Spirit of Consolation (Part 3)

My friend!  It is so good to see you!

But wait — can you really be standing here before me now?  Are you not rather a phantom, or some figment of my fevered imagination?  It hardly seems possible that at such a time as this, at so dark an hour, you should appear thus unexpected and unannounced.

But come — sit down by the fire, and let me look at your face — no sight is more pleasant to my eyes.

There now — but friend, your short years lie heavy on you — you are thin and pale, and I dare say you’ve been ill lately.  Don’t trouble yourself; let me get you some ale and something to eat.

Why don’t you speak?  What troubles you?  Have you nothing to say after all this time?  But I see your eyes are downcast and sad, and perhaps there are yet no words for what is on your mind.  This I understand —  tomorrow, maybe, you will find them and let me share in your burden.

But there has been so much time lost between us, and I am unwilling that we should pass the evening in silence.  Therefore, if you cannot now lend me your voice, at least lend me your ears, and I will do likewise in turn.

I suspect the hours will be too few for all we have to speak of, and it is hard to make a beginning at one place rather than another.  Nevertheless, there is one matter which, lying as it does at the forefront of my thought, I must divulge to you before the night is out.

When last I wrote to you, I spoke of some things, in very general words, which lay heavy on my soul.  As you have ever been my confidante, there is no need to explain in detail what they signify.  You know everything to which they pertain.  In particular, I spoke of a hope I had, one with which you are very familiar, and you will be wanting to know the outcome of my attempt to take hold of it…

But I am afraid, my friend, that I have no heartening words for you.  Indeed, I have no heartening words for either of us.  I told you in my letter that fear had taken hold of me, that I had no way to fathom the depths that lay below me should I fall.  Well, as things have fallen out, my fears proved well-founded.  I would even venture to say, that had I not been prepared for it I should never have arisen for quite some time.  As it stands, I am but creeping on broken wing, and the future is more uncertain than ever.

I never imagined how much I had to lose, and even now I think I have yet to feel the full force of my fall.  In the beginning, my senses were deadened by the impact.  But the ensuing day was hard, and a blindness took me so that I could scarcely see to place one foot before the other.  Since then, I have passed through the darkness many times over, and each time it seemed new.  But there have also been moments of unexpected peace — a peace such as my anxious heart had long forgotten, and one which I have never known in joy.

And yet, the strength I’ve taken from these moments has barely sufficed to sustain me.  Sometimes I feel imbued with a small breath of life, and last week I was privileged to attend a gathering of friends, some very old and dear.  But no sooner was I in their company than I felt a great abyss enclose me, and in the midst of so many I was more alone than ever.

Now, it might be said by some that many memories of my past are painful ones.  But in reality, they hold no bitterness for me, and I never dwell on them.  I suppose it is true that the margins of my heart on which they are written have died.  But it is also true that the corners around them have grown stronger, more than enough to make up for it, and I would not choose to alter such Providence.

However, this afternoon while I sat with my eyes fixed ahead, I was suddenly siezed by an overwhelming sense of untellable loss.  The few pleasant recollections of my youth came flooding back, and it seemed to me that my entire world had passed away.  It was then I realized, that the hope I had lost was the last that remained of my childhood.

Perhaps I was only twelve when I first felt it, though I don’t remember exactly.  The prevailing mood of my life at that point was confusion of purpose, and all the anxieties that accompany such confusion.  This was not to be resolved until several years later, but even then there were occasional rays of light.  This particular ray was not one that ever influenced my actions, and as I grew older I gradually left it behind.  Still, once in a while I would think of it, though in general I was otherwise engaged.

Be that as it may, sometime over the last year or two, it began to take shape and grow again.  I brushed it aside at first, but at the bottom of my soul I knew I must eventually confront myself.  And so I did — and then, slowly, foolishly, I allowed it to wrap itself around my heart, bit by bit, until at last I could not cast it off even had I so desired.

And so, here I stand, choking in its fingers.  Perhaps I should have known better from the beginning, but I have never outgrown my propensity for choosing unattainable goals.  There may come a time when I am obliged to tear yet another page from my heart, but for now I must simply close it.  As always, there are other matters to attend, and without over-reaching my grasp I may yet find something of value.

And now I fear I must beg your pardon, for I see your plate is empty, and I have gone on over-long.  You’ve been patient as ever — isn’t there something else I can get for you?

But what’s this — I can see the firelight dance in your eyes, and you smile at me.  Surely you can’t be amused by my tale?  But no, you are not so unfeeling as that…

Is there something you know that I don’t?


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