Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Dawn

The night before his flight they sat up in his hotel room and talked. All night. Not that they had anything particular to talk about, not that there was anything to be said between them that hadn't been said already and wouldn't be said again. They talked through the night because it was a way of being together, the kind of casual intimacy that was all that either of them was prepared for. There was no urgency to their conversation, no desperate attempt to keep the time from slipping away. Rather it was a conversation marked by a kind of lingering togetherness, like the warmth of a handshake that you are unwilling to let go.

If they talked in the dark it was not because there was anything that they were afraid to face - it was simply that it never occured to either of them that the question of light might be relevant. Locked in the back and forth of their discussion, it no longer mattered that they were unable to see each other; they had learnt long ago to read the truth of the other's feelings in the braille of his or her voice. Sitting there, in the faint moonlight, they were like dancers in some ancient ritual, warriors who had come to know each others swordplay so well that they could fight each other blindfolded. It occured to him later, looking back, that in those hours of darkness their voices were a distillation of the self, a pure filtrate of what they had come to mean to each other.

What did they talk about? About Keats, and the difficulty of finding good drycleaners, and whether candles were romantic or simply a fire hazard. About whether ambition mattered, and to whom. About why people got married and whether there was something to be learnt about the political evolution of the United States by studing the decline of Rome. About Faiz and what he said about Chopin and the impossibility of sharing the nocturnes with anyone else. About how his parents had made him write out the classics, five, ten pages a day in an attempt at self-improvement that had done nothing to make his handwriting more legible, but had left him with a lifelong aversion to Dickens. How her parents had done the same to her, except they'd got her to copy her schoolbooks. About whether handwriting was still relevant, now that everything was typed.

There was no pattern to this conversation of theirs, no design. They were like two blind people feeling their way around some mythical animal. Their talk seemed haphazard, groped together, - neither of them would have been able to tell you, afterwards, its general shape. Yet there was a solidity to it, an opaqueness - it felt important, tangible, like something you placed your hand against without trying to grasp.

It was only when the first hint of twilight spilled out into the sky that they fell silent. Perhaps there was something in those silheouttes of each other, floating to the light's surface like drowned bodies, that outlined for them more clearly the shape of things to come. Perhaps there occured to them, so late in the game, the utter impossibility of defining what had just passed between them, of explaining it to someone else in terms that did not include the word 'love' (What was it Shelley said? "One word is too often profaned / For me to profane it / One feeling too falsely disdained / For thee to disdain it") Perhaps that first faint light was a mirror, showing them how this night would look to an outsider, so that they retreated into their heads to prepare a defense against what such an observer would say, to deny this moment its significance, its sense of occasion. In that first silence of the day, it was as though a great machine had suddenly become aware of itself, and stood amazed at its own temerity.

Perhaps they were just tired.

At any rate, as the distant hum of the city lightened the hush of the night, as the dawn began to spread across the sky in that first, vaguely embarassed flush, they fell silent. For a moment they continued to sit across from each other on the couch, fidgeting, not knowing what to do with this awkwardness they had so absently, so pointlessly picked up. Then he rose and went over to the window. The streetlights along Marine Drive shone in fading glory, like a necklace of pearls that has been left locked away for too long. The sea was crumpled and grey, like a soldier's bed. Small, yellow taxis picked their way through the waking streets, alert like beaks for passengers to peck at.

She came and stood beside him. Between them now there was a sense of waiting, a silence that demanded the ticking of a clock that they both listened for but neither could find. Together, hand in hand, they gazed out upon this city that was to be the lost inheritance of their time together, a city of heraclitean dreams that they would never again return to.

As the day cleared, and the light over the horizon grew stronger, she turned to him and asked, "How do you know when it's day again?". He looked at her surprised, uncomprehending. "I mean how do you know exactly? At what point can you say it is now sunrise, the day has officially begun? They publish times for sunrise and sunset in the papers don't they? How do they measure that?". He shrugged. "I don't know", he said, "I suppose you just know when there's light enough. I don't think you can see it from here anyway. Does it matter?"

Later there would the panic of things thrown into his bag at the last minute, there would be hurried goodbyes and that creeping sense of regret that overtakes you in the backseat of taxis you are alone in, going away. Later there would be flights to catch, baggage to check, things to remember having forgotten. But for now they stood there, uncertain children at the edge of an indecipherable Eden, watching the horizon for that moment when the night would finally change into day.

6 comments:

Heh Heh said...

BTW, my new blog is up.
~he who shall etc etc

the One said...

Brings back memories, that does. Brilliantly written as usual.

Er .. if one may be so bold, that "beaks for passengers to peck at" analogy did jar ever so slightly.

Falstaff said...

heh: "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."

- Luke 15: 21-24

Welcome back.

One: ya, I know, it didn't really work did it. The image I had in mind was something fluffier, cuter, like little yellow chicks fluttering about in a yard. This thing ended up sounding more like something out of Stephen King. Ah, well.

Mrudula said...

Good. My only problem was with 'beaks for passengers to peck at'. It missed a beat.

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