THIRTY YEARS LATER
Marcio doesn't have a beard anymore, it was too itchy and there was nobody in the monastery to impress anyway. Karl doesn't, either, he was always the practical one. Calvin is dead. it's still a mystery as to how exactly. Calvin was leading a foraging expedition looking for st. john's wort in the high hills. witnesses say that when he fell into a deep ravine he didn't struggle to latch onto the jagged sides with his quivering fingers and toes, he simply gave up and fell with ease to the bottom. the other monks were shocked but not Marcio and Karl, they knew that Calvin was waiting for an excuse. the Abbot position had completely tattered Calvin's soul, it didn't give him the comfort and clarity he was seeking, it didn't give him shit, just empty power, not the love that whispered away those many many many years ago before the insane asylum, the one that got away forever, cruelly forever. it was just a matter of time before the opportunity would arise, Calvin was clever enough to make it look more like an accident so he could still claim he had a right to heaven. Karl quit smoking and always had his reading glasses on which protected his eyes from the sun but also shielded his emotions from the crowd, no one could peer into his soul. except Marcio. Karl thought he looked like a nerd, though he did acknowledge that he wasn't exactly impressing anyone here in this place anyway. Marcio thought he looked like Karl: bookworm, sage, feeler. he was proud of Karl for enduring this most wretched life locked inside a sacred prison with him, they were soul mates who wouldn't have made it otherwise, they leaned on each other like brothers, especially when Doctor Lysander stopped visiting. Marcio was proud of Karl for sticking with the glasses for so long, it was the only thing he did for so long. as he touched Karl's shoulder, Karl kissed him on the forehead, and Marcio began to mist up.
Marcio: the mist is here today, blanketing the mountaintops with mystical grey cover. it's beautiful.
Karl: the mist is misting our eyes with beauty, but your eyes are also welling up over something.
Marcio: i can't help it. as the two of us sit on this log in the early morn while the others are at prayer, i can't help but think of our hard journey.
Karl: tis true. i am so proud of you, Marcio. we made it, bruised and beaten but we are still here. i thank god that you did not leave me. i love you, but i wish i could have loved you deeper.
Marcio: i understand. time flies so slowly.
Karl: we are small humans, painfully small beings in the wide vast infinity universe. as we look upon the mist on the mountains, the stars in the sky, the clouds forming the shapes of our loved ones, we measure time as long and eternal, but it's a fraction, a microsecond. thirty years to us is not felt by the universe, it would need to be a million years to be felt as a tiny pebble in its shoe. people are strange, we are not so affected by time as we think. we think there are things that can't be solved after so long a time. we think time heals all wounds. if you see a friend again after so long a time, it really is like you saw them yesterday. our emotions bind us throughout all time. time doesn't really exist.
Marcio stomped out his cigarette and took a hard look at Karl. he was pretending to look at the mist-covered mountaintops, the glare off Karl's glasses made a perfect cover. of course Karl knew Marcio was really looking at him. secrets die off quickly in this place. so does hope. the only space that remains is for irony and jokes. Marcio examined Karl's mouth. he centered in on Karl's teeth, they were grinded off from a lifetime of bitter disappointment. he looked at his lips, they were chapped black. Karl smiled but it was forced. it wasn't a smile anymore, it was a wince.
Karl: how's your hand?
Marcio: shaking as usual. shaky.
Karl: go down to the lake and get the four-leaf clovers for the stew tonight. supper after prayers. then, more prayers.
Marcio trods along the dusty trail slowly to the water. he has all the time in the world, always will here. he reaches the lip of the corner where the riverbank becomes the lake and scoops up some of the riverwater into his lips with his good hand. a bright light reflects next to him leaving a trail of light which leads him up past the dusty trail straight to the center point of the lake. a vision of beauty, of loveliness, is there. a specter, a ghost, a ghost from the past, a ghost from his past, the Lady of the Lake more vibrant than any color illustration from Marcio's Arthurian Legends books, her torn dress flowing in the mild wind. at first Marcio sees her floating feet, but it's just a trick of the light, a light trick, a life trick. Lady Luck, not the Queen of Spades, is with him today, no need for false clovers, false covers, false positives, a life lived positively gets you nowhere, but a bit of luck changes everything. the beautiful woman, the gorgeous lady, the one who will solve, cure, heal everything. it's not Jesus who is Marcio's savior, it is Rya. Rya is the Truth and the Life.
Rya motions for him to come to the lake middle. she is actually kneedeep in shallow water, and her dress edges are soaking wet. i hope she isn't wearing shoes is the first thing Marcio thinks.
Rya: you look like shit.
Marcio: you still look the...same. is it really you, Rya? i've dreamed about you. i dream about you all my life.
Rya: yes, it is me, really me. i'm nothing if not punctual. you said thirty years, right? well here i am on the dot. i'm not the best nurse but i listen to my patients' concerns, that's how i've been able to keep my job. the patient is always right. my nose is stronger now after you broke it. that's the thing, when you break a bone, when it heals, it becomes stronger than if you had never broken it. i hate to use that Nietzsche quote again...
Marcio: but i didn't break it, only grazed it. i would never hurt you intentionally.
Rya: the details don't matter, only the broad strokes. all that matters is the endpoint, not the destination. journeys are all the same, the endpoint is the collective outpost we all travel to eventually, death.
nothing could stop Marcio's shaking hand. not even a long hot shower. there is nothing like a shower taken in a monastery. the combination of the hard water pelting down on your skin and the absolute centuries-long peace and quiet of a monastic bathroom stall makes for an orgasmic experience that sex cannot achieve. but the hand was starting to lessen now.
Marcio: you look...the same. you've gone from babe to milf in all these years.
Rya smiled and said: huh, no husband, no kids, but thank you.
Marcio: your hair is the same except it's white. your body is the same except it's softer. your caring face is the same except for the wrinkles. you look like an older woman i could love. my mother except not.
Rya: i love you, too, Marcio, always have.
Marcio: but why me? why me out of everyone? surely you could have picked a normal person. i am eternally fucked up. i am depressed and will only bring you down. i am mental not in the good way, i have mental problems. i am schizo in the worst way possible, not in the euphemism for crazy, i am really physically crazy. i won't behave like a real man, a simple man, an ordinary man. i am special, and not the good kind of special.
Rya: i don't know why. that's a mystery. i like mysteries. i need mysteries. i can't have everything explained, that would be boring and dull. why live if it's already all been categorized on the internet thirty years ago?
Marcio: why did you wait for me? for so long? both of our lives are wasted.
Rya: yes, they are. we are two losers. so much potential, so little to show for it. we won't go down in the history books, no one knows about us, that we lived, that we did anything. we both are scared, we both ran away from golden opportunities elsewhere. we both didn't really try. i could have married five times over, but the man wasn't you.
Marcio: come on! why me?
Rya: i don't know, i really don't. all i know is that when we are close together, it feels right, it feels like we can hide from the world together, and that's so much more damn fun than hiding alone. and there's proof, this isn't a God thing, there's proof: look at your hand, the shakes are lessening.
Rya: and look, you aren't crying. you aren't forcing tears, you are just you right now at this moment, clear-headed and with me in the middle of a cold lake freezing our asses off together. ain't this better than stories from books?
Marcio: i'm not that attuned. i didn't notice i was freezing my toes off standing in this filthy water.
Marcio smiled. he actually smiled for the first time in his life.
Rya went in for the kiss, for the lips, but stopped suddenly.
Rya: oh no, Marcio, you kiss me! it's your turn. i've waited for this. you have to do this of your own free will. because you want to. not because you have to. not because it would complete the script. because it would look sickeningly sweet and good against the backdrop of stars here. this isn't Hollywood, this is real life. it's scary, it's not pretty, it's messy, awkward, intense, sickening, it's real, a real moment.
Marcio: why was i born like this? i just wanted to be normal.
Rya: look at us. we are two fools breaking the rules. we are embracing and about to kiss on the grounds of a monastery, in water. that's some fucked-up shit. there's not much time left, is there? the only time is right now. thirty years goes by in a flash. but love is worth waiting for. the two of us matter even for a split second. a kiss filled up with thirty years of anguish, dashed hope, regrets, and rage tastes sweet indeed, like a fine wine. it is so bright because it comes from such a dark place. it is a star which is finally seen after thirty years but which died thirty years ago from loneliness.
Marcio didn't smile again, he only had one smile in him for a lifetime. he didn't think again. he does not know how to be romantic, what to hold, where to hold, where the heads tilt and where the lips converge. but Marcio kisses Rya on the lips.
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