Wild things are smarter than tame ones, that much is clear. –Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood
Nothing lasts forever: it is the only thing of which you remain certain, and the greatest relief of your life.
Your early years a blur. Brambles, a hand-me-down cap, lye stink. Underripe strawberries, scrabbling up a bank, the terror of a dog, a great meadow. Scraps of delicious pork. Guilt. Certainty you were responsible for all the evil in the world. Certainty if you willed an object to move with your mind, the object would move, if you really needed it to.
The reflection of a candelabra in a window superimposed upon your own, like a celestial crown. A single splendid image that, as a child, would hover before you for weeks. At your father’s funeral, it was all you could think about.
You get older. Your imagination doesn’t cooperate as well, now, so you’ve learned to stick your mind to other things. Like baking. Like looking for ways to be helpful, though as often as not, your help is unsuccessful or unwanted.
Every moment of sadness is painted over, eventually, by one of joy. Sadness soon paints over that. Joy again. You can change colors many times in a day.
The lonely whites of King-Lu’s eyes in the bushes: sadness. The warmth of another body in your tent: joy. Clyde’s threats: sadness (you call upon your old celestial crown to drown out his words). King-Lu’s escape: joy. His invitation for a drink: joy. His appreciation of your flowers: joy.
He speaks and does not mind that you do not. He does not feel unacknowledged by your silence (which at times has been mistaken for priggishness). He sees you as useful. He sees you in his future, at your hotel, on your farm, in San Francisco or elsewhere. He dreams your dreams more often than you dream them; he dreams for you.
“When you lie down on the bank for a nap, you waggle your toes,” you say. You wait to say it until you have the excuse of a bowl of batter. Your eyes on the whisk. “But when you lie down at night, you don’t waggle your toes.”
“Sleeping is different from napping,” he says. “I would relate the differences between your sleeps and your naps if you only took them.”
You do not. It is more relaxing to watch him sleep. He takes your bowl and your whisk and you have no choice but to meet his gaze. Outside, bugs sing. The darkness is complete. You feel the night like a gift.
He draws a few inexpert circles in the batter then returns it to you. “You’re better at it.”
On an early night you lay together, King-Lu shared the scariest moment of his travels: a great wave. The earth rocked and the ocean followed. The water looked almost normal, he said, but everyone could sense it was not; the water was not tall, like during a storm, but dense and fast, like a living boulder. The vast plain of the ocean collapsed homes by their foundations without reaching their windows. “Imagine I knocked you over by your ankles,” King-Lu explained, and you laughed, because you couldn’t imagine. Not your ankles, at least.
“She hardly gives any milk,” says Chief Factor of your most beautiful friend. The statement feels almost normal, but you can sense it is not.
Change rolls toward you like an ocean; King-Lu’s and your only choice is to move out of the way. He does not entirely agree. He’s still dreaming your dreams and his.
You can’t sense much now. Your awareness of the world stops at your screaming skull. But King-Lu is there. You know he’s there. He lies to dream with you. Joy.
You may feel joy like this again, or you may not. If you don’t, that means you are dead. There is always some joy, somewhere, waiting for you to uncover it, like a salamander beneath a wet leaf.