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Posted: Jun 23 2017, 12:44 PM
Joined: 21-February 11
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"What are you thinking about?" he asked, leaning closer to the mirror. He could feel an eyelash in his eye, and yet, no matter how hard Ariel looked, he could not seem to find it. Over his shoulder, leaning against the bedpost with arms crossed, was Regus, staring out at the balcony, and the rain.
"You,” Regus answered. “It's always you."
Taking Regus seriously was something Ariel had struggled with for as long as he had known the man. Simply believing he was real had been a challenge; one did not often meet strangers in the woods, especially a stranger who melted into a sea of snakes, all shimmering black scales and purple eyes, and bit you. A man was inclined to distrust such vivid encounters, no matter how real they seemed in childhood - even if they resulted in a terrific fever, even if that fever lasted for days and nearly killed him. Ariel had believed it to be a boy’s fit of fancy, or a hallucination he mixed up with his snake bite. Years later, traveling to the city, he met that same man again, standing at a crossroads on the way the train.
That was the day Ariel had been on his way to London.
Their things were packed and piled near the front door downstairs. Some of the suitcases were fit to burst. The servants bustled around the other rooms, throwing white sheets over the furniture and locking the guest bedrooms. It had been raining in London for days now, and they could not sail until the storm eased a little. Regus stared out at the balcony like he could will the rain away, though Ariel doubted that was within his power. For all that he knew now, uncertainties remained.
"Where are we going?" Ariel fussed with his hair. He raked his fingers through it and brushed his bangs to one side, then the other. It didn’t matter at all, but it gave him something to do.
Ariel turned from the mirror and walked to the bed, and laid back across it. His boots dangled over the edge, not touching the floor. He was ready to go - wherever it was they were going. Something in him must have died at the docks, or he must have thrown it up on his way back, because he was not particularly concerned about leaving his home. The idea of vanishing offered him a new and uncertain peace.
"Why me, Regus?" It was not the first time he’d asked.
"Why not you?"
"I don't know.” He shrugged, shifting the sheets. “I'm not all that special."
Regus chuckled. "Is that something you'd put up to popular vote?"
The question made Ariel uneasy. Why did anyone else’s opinion matter but his own? "Truth isn't a democracy."
"It can and it can't be. It depends."
He sighed with deliberate exaggeration. "It all depends on you." It was easier to deflect these questions
Some nights he laid awake and asked himself precisely what Regus was, why he was. Ariel had at least come to the conclusion that he wasn't human, that he was not bound by the same physical and natural laws - but beyond that, little was clear. He knew few things for certain. Mostly, Regus kept him from killing himself or falling into complete disarray. He did not prevent suffering. He only illuminated the path that allowed Ariel to walk through it.
And now they were going somewhere far, far away. And it didn't even matter where, to Ariel. He was going with Regus, and that felt like enough, in a way it never had before. Wherever Regus took them, they would be there for a reason.
"What would you give, to know the truth?"
The question snapped Ariel from his daydreaming. "That's an odd question," he stammered.
Regus half-turned from the window. The gray light of the rainy afternoon cut him into a shady profile. "Do you even know what the truth is?"
"I--" Ariel stopped. Questions like this were tricky with Regus. He sighed again, and started over. "The truth is the truth. One truth leads to another."
"There's a letter on your nightstand."
Ariel laughed, "No, there isn't."
And there was. Ariel could not remember anyone having brough it to him, but yes, there was an slim cream-colored envelope, lying in wait. He sat up.
"How long has this been here?"
It was not a very long letter, Ariel determined, judging by the weight of the envelope. Nor did he suspect its contents were formal, judging by the texture of the paper. His eyes ran over the handful of lines.
I'm writing to tell you I want to talk with you. Please meet with me. I do not come to fight. I seek your counsel. I understand we have quarreled, and not spoken in some time, but I have forgiven you. Please write, and meet with me.
"You asked what makes you special, Ariel."
"Yes." Ariel was only half-listening.
"You care." Regus turned back to the window. "Even in all your foolishness, you have cared. Human hearts sense it. They come to it. They yield to it."
Ariel laughed again. "You are flattering me." He folded up the letter, and set it back in the envelope. His heart lifted. He had, of course, already forgiven Leda the pain she had inflicted with their parting, and with her stubbornness. He flung away his doubts to partake more fully in the joy of reconciliation.
"And yet the people keep coming."
"They like to look at me. Is it going to rain all day?" He walked over and sat down at his writing desk.
"Perhaps. And they do. But more than looking, you show them fearless love. You give them hope."
Regus was trying to teach him something, Ariel realized. But was it true? "Hope for what?" He was already uncapping his ink well and dipping his pen. He began, My dear friend - of course I will see you.
"A world of fearless love. If they could all love as you did, they would be free."
"I'm no one so important, Regus," Ariel said, scratching away at his reply. "I'm simply tired of being weak, and cruel, and selfish. Everyone is called to such virtues." I should see you write away, before I go on a trip. I will come see you in the rain, if you are at home today. He set his pen down to let the ink dry.
"All are called to walk the path. But someone has to illuminate it. Someone has to call out in the dark, to turn others towards the light."
The conversation unnerved him, and cast a shadow over his joy. Ariel sat up straighter. "I am," he said, "still very sad about Iris. But she couldn't come with me, could she?" Unlike Leda, Iris had not forgiven. Perhaps it was not something she could manage, not even with a whole lifetime. Some people were like that.
"She could not. In your heart, you realized that a long time ago."
When Ariel turned to look at Regus again, he was in that exact same place, arms crossed, leaning back, smiling. Regus could hold still for the longest periods of time, never tiring, to the point that he sometimes seemed a talking piece of furniture - a very annoying piece of furniture. Ariel sighed. "I wish she could have," he said plaintively. "I wish she could have."
"If she could have, she would not be Iris."
Ariel tsked his tongue. "How do you know that?"
"Because she is not here now. If being herself meant being here, she would be here."
Ariel was quiet. He exhaled, folded up his letter, and addressed the envelope. He stamped it close with a seal, and walked out into the hallway. "Marie! Marie!" He waited until the maid had come up, and he handed her the letter, and told her where to take it. Then he shut the door. He felt his heart dancing again.
"And you don't want to live in Paris," Regus prompted.
Ariel laughed. "Paris is shit."
"So you see how it all goes."
"Yes, it is bitter. But you are not in Paris, nor pretending you should be in Paris. That is what makes you fearless."
"I'm abandoning her, Regus." Ariel came away from the door, and sat down again at his desk. He crossed his ankles over one another, and slouched back in his chair. He smiled up at the ceiling and shook his head. "I'm leaving her in... all that shit." Leda was not like Iris. When he had left Leda alone, he had felt serene, sad resignation. Iris was his responsibility. With Iris, he felt he had forsaken her, even though he was the one who had been forsaken. That absolving Iris of her sins required Ariel to take them on did not trouble Ariel in the least, in the same way a lush feels responsible for a friend less tolerant of alcohol, and who thus inbibes their drinks to spare the friend of sickness.
"Ariel, she was going to make it all out into you abandoning her in shit, one way or another, unless you lived in shit with her." Regus dared to sound a little annoyed.
"I won't hate her." Ariel smiled, and arched his eyebrows rebelliously. He wouldn't do it! He didn't have to!
"Don't hate her then." Regus sighed. "Just take your little dream of her and put a new name and a new face on it, and chase that imaginary person instead. You might actually stumble upon them."
Ariel laughed. "God, I'm glad she never really got to talk to you." He tapped his feet lightly on the wooden floor.
"She wouldn't have had the ears to hear."
Ariel closed his eyes, to listen to the rain. "So be it, then." Soon the rain would stop, and they would go. So be it.