On The Banks Of Taihu
Then they exited the train at WuXi, and plied there way on a bus; they could not help but curl up in two each other's arms. They were going to Taihu, so went on to a place where they could board a small ship, and on the ship lounge and laze in the afternoon air, because it was already that time of day when seconds, minutes, and hours stream together. Time had stopped, and they looked for all the world as a couple, even though they did not feel that way. The difference between inside and outside could be described this way: their minds were not together though there bodies were. And which way they would break, would depend entirely on whether their gut or their cranium would decide whether they would be together. They were really worried, by fragments coming from outside, and in. It was almost as if postulates of empirical thought in general were arrayed before his eyes, be possible, the actual, and the necessary. You will see what an impossible evil to deal with a fierce temper.
Along the outside of the ship, their was an edgy thickness, it could be called fog, but it was a fog that was close to the water, under natural fog, almost a peculiar fog. A fog which had not been here 30 years before. In the time of Mao, the lake was pure and clean; and now both the brine of the river and the soup that was the air, both had engaged in resembling the sea air, in that there was a taste that could not otherwise be described. There were branches in the water, almost as if they were limbs of some strange forgotten people, engrossed in their own machinations. And the lake was endless, with only a view islands popping out of the gloom. But even these islands would appear and disappear, as if a pine tree that had never been felled in the glands would have finished ors for the hands of a hero.
The contour of the lake was clear in spots, but mostly was engulfed in the same hays as the islands: coming and going with no particular reason. Where it was bright one trees and vegetation, in the abundance. Here or there there were people as small as ants climbing on rocks which were as large, in some cases, as rolling giants. They came in a gray-blue sheen which was all alike – he guessed that this area had been picked by the glaciers along time hence. Among the trees there were conifers and deciduous trees, in great slabs. Each one taking turns dominating - and then bending to the other, like brushstrokes on a canvas. Here and there a pagoda graces the pandemonium of murk, with streams creating a swirling of missed. And yet for all of the movement, for all of the commotion at the small scale, on the large, it is joyously peaceful, and wakeful cacophonous. It was the vilest of knaves - for that is the only name we can give them, the worst reproach tongue can frame against unmanly conduct.
This fog not a fog made him drink deeply, but then he began to cough. On his right, he looked over at the presence, and thought she would be serene. But it was not so, instead she was tangled up in knots and wanting to say something, but what it was could not be discerned. No presence to the eye could be discerned, though he looked through the various clues – the eyes, the lips, and all of the other signals that a person sent out when they were in distress. But there was nothing to give even a hint of what was crammed up inside of her, there was an equipoise of savage stillness inside of her. Usually, something, however small, would give away a ravaged sign that would eventually be unraveled under close questioning.
He modulated his voice to just above a whisper, trying to tease out what she was thinking: “ I did not expect you to be this rapturous, and coiled up, before the due upon lake.”
“You do not understand what it is I am feeling.” She whispered in return.
“Why do not you tell me?” But he knew that she wanted him to know in his heart what it is she was feeling. Which made it worse, not only did she know that he did not know, but she was relying on it. He would have to guess, and fumble his way towards the light which she was hiding. Fumbling towards the answer that she was hiding, which she did not know if she wanted it found out were not. There were good reasons for both answers: if it was not found out, she would bid adieu to him without compunction; if it was found out, she would twine him with deep emotion, having found the one who at last understood her. Then from out of the high sky, which was unperturbed realm of the senses; against the recapitulation of that which was in front of them; did last understood that that was the only thing he could be sure of: “how to have the everywhere and the here”. It was something she thought of several times though he did not notice it, at least in such terms.
“I cannot divine your secret wishes – but I realize this has been waiting on you for a very long time, and I wish I knew what it was so that I could answer it. And not take stumbling guesses as to what it means. Sometimes I am good with such guesses, and sometimes I am not – in this time, I have not the faintest rumbling as to what it is.” He watched every motion on her face, to capture a wisp of the truth in her face. But there was nothing, and he decided that that nothing was intentional. It was not just seems – it was, it was the absolute truth made in an instant the hard cold face of reality. He realized, in a way that was a full force, that this was the moment where she would decide whether he stay or went. There would of course, be the motions – the teary goodbye, the argument which had no real meaning, and all of the other pantomime wanderlust that was thrown in to the script. But here was where they were truly decided. Here was where they went off to the left; off to the right; unless he knew the path to keep her undecided in her heart. The underpinning of what she was made of, cleft between two halves make a whole. Thus he did not have to know, only keep the ball in play – a batting to and fro, which would keep the ball in that inevitable state. That state of equipoise.
She replied: “I do not see why I should talk to someone, in a different language from my own, who does not even understand the basics of my personality, for my mood. It is just wrong. Deep in my spine, I will take you this: there is nothing more wrong than that.”
At this point he recognized a deep inner Chinese meeting, because “deep in one's spine” is a Chinese expression which is deeply rooted, and deeply understood. It is the core of a Chinese worldview, that the spine is key to one's health. One can see this in a hospital there, where every so often acupuncture or acupressure is explained to be the key steps to health. And while this had not given him everything, he was a step in the right direction. But the problem was he did not want to exclaim to everyone what he was thinking, he wanted to tell her and only her. And this was also a foible which revealed: she must have given this away in the moments where it was between themselves, and the had not gotten it. He mentally kicked himself, because he could have saved himself such trouble; if he had only known. But that was the past: he could not now undo this. Only to stretch his mind out, and venture to see what the possibilities were in the future.
In her white dress, she was almost lost among the white and gray; lost amidst the teaming speckle islands which dotted out from the gloom. Lost amidst the trees, and with a pagoda which creeped in after having not been visible. Her face was lost to him, because she masked it from him. It was again the back shadow. Perhaps Rembrandt could give his mistress such a shadow, or in lyric intensity someone like Nabokov could do a last moment of grandeur in his unfinished work, making it the original of Laura.
Then she spoke: “You are not what you seem to be. I have known this for a while, but I finally need to speak, speak it and let go. It seems very unlikely that we will need again, so I want to end things on and honest note.” She painted her words precisely, as JW Turner with the blowing up of old Westminster – which depicted the fall of many centuries of history, only to be resurrected in a neo-Gothic satire.
He did not say anything, he knew he was caught in at least 100 lies – and he had to much affection to lie. Once upon a time, he would have done so easily. Once upon a time the words would come tripling out in a gush, falling over each other, and forming one large lie with several arabesques to supported it. He would be on his hands and knees, if required. Or he would wrap himself around her. Anything would be possible, if he were given to it. But now he had changed, though he did not know it until just now. So he stood there, pentitently. And waited.
So she continued: “I admit that I had suspicions at the beginning, and you revealed another that it might have been a whole truth. And I so much wanted to believe it was the whole truth. He told me stories about work, and how you were not part of the scheme - which I liked. I am always suspicious of someone who is the star of whatever production they were in. but you deflected these. But there were times when you would glare at me when we used the Internet phone – which was very rarely. And then I decided you were not who you said you were. And the men who came after us – how do you say it? Sealed the deal. It was not that you were thinking about me, it was that you were using me. And this would not due.” Using a phrase from his language. “But there was no blood on either of the two men dressed up as drunkards, none at all. And that is when I needed to say something.”
He again stood there, but eventually he replied:
“How is one to feel when a voice from China calls him at random, and starts to intone all sorts of things, to him? If my behavior is mysterious – so is yours.”
“How do you know what I am? You cast your aspersions on me, because you look in to your self. In actuality, you do not know what I am like – because you have not even once tried. I admit I was alone. I admit I was looking for something, something unattainable. I wished for someone over the sea, because the men of my country had treated me the worst of the worst. They used me, I do not even think you know how. And then they tossed me in a heap. They were clearly looking for the next female.”
At this point, he tried to say something, but there was no pause for him to insert even a small agreement, let alone anything more substantial. From the outside it like he raised his head, and it was overtaken by her own words. Even if one did not speak English, you knew that he was getting the worst from her.
“So yes, I wanted a man from a different country. I knew that even though it would take me along time, the saving of money to meet him would be a joy. Then when you said you would not be interested in me just for sex, I knew, as I have never known anything before – that I had to say yes, I thousand times, yes.” Then she stared at him with anger in her voice, and dripping with contempt for him and all the men she had ever encountered. But with all the anger, came a bit of sadness. So he directed towards it.
“You do not think I would tell you what my job was? First of all I could not be sure that you were not some secret agent. Second of all, if you were not, I had to protect from all of the things that might happen to you. I think you can understand this. At least I hope you can.” At this point he stuck his arms in between hers and held her in tight. It was a long conversation not to see the others face.
Then she – there is no better word for it – bawled in two his hands, curling his fingers over her eyes. And for a long moment, this was the fashion that they stood in. he hoped that this would be the turning point, a dénouement which would eventually crest the emotional seas. And their, and beyond, begin to reshape their world. She knew that he was rotten to the core – but not to her. He knew that there was deeper levels to construct, but she was not a vicious witch. And they could mend, he hoped.
They stood there for a very long time, watching islands come out of the reaching cold sky, and then just as quickly disappear, each one unique, each one grows weary and then fades away. Finally she turned to him, and looked in to his mosaic eyes.
Capturing the light, and then the darkness. As if to say, there was the blackest black within his eyes, and the whitest white – and she did not know which was which at this point. She wanted to cast out the pouring feeling, but did not know where to start. It was almost as if they were to sides of the same coin, white and black together, not separate. Under the her bun, she scrutinized with her eyebrows – trying to feel where to start. But with each pass she more and more realized that this was the way he was – and there was no getting around this. He was both the whitest white, and the blackest black – in harmony with each other. At this point she buried her head on his shoulder – both to wish things were different in her heart, and revealing the weakness with her brain. She wanted him so, and want also to push him away. She knew from the conversations that the two of them had that he was never totally straightforward. But at the same time, she imagined him working on his piece, absorbed in the details, and only for her. She hummed a piece of music, then realizing it was his, his rendition of the hexa of Virgil, and the iambic lilt of the Italian poet.