And it was true. This young man was inevitably the product of an enormous inner imbalance that required dreams of executions and elegant retorts plus refined reading habits, the latter being something he had trained himself to become accustomed to and by now found easy. What he connected and gathered from his books was something wavered and ultimately – everything is that when young - ultimately what he refused, and what it was that he didn’t want to say yes to, couldn’t assent to, thinking himself unprecedented, was the obvious thing that books show, which was that the torments, sufferings and heartbreaks were what connected all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive, and so, naturally and not at all without irony, his refusal was just his version of those torments, sufferings and heartbreaks that made him human and connected him, no matter his denials, to vast humankind. His lapidary stance was an arrow. He sought a final triumph, a fulfilled fantasy. This was the key to his friendships and sex drive: miraculous bouts of self-esteem mixed with feelings of utter worthlessness. But most of this was locked away and inscrutable as always. Hatred is forbidden love, motivated by fear of indifference and rejection.
‘Wow, you’re always preserving yourself. You worry about your integrity, as if afraid when the moon comes up it’ll go for a walk.’
He stared at her. Sometimes people seemed to make everything a manoeuvre in front of the enemy, so it seemed to him, and surely the albatross vision had been enough to recuperate certain ideas, simple, noble and clean, as a basis for political organising and for a sharp detoxed way. Yet she didn’t seem an easy switcher, and would let him have some excitement as if an angelic troublemaker, saying that even so everything finds a dignity of its own when dignity’s being refused everywhere, which seemed wholly good to him, and he had to begrudgingly nod it so, even though she was also tireless in saying that ugliness would be reduced out there if we all did more to get rid of ugliness in here – and she’d press her bronzy strong hand to herself as if the middle ground itself was revolutionary.
But he also was confused just a little by her refusal to take part in the brotherhood and sisterhood that trooped up and down in the marches and the subsequent rioting and proclamations, refused straightforwardly and with a blank no, saying that such talk and action didn’t correspond with the reality we see all around us every day, - and which the event draws attention to most vividly and cruelly – so all the talk of brotherhood and tolerance didn’t cool her at all but grated the nerves is how she put it even though more important than ever, she never denied that, but she wanted instead talk of wealth and status and political powers and along with that kind of talk, a program, something like a plan which could be delivered eventually, something definite and manifestable and not big-mouthed pie in the sky. That’s what she quietly insisted on, and said that tougher, more patient thinking was needed because all this running up brotherhoods and sisterhoods was just no better than looking to build your humanity out of the ruins of someone else’s.
‘What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?’
‘Relax. I get it. You’re a roaring boy with no embarrassments,’ and her sardonic turn was a match for the rather dim morning light that concealed more than showed, like a sack of mute sound.
And she wondered aloud and he heard what she said with a sense of wonder and astonishment that wasn’t altogether bad but wasn’t good either, like when she said that these riots didn’t really depend on any particular type of match and so they shouldn’t be what we use, because she said that matches are always lying around somewhere and what we should be talking about is why along with these matches there was a fuse and a powder keg. And he’d kissed his teeth in a vast distressed rage that he didn’t really fathom but he knew it had something to do with this, that talk of ‘frightening allies’, of ‘mindless destruction’, of ‘everything takes time’ seemed from where he sat just code for sitting down hard on it and doing nothing but gentle soothing talk. Which she agreed with, which he found hard to credit although he never doubted her sincerity, and when she continued and said straightforwardly what was needed were fast reforms to create jobs, housing and the whole of welfare, especially health and education he strained forward on his hollow elbows as much alive as anyone and beginning to credit living with complexities of unimaginable salt and he became entranced by a remote element in his thoughts where the highest business was being done, which quelled any tears or shame he might have felt, or even his distressing fury, as if here, in this, there was the purpose and essence of himself, energetically in her avowals which were unusual in their range of appeal and flat calmness which made him feel he wasn’t quite the right kind of son, or something obscure but intimate like that.
‘What happened before can happen now. Once we grasp that there are vested interests then sit-ins integrating lunch counters won’t make a long-term difference,’ she said as if curious that now he seemed to be listening more than before, as if something new was occurring. But she couldn’t be sure and anyway, she was intolerant and derogatory towards the myths, fears and pathologies he talked about as if happy to dim brighter achievements just to feel better himself and talk as if individual psychological solutions were what was required, which was a hopeless prognosis like a water cure for lunatics. She explained it:
'If that’s all that’s needed, then all we have to do is get everyone to lie down on a psychiatrist’s coach, cry like a baby, say it won’t happen again and keep doing that until they’re all cured. We could throw in sunlamps and massages, chlorine water hydrotherapy and a decent cholonic irrigation, squander everything coldly in order to charm away bad thoughts and hope to die. But it’s not. Politics ain’t psychiatry.'
She of course had alcohol, nicotine and an assortment of drugs to get her feeling calm and lush, the sun still rising over the cool Rhine and Siegfried still wearing the Tarnhelm, a clutch of runes and bewitchments raising a storm against riddles and fraudulence whilst he, despite his beauty and looking so idealistic, broad, and fine, was slovenly and maybe even nothing much beyond a dirty devil. This was what she now clearly saw as he moved and expanded in the wicker chair with dark energies pouting through the weaves, and she pushed open the French windows to her garden porch patio arrangement with lighter, finer energies weaving in tune across the blooming chrysanthemums, the pert red bells of the azalias and the gradually incurved flight towards the outer way, a fresh breeze blowing in as she rattled chesnut and gold coffee out of jars into mugs and decided that no, he would never gain her sympathy because, with some justice, all he was vying for was a false peace which for her was an aggravation arising from fraudulent matters in his childhood.
It was the the kind of small morning that casts its torchlight to kindle Valhalla’s towers where alluring flames burn the spirit into a reclining emotion that collects at back and forms a cloud bank on the horizon, and the vicious Hagen is drowned claiming his rights to the very deep end. For a while the pair were uncommonly still. He noticed the murkiness in the sunshine and felt a chill. There was a dead moth and white enamel wrinkles of paint and he drank with the steady hand of a supplicant, estimating the matter of his own grief and righteous condition casually, and probably guessing by now that she would much prefer to be having breakfast alone even though she said nothing of the sort and her face was not that of an unwilling captive and seemed well-meaning and chirpy. He pulled himself together as if there was an effort he was prepared to make.
‘Listen, where people are needing a break they need help and luck and sympathy right?’ he choked up and spilled awkwardly a drop of the coffee so that he frowned and felt annoyed that his trousers were spoiled, as if this was one accomplishment he had had a right to which now he would have to forfeit, and to such a degree that a fist seemed to be right in his chest and pressing up hard, so he began right there to realise he was untimely and uncomfortable. What was she after? What did she want with him? Well it was clear that for all her talk of poverty and so forth the real issue was something to do with him, his own poverty, an orphan in his imagination and soul. That was where she was working him over more than anywhere else.
‘We made them see us. We made them come to where they needed to see us. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’ve won,’ he said, like he had a perfect sales pitch and she sat with her legs hooped by her arms and her eyes adjusting priorities and scales, as if there was a great dilemma that now would have to be discussed at length and in detail, because vindictive inaction wasn’t coffee, warm bread, nor her grey soulful look.
Read the complete novel 'The Ecstatic Silence' here.