Sunday, February 04, 2007

All I Want

The moon rode through the cloudwrack last night. Tamburlaine riding in triumph through Persepolis.

Yesterday, Mae put my hand on her shoulder, and did a quick slanty penguin shuffle, revolving clockwise around me. She was trying to do a passive range of motion test -- horizontal abduction of the shoulder -- and since we're evaluated on body mechanics she didn't want to just hold my arm and swing it around at shoulder height. Very reasonable. But the effect was comic, Chaplinesque, and I had to laugh. "Not very professional-seeming, maybe," I said. "But very entertaining: I'd come back for more." She collapsed laughing on the couch.

Her laugh is always puctuated by a piercing squeak at each in-breath, loud enough to turn heads at restaurants; it makes everyone grin. It's irresistable. She's eighteen. She wears all black, punctuated with chains and skulls and silver-studded collars; and she brings pink-frosted cupcakes for the class, and confers affectionately with her mother on her cell at break times.

I didn't hug her when I left. She has a touch of teenage bashfulness and clumsiness about her still, and I carefully maintain a certain distance: I think she likes working with me partly because to her I, being ancient, am completely desexualized. I scrupulously leave that impression undisturbed.

The gated city, through the strung pearls of fog; giddy with the turning, turning, turning; one long finger stroking silk as green as grasshopper's leg. If I were to ask now? Nothing. The time is passed, the alignment is gone, the planets are scattering this way and that. I tell myself it's just as well, but I don't believe me.

What would we ask for? Oh, you know, we would ask for our doom and disaster, the end of our world, the end of possibility. "All I want is to live forever in the presence of the Lord," we would say, knowing -- if we thought half a second -- that the living universe, with that kind of dissecting pin driven through its wing, would tear itself to pieces. Not to mention that we would have to be ourselves, forever and ever, forever crippled and wounded and fearful. Do you think, that just because we got what we asked for, we would stop wanting it, and agonizing over the lack of it? Look at how we receive the gifts of God now -- do you seriously think we would receive that gift any differently?

No. If we must ask, before we have learned how to ask, we should at least ask for something that makes sense. Let us ask to be made into someone who could receive such a gift, without destroying both himself and the world.

But better, maybe, to ask for nothing at all.

I don't know. I am tired. The simplicities are escaping me.

All I know is that I'm aching with the wanting. I think of one Rachel, brought face to face, so young, with the mortality of all that burns so brilliantly within her. Of another Rachel, who taught me to see pink string and splintered benches, among many other things, looking into a well of darkness. And I want to protest, object to the very shape and texture of the world. They should not hurt. They should not be mortal. (And, of course, incidentally, they should be mine.)

All I want. All I'm asking. I have learned to view those words as the trademarks of insanity.


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