Waves lapping, distant island superimposed on pastel spread, surrounded by the whitest sand–reminding me of . . .” I paused to think, “. . . of scorn, I suppose . . .
Recovering my pencil from the sand, I scratched in my economy-sized notepad:
A day pressingly beautiful, enough to inspire loneliness: Promise’s contamination, one big swallowing motion, yet unrecognizable in the mirror of human faces; Desire with no conceivable correspondent–beyond-this-world, concentric-circled . . . desire . . .
A lone swimmer disentangled herself from the liquid expanse, and drifted toward me, sultry in shadow, drying herself with a towel.
“What are you writing?” she asks disinterestedly, sitting beside me.
“Nothing,” I replied. “The stars will be here soon.”
“I’m cold,” she says with a coaxing sadness, “but I won’t complain, and I know a fire tonight is out of the question . . .”
“You’re shivering,” I observed.
Through chattering teeth: “You need . . . the clarity . . . and I need you to survive another nightfall.”
She leaned against me and the colours of twilight seemed to ebb and intensify.
“Back off,” I warned, kind of pushing her away. Her eyes of reflective grey, they moistened with hurt as I moved away from her disconsolate–the colours, I observed, becoming less distorted in proportion to the distance between us.
“What could you have written?” she says all upset, fumbling on the ground for the notepad.
From a few steps away I observed the process of inversion, where the Dream collapses under its own recognition.
She looked up at me, her eyes mirrors of the island superimposed on pastel spread, whispering softly: “It doesn’t have to be this way, I . . . I was helping you . . .”
“To what end, Karis?” I said sharply.
By this time I was on my feet, walking briskly along the beach.
Turning to see her following me, I encouraged her pursuit: “Come on, I’ll drop you off at home.”
“You mustn’t think this way!” she pleaded. “You cannot . . . for your own sake you mustn’t–”
“Come on,” I repeated.
Resolved to the worst, she hurried past me with a furious, accusatory glare, crying out: “Don’t trouble yourself, I’ll find my own way back. I only hope clarity doesn’t render you sightless!”
And I watched her disappear into the mouth of the horizon, wondering what, exactly, I had done.
* * * *
Opening the shutters . . . On what? Access traditionally suppressed. Experience requires anesthetic, Realization swift sever. Mind-sanctuary inevitably betrays itself, marking the capsizing of the Dream under its own weakness, ashes to dust, and the dawn of an outlook-shifting sobriety.
With the waves lapping, and sky reflecting the pre-struggles of yet another death, I found myself an impassive observer to the destruction of the Dream’s promise within, behind and under the illusion of its possibility.
How long can the alcove hide one from the storm? Prescriptions from the past, the fallacious “quintessence” and karmic dance to lush promised land plumed with grapes and rivers flowing with milk and honey–they all describe her mendacious attempt to lure unsuspecting travelers to the remote, dizzying heights she’s claimed as her home, where the owl noiselessly prowls the evening air and the auspice of a rainbow stretches across daybreak, settling uneasy stomachs.
Gathering myself, my disappointment, my impulsiveness, I continued my trek along the water-hardened shoreline toward my car, night birds whisking all around me, skimming the water as though I was a spectator to be impressed.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcomed her company, adopted her as my alcove, my security . . . my objectified passion. Karis invited every bit of experience and knowledge, all literature and art to follow, into the warm, golden sunlight, where no arabesque of shadow could infiltrate, no anxiety could unsettle the stillness. To reside in Dream meant never to live, and that was fine with me, only . . . only there were too many instances when my sleep was disturbed and my eyes would slowly open to the very real spider spindling its way across the ceiling, or a gathering of multi-coloured clouds spreading across the skyline, incandescent in the unnatural, deep feeling orange of another day swallowed by hell.
These instances of clarity invited her recognition–unquestionably with her sanction–and the satisfaction of somnambulating through life became a hazy recollection at best, now too remote to dwell on and too far away to regret. A period of restlessness, as I suspected, began to fill the void. I had woke up to find the shutters partly open, and Karis recoiling from the golden light of her own conjuring to cold, less conspicuous ground. It was there–within, behind and under the setting Revelation–that she turned herself toward herself, there with the dark of my shadow cast over her.
. . . For an instant, Dream became conscious of Dream, incorporating lyrical expression to the musical flow of our emotion: the sanctuary could no longer hold the tormented and the tormented could no longer place foot in the sanctuary. So we went our separate ways, not before she could flash those brilliant eyes in my direction, though, invoking a spell of nausea-regret-hesitation. But I was not to reconsider, at least for the moment, merely to suffer, and she disappeared into the congestion of colour and stretch of endless white sand before I could change my mind, leaving me to ponder my clarity.
Her absence almost instantly precipitated this sense of being irretrievably alone . . . and while traversing the beach, a voyeur of my own senses, the sun fading mercifully, I came to appreciate her precarious, poetic stance, that, for all her eloquence and elocution, the one thing she could offer to me “personally” required the dissolution of all she came to embody as meaningful.
Call the object of our relationship what you wish, Effective Stimulant, Worthy Diversion . . . but I needed her companionship, if only to appreciate the dull throbs of soberness I sacrificed my deceptive sense of “resonance” with the grandeur of God’s beauty to embrace.
* * * *
Many writers have erred just as tragically, have tried and failed to interpret the world through those unspeakably beautiful grey eyes. I mean, in the inundation of loneliness throughout history there have been some panoramic attempts at resurrection, call it the Great Nostalgia (Renaissance nostalgia), but I’ve dismissed the possibility, settling on resolution. No doubt I would have to recover my senses quickly. Thrust into the dire situation of a fiddler crab whose demands had outgrown its shell, it was time to move forward and reevaluate my resonance with the world, either that or suffocate.
Writing became my lifeline. Every thought, breath, impulse, urge, they found their way to paper. It was a violent response to a passive, degrading aggression. Actuality peeled off the filmy, sticky latex of Appearance, and shuddered in the cold breeze, moist and insipid, like a hatchling struggling to “become.” It was the first taste of reality since high school, when, at a late blooming seventeen, I initially experienced the grace of her company and was still stubborn enough to resist her persuasions. I wrote: “Karis, beautiful, don’t you realize that it’s the very same sky effusing hues of hope and promise inciting the most unspeakable . . . unsightly . . . decay . . .”
In search of a shell, advancing along the sand, I’ve discovered the prospect of survival-without-her to be a mesmerizing possibility. I’ve become passionate of late, to the point that I sometimes lose sight of my troubles, for hours and hours morbidly consumed with light, time, hunger, contour, space, colour, virility–until the spell is over, and then all I’m left with is an emptied sense of estrangement: “Karis, reality dictates an apparent disconnection with the grossly opulent craftsmanship of this world. Can I believe you’re attracted to me so?”
Extended circles of self-reproach over long, long years have led me to frequent park benches, lightly sipping cigarettes, or my familiar table at Silas and Priscilla’s Cafe–have urged me to surreptitiously slip into the dark quiet of commotion in the bar, all the time trying to figure things out: how I’m somehow integral to everything revolving around me, yet alienated by everything I circle, and how I lack a predecessor in the art of reconciling a disfigured soul to an ecosystem of aesthetic harmony.
There’s little question that Karis’ absence left me in disfigurement, and despite her departure that evening by the waterside this antagonizing sense of her presence continued to burn with an insatiable, molten-white intensity. The heat, I knew, would not subside until my outlook had been branded in such a way that every perspective included the image of our courtship. Defeated, I found myself slumped over in the November of mentality, and I just wanted to perish alone in my studio, a victim of myself and my own tainted outlook.
November means that everything’s laid bare, and things are exactly as they seem. The water’s dark and cold, inviting in its own convincing way, while trees vividly demonstrate the argument that death’s the sole threshold to life. It’s the same capsule an old man revisits when savoring his pipe, conjuring the war, and justifying everything opiate. November I recognize: snow that rarely lasts a fortnight, dismal sun, manufactured grey cloud, summer pond surviving scourge of autumn and cryogenically preserved.
November I recognize: childhood penetrated by divorce, social division, unjust distribution of talents, ambiguous moral code, growing lack of purpose. The pond of my memory enshrines the penetrative moment, spread in concealment, shimmering steel on the outskirts of a local farmer’s field where the tips of brown corn stocks could be seen reaching skyward through the snow, pleadingly perhaps, in supplication to the hand of all creation. The day of its discovery, I recall, even smelled of November, cold and dead.
Carefully I navigated the bank with my friends, each of us wary of motherly chastisement, and peered into the opaque window . . . only to discover . . . bone-chilling disappointment . . . apart from the wind’s icy squeeze prickling hairs on scarveless necks. Charsmith, our fearless leader, unhesitatingly smashed the ice with a branch he found, no doubt disgusted (children find nothing savory in tranquillity). And it was then, upon impact, that we saw the shadows bleed beneath the icy cover.
Our leader, reflexes of a jungle cat, haughtily dipped his hand into the frigid water before any of us could react. I think it was then that I experienced my first memory of being captivated. All of us innocents were captivated, intently holding our breath while the inverted, misty drama unfolded, where anxious fingers stretched like suction-cupped tentacles to extricate one of the bolting shadows from the shadow of cold mud in which it had disappeared.
In morbid fascination we were witness to a hand’s upper thrust from obscurity to stark, impending reality, lethargically successful in the cold air, with the prize in its clutches: a numb, protesting frog.
It croaked for freedom. But we kept it and caught more.
Autonomy, possibility . . . how can I envision anything beyond Nature’s scorn? November, however, I recognize: Dream by its very nature opposes contradiction . . .
Indefinitely, I trace circles in the sand in the knowledge that I’m an infinite set of irreconcilable attributes, exchanging shell for shell, and that I’m never to become.
Read November in White Sands – A Novel