I sit and smile and wait for the pain to subside, which it always does eventually. Often I can last without even hope of screaming. I know I won't scream. But sometimes, yes, I do scream. I do so quietly, some rare times a woman walking past hearing me, turning to me to look to see if I am sick or wounded. She stops and stares and can't move on just yet. I see her face, and I want to scream. She keeps on staring.
I thought I had it made, a job made for me, my life made for me at last. Then the committee said no, I cannot be a part of some greater thing, my life not to be, in the setting sun, one of quiet and comfort: I am, they said so sympathetically, so... insane.
I had a boat ride this day, beginning myself at 6:00 a.m. after the third or fifth straight night of sleepnessness, standing in a hot shower in the darkness, bending down in the darkness as the water beat on my head, on my back, and ran down my legs and into the drain to be gone. My hot shower couldn't last, and this I know. The shock of cold air has to come. And so it did. I walked out of the bathroom and into the the light in my room to face yet another strange day of mysteries I cannot hope to fathom. I float as much as life allows till those snags pull me under and the current tears at me till again I am loose to drift on to the sea of forgetting. There was no towel today, so I got into bed and patted myself as dry as I could, still cold in the skin, still bewildered by the possibilities I cannot know but might well dread.
- There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
- The earth, and every common sight,
- To me did seem
- Apparelled in celestial light,
- The glory and the freshness of a dream.
- It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
- Turn wheresoe'er I may,
- By night or day,
- The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
I remember. "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting." I remember.
The boat is filled with us, all of us not the same. Two couples sit near me, so different.
Over there sits a young woman with a young man with a young man collapsed outside in the burning sun as the boat flies across the water to the weeds. The boy is sick and lays in the sun and is left alone. He stays that way all day, his friends leaving him to his illness and the sun. We chat all around him, our various talks and tales whispering in the wind. Shortly we arrive at the floating islands of Uros, reed islands inhabited by people who, whatever their connection to their ancestral past, are now Modernists in a read diorama of cartoons on Lake Titicaca. These people, living in a memory that was never true of themselves, live life for cash and hand-outs and the necessities of living in the here and now. Tourists like myself bring them money so they can live another day floating in this soggy daydream. But I don't care about the people on the reeds, only about the lovers near me. Is it the real in the here and now or am I taken in by sentiment and longing and memories? I will never really know, though I will remember, and the memories will haunt me and cause me illness from which I cannot escape the pain of. It was so much better before I knew.
- Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
- Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
- To me the meanest flower that blows can give
- Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.*
- How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
- The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
- Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!**
Fires burned and smoke rose across the lake, leaving us to wonder who and what. One man suggested it was the reed island set ablaze by the girl who smoked cigarettes there, who left her friend behind. We chuckled.
And then across the lake 20 minutes later, another burning.
The darkness set in, the storm rising as we passed a Potemkin Village of ancient agriculture. Life was, so they say, so much better when.
Later, a boat burned in the darkness, two orange spots in the night. "Diesel and plastic," said a tall, white-haired German. We sailed on, leaving the boat to burn, a storm threatening to capsize us. We are who we are; we are not them.
*William Wordsworth, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," (1804) Poems, in Two Volumes (1807).
**Alexander Pope, "Eloisa to Abelard," ( 1717)
A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
Occasional-Walker-D-W/dp/ 0987761501/ref=sr_1_1?s=books& ie=UTF8&qid=1331063095&sr=1-1
And here are some reviews and comments on said book: