Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Man, on a Pier, in the Dark

A friend of mine is drowning. He is angry, obsessed with the circumstances of his undoing, and with the ocean of indifference that washes over him, wave by wave, day in and day out. Maybe it's his anger that has kept him from drowning. Because he's determined to have justice. He did not place himself in this sea of troubles. He should not be here, but on firm land somewhere. Or in a boat at least, with a steady hand on the tiller, the power of the winds held comfortably in the fold of his sails.

My friend won't swim to shore, because drowning is his evidence, his proof of how he's been wronged. Difficult enough to get anyone to pay attention as it is, treading the deep dark waves, with only the occasional piece of floating detritus to lend a bit of buoyancy, while he lifts his voice in a roar, demanding his vengeance, his day of retribution. How much less chance of being heard once he is safe and dry again.

His story is that he was walking alone on a pier, in the dark. He was doing nothing more than passing his time, attending to nothing but to the stuff of his everyday, making it more real by remembering it after, or by looking ahead to what it would be. He could hear the surf, but could not see it. He felt the spray of the ocean across his face, a heavy, stinging blast occasionally slapping him out of inattention, to notice the chill in the air, the dampness gathering in the fabric of his thin jacket.

The truth is, he was aware of nothing more than a shape that brushed up against him. He will say that the shape was a man, and that the brush was a shove. He will say that he felt the malevolence, and further imagine that he was being stalked all the while he walked there, his aggressor waiting for the moment of his ripest vulnerability.

During his hours and days in the life-draining waters he has put various faces to the shadow. His past is peopled with enemies, declared and not, and with the envious, and with those secret agents of reasonless hate. And though he has no solid clues, my friend knows that, as there is logic and reason and justice in the world, when his day comes, he will point out his prosecutor and name him. He will no longer be shadow, but flesh, like his flesh, bone like his bone, with thoughts and dreams of his own, however twisted by spite. This tormentor will be named, and then will know how things come around, that there is a right order, and how courage prevails over slinking meanness. And on that day, in that future, my friend will be dry and content. Fulfilled.

But I say to my friend: swim instead. I ask him to raise his arm and to beat his anger usefully against the waves, then to do it again, until he is moving. I ask him to choose a direction in the blinding mist and foam, and to believe in that, instead of all the rest. Save yourself, I say to him, because there is no one else. All the rest are phantoms. I ask him...but you see, I'm not there, but only a whisper in the wind myself, which is nothing against the roar of nature he's battling, and the tumult of his own anger. That he will hear me is my own whispered wish, and only if dreams speak to one another is there a hope.

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