The Last Time I Saw You
Doctor Hendin, the dear man, seems to think that I'd be startled by being at risk for death. Or that the risk of death would make me eat differently. He doesn't understand that when I overeat I am trying to die. That's the whole point. Die, shuddering, in french fries and hazelnut chocolate milkshakes. Die, shuddering, in the arms of that girl with the dark eyes. What else?
The idea that death is a critical turning point is the real escapist fantasy of our people. There is always a way out, we tell ourselves, and we hug that fantasy close. It's a fantasy in any case. If you're still there after you die, you will be somewhere, but not out. Not free of conditions and obligations. And if you're not still there, you're not free. You're just not there.
No. If we're ever going to be free, we're already free. And conversely, of course, if we're not free now, we never will be.
Light bleeds through the tall windows. Wavering shadows. A tremble of movement outside.
The truth is, that we're always still there. After the milkshake, after the dark-eyed girl. Dream follows waking; waking follows dream. The light comes and goes. What makes us think it will ever be otherwise?
Go out, walk to the edge of the trees, and listen. With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain. The dark fir branches heave restlessly; the needles flicker and gleam. A spray of rain blows up against my face.
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.
What it means to sleep. To make the crossing. Often, falling asleep, I become aware that I'm falling. I think -- I could stop myself. Last chance. But I turn from the waking world, cross willingly into other worlds. Because when I'm already in the crossing, I can see both ways, and forward is no darker, no narrower, than back. I go on down the corridor. I don't know what happens then. I don't know now, I mean. Even the dreams that we sometimes remember, I think, are the shallow-water dreams. The deep-sea ones never come to light. Who do I know, there? Where do we go together?
The last time I saw you, you stopped at the crossing, and kissed my cheek. I didn't know it was a farewell until I looked back, and saw that you and the corridor were gone.
Misguided, to go looking for the little death of the body, as if that would change anything. The waking mind dies every night. That's one place to go looking.
Long ago there was a man who asked his students to pray that he would be reborn in the hell realms. So much suffering there to allay. He walks in that huge darkness, now, carrying a little light. I often wonder about the students who reluctantly, fearfully, sent him there. They can't wish him back, without wishing him less compassionate. Do they wish they had been brave enough to follow? Do they glimpse him, at crossings, and hesitate for that fatal moment, between longing and fear, as the way closes? A tiny point of light, in all that dark.