The woman had made empty promises with an honest deceit. To each other they had a scratch-deep desire. He walked away from her, internal in the tumult of the carnival. She was rich on his fingers but cool in his heart. Somehow, after blocks of ambling, his friend Joshua found him. How did he find him in the crowd and chaos of carnival? It is one of the indecipherable mysteries -- perhaps God's own hand, perhaps random chance, fate and coincidence, perhaps the bond between best friend beloveds. "He's dead," Joshua said, "come." Without explanation, he turned and the young man had no choice but to follow. They entered the gate, the old wood door and climbed the stone steps to the study. There, the body was being prepared by four priests while a wizened old rabbi looked on. The young man was shocked. It was not the old Rebbe, but Joshua's father who had died. The young man felt himself standing, alienated, outside the stained glass temple doors for the elaborate funeral ceremonies. When the doors opened and the procession to the grave passed him, the young man made the sign of the cross toward the body. It was as if he did not exist. Later that night, while Joshua mourned his father, and the young man felt helplessly adrift, the old Rebbe came to him and took him to kneel by the fire. From his robes he produced many esoteric objects foreign to both their faiths. He uttered strange quiet words and preformed subtle ceremonies. They sat there, upon their knees, genuflecting before a small fire in a cold dark room full of useless books. The young man began sobbing. He sobbed and sobbed desperately. Though they did not speak, the Rebbe spoke without speaking, "This is our atonement."
21 November 2016
14 November 2016
The room was fire warmed and candle-lit, dark in the corners. The room was a stone cloister with elaborately carved shelves of heavy wood filled with ancient books. The room held warmth like the bright hope of a monastic diaspora, like the wisdom sitting silently bound upon the shelves. In that room in that medieval port metropolis, a young man sat chatting earnestly with his friend Joshua, Joshua's father a rabbi, and the father's mentor, an elder Rebbe wrinkled and scarred, a tragic old face from tragic times and a gleam in his eyes. The four there, debated life, free of dogma or pedantry, debated passion and purpose and spirit. That night the two young men were preparing to go out to carnival, and they did just that. The streets were a riot of color and noise, or fires that tempted conflagration, of liberties that threatened damnation. In the tumult, the two young men, the jew and the gentile, strolled and marveled until they were happily separated, trusting always in their fidelity. The young man walked on till he came to a small square in a district he didn't know. There was a low platform in the middle, and upon it a dark woman sat alone, apart -- for a moment -- from the reverie. She was beautiful and harsh and, though he was attracted to her, he feared her. She caught him with her eyes like an arrow on a string. She pulled him to her and regarded him coldly, eyes locked on his. With her left hand she pulled up her layers and put his hand between her legs. The warmth that held his fingers passed through him with a shudder like strong wine. He had never been that close to a woman. Her lips parted but they did not move. She held him then released him. With cold kindness she sent him away with a kind and empty promise. He saw that their connection was true but also false and that he was at play for a moment in a drama that she had for herself in every direction.