriation of emotions from the emotionally affluent and incompetent, especially the incompe- tent affluent. Get their love and hope into the hearts that need it, put their fury into power plants and hot sauce factories, take their happiness to offset sorrow, stuff like that. Through mandatory forfeitures that would be enforceable by, well, force if necessary.”
“Man, that’s crazy.”
“Yeah. It’s doubtful they’ll get their way, but if they can put any of their intentions into action, emotional redistribution as we know it might be looked back upon like a tame pet doing tricks compared to what could be a lethally trained beast on the prowl.”
“Will you keep your current position if something like that happens?”
“It depends,” he says simply.
“On?” I prod.
“How much these fringe elements transmogrify the system. How much I need this paycheck.”
I nod, considering his words.
“So which freedoms did you want to exercise today?” he asks, crouching down to open his bag.
“I didn’t have any particular preferences,” I reply distractedly. “How about you?”
“Artistic,” he says without hesitation, taking out some ideas to toss around.