And thus, I have finally returned to sit in the exact same spot that I was in before I had left for reasons that now strike me as utterly ludicrous, incomprehensible.
One wonders whether all that searching would have been necessary had I simply never left. Or is it precisely in the search that meaning and appreciation for what I had lost or left behind is found? In other words, perhaps we can only appreciate in absence, in longing for that imagined presence that had never really meant all that much all along? Or else, do these unknowable, indescribable things gain meaning through this their temporary passing? Is it possible to learn to value prior to departure, to comprehend that which we have before it passes through our hands once more?
I had always only seemed to find my ideals of beauty and love in memories, recollections, fantasies – in all that could have been. I had some sense of significance when I had experienced them, but I could never figure out how to hold them in my hands without the awkwardness that comes from conscious intent, like that feeling that is associated with handholding when one does it not instinctively but because one feels that that is what is meant to be done in such situations. In all that past, I could never grasp without grasping, without stifling the fires of passion by the very act of trying to shield that little spark of flame from the elemental winds that billow, bellow, and at times, gently whisper, but nevertheless blow incessantly throughout our lives. It was as if I could never intensify them without burning my fingers, could not bear them until their blossoming into their ideal selves that sometimes suggested themselves but never seemed to manage to find the ability to pass into being.
I have experienced glimpses of their reflections that hinted at their true significance, but I was so engrossed by even those echoes of ardent beauty that I was frozen by what threatened to come forth, shocked into stillness by the virtue of the greatness that could emanate if only I embraced them along with their promised opportunities, their soul-essence. It was always my impression that they were not mine to take, that to force my will upon those inchoate embers would ruin the splendor of that which was fated. I think I could learn to behold that that which was destined could not help but be. Perhaps, however, my responsibility was to play the actor/agent and by failing to have done so, I failed fate through forgetting and flubbing my lines. As a consequence, the theatre of life went on without me, adjusting itself to write me out. The Moirai are acclaimed stage directors, after all, with eons of experience of adapting to actors that failed to perform their prescribed parts. Could this not be the reason why I feel so extraneous to modernity? The play has moved on, but I am still stuck somewhere on this grand stage – waiting eternally for some sign that will never come. I sense that I have a role to portray if only I could remember what it was, and I have this powerful feeling that I must have been an actor of some great renown that the tragic chorus shoves me not off stage.
It is as if they believe that my being stuck in this frozen stiffness is testament to my devotion to the character, that that is what I am doing – a protracted dramatic pause that teeters on the border of the melodramatic. But the flow of time is different up here underneath the lights and I have been inside this pause for years. I have stood still for a decade or a century – it matters not, the world has moved on around me – I have lived and died and lived again, but still I stand waiting for a cue that I had forgotten. That which I was meant to do had been the purpose of my character in 1923 and I am not allowed to pass on until I had fulfilled this obligation. If I fail in this life, then I shall only be placed right back into the same place again in the next, repeating the same cycle, running over the same lives and events until I finally recall what it is that I was meant to do within this moment.
This explains why I, at times, have felt this overbearing sense of clairvoyance: it is because, somewhere within my subconscious self, I can recollect what is to come. If only I could stop hesitating and running through all the potential sets of actions and dialogues, if only I committed to some particular path, any path, the play would accommodate me and proceed.
And yet, in this moment, presented as I am with an infinite preponderance of possibilities, I choose none because I am cognizant that much as the directors could adjust to any action of mine, anything I might say or do, there is nevertheless only one – but one – scenario that is correct, that was rehearsed, that leads toward that which is meant to be. That sole path, if I were to find and follow it, would be right for me, my fate, and my bones and blood, and that will serve to release me from this infernal actor’s contract.
In just the same sense, I could follow down any of the other paths but immediately after I had reached the very end of each, it would only lead to me being returned once more, to start the performance over until I finally play my role right, in accordance with that which was written and intended by The Fates. As such, my hesitance, my reticence, is thus this fear that is not before the audience nor my fellow actors, but before the organizing forces themselves.
But how do I recall what I had neglected to remember? I had intended to remember to forget that I had forgotten. However, I cannot seem to shake it, I cannot act as if I never had any lines to remember. It is true that some characters are not scripted, that the thespians portraying them are not meant to recite, are intended to ad lib. They are less experienced, the new souls, and thus they can and must perform reactively, responding to that which they hear and are given. But I am not blessed with such careless freedom. I am the one who is supposed to prompt their action and that is the reason that my silent pleas through daggered, exaggerated stares are futile. They are not aware that I have a scripted line to say, nor even that such characters exist at all. They cannot help me with my line if they do not know that there are lines that must be said, actions that must be taken, they are blissfully ignorant of the eternal. Thus, I am desperately seeking help from the very people that cannot, by the very nature of the roles to which they are beholden, be of any assistance.
What I ought to do is turn around and stare into the shadow that lies behind the curtain, behind myself, not look out into the field pastoral. I need, otherwise but equivalently, to find the one who plays my counterpart – find my equal amongst their din and perhaps if our mirrored glances were to meet, she could graciously and gracefully mouth my lines to me. But I cannot seem to remember what she looks like.
Therefore, I must scan through the face of every person on the crowded stage as I am convinced that it would take but one meeting of our gazes for me to ascertain her identity with utter certainty. She exemplifies the possibility, the counterpart, the heroine. She inspires the genuine action in place of mimicry, that which one feels obligated to do out of a sense of imposed expectations. It is the inherent and self-evident difference between forced and clipped and flowing and natural, between imitation plastic intimacy and a role played so passionately that it transcends the immortal stage and soul.
But let us say our eyes do eventually find each other – what then, whence do we ascend? If we fulfil our roles dutifully and righteously, are we not then released together? To deny that seems too cruel, even for the merciless Fates, creatresses, creatures of the night. When I turn to them, what do their inscrutable stony visages fail to reveal to me? Surrounded by such significant greatness as I am, enveloped in some foreign luxurious patterned cloak or tripped up by a dress train, enwrapped, I seem to have lost the ability to comprehend. Pallid and dulcet tones alternating, what do the bright lights on the other shore signify, to what do they beckon?
I so want to see more clearly, to get to a better vantage, but it seems impossible. It eludes me as it had eluded me then, and suddenly I am struck by the sensation that this is where I am supposed to be, that I am not yet meant to possess that greater clarity I so seek, that I am not yet to approach more closely.
Could it possibly be that the time for my action, even after all this, is still to come? That all that I am doing through all this is anticipating my lines, that as a thoroughly rehearsed actor, I am simply too eager to deliver them? Maybe I pause here not out of nerves but because this is what I am meant to do and this is the reason that my imploring look is met with nothing but warmth in my complement’s gaze, interpreted as just an expression of my fondness for her and not at all as a plea to be reminded of my part of the script. Mayhaps I had not flubbed my line at all, maybe I had not failed to do anything, and am truly playing my role to perfection. There is nothing but admiration and love in her eyes, but she would look upon me thus regardless of my flaws, would she not? Even so, nothing in her countenance or demeanor reveals any sort of rebuke, not even shielded to spare offence.
Perhaps I just long to step forward, to move on within this play even before the proper time has come, so that we may each perform our roles within the scene we are predestined to share. Surely, a desire as pure as this could not be considered punishable by the Gods.
St. James’s Park
Sunset to Sunrise