[extracted from the book I’m writing, “Reluctant Angels”]
‘Abendrot!’ was the word which came into Nathan’s head, as he lay on his back in the field staring at the ruddy, still slightly bluesome almost dark and duskly sky. Jupiter was the only heavenly body which was so far visible. ‘I think I’m in love with you,’ said Nathan in his mind to the planet. As he had that thought, he realised that he was, in fact, tonight in love with everything — even with the mosquito which had settled on his arm and was now voraciously drinking his blood. He allowed it to have its fill. ‘Why not?’ he thought. He wondered if his own essence had once taken the form of a mosquito; and he imagined himself as the insect feeling thankful to its host. “You’re welcome,” he said aloud.
The reason that Nathan was in such a magnanimous frame of mind towards the predatory insect world was the fact that, three hours earlier, he had met Karelija Šviečiantys for the first time. Her appearance in his life had utterly ravaged him and he was now in a thousand pieces on the ground. He knew he could never be the same man again. Everything had changed. The moment his eyes had met hers — and in the same instant he had taken in her stubborn little nose, her more than generous mouth with occasional ironic turns in the corners, the purity and lustre of the skin stretched benignly across her skull, her perfectly-formed tiny ears, the carefully-chaotic fringe on her forehead and the immaculate tone of her voice (which he immediately compared to the frequency of an angel singing at dawn in a lost forest) — he felt as if he was falling through a hole in the ground into some vast unknown subterranean space.
As he went into freefall down that bottomless sinkhole, a myriad thoughts formed themselves both simultaneously and consecutively in his mind. So many and so timeless were they that they would need a book all of their own to enumerate them. But if they could be summed up briefly with a few examples, so that someone could grasp their scope and complexity, one could mention a plethora of creatures he had never seen before in a variety of planetary locations; the appearance of a massive throne cascading across the sky with the words engraved on the side: “Et vos hic sedebitis”; a couple of otters (one of whom for which he felt a great deal of affection and protectiveness) frolicking in a stream with a bunch of cubs; the death of a red dwarf sun as it turned into white in an eccentric galaxy on the hinterland of the universe; the very formation of the earth (which even scientists in all their splendid ingorance cannot explain); the secret life of the betula pendula (at which, as he later recalled what had been revealed to him, he laughed out loud for long); the fact that humans had not evolved from apes but are a separate species altogether (something which Nathan had always suspected anyway); some kind of bubbling volcanic substance (which he immediately recognised as a symbol of his own heart); and the instant desire to make many babies with Karelija.
He barely heard the words she had spoken. He was too busy thinking ‘Oh gosh, what am I going to do now?’ over and over again. When their brief conversation had finished, he turned to the door, walked through it and immediately slumped into a heap on the floor in the corridor with his back against the wall, like a puppet without the puppeteer. He whispered aloud in words which were elongated and uttered separately in a pained and sincere tone of voice: “She… is… the… most… beautiful… human… being… I… have… ever… known!” Then, immediately, he thought: ‘Well, that’s it. She’s the touchstone — the standard against which all others will be weighed. And no one will ever reach anywhere near her.” He felt as if everything about her was familiar: The little twist of her lips when she said the word “mostly”. The expressive use of her hands with her elbows pressed tightly to her sides. Her distinctive, almost exaggerated laugh — during which she threw back her head and shook her ponytailed hair. The urgent look on her face when she spoke about matters of consequence. Her commanding presence, which was as if she “owned” the space she occupied yet without a trace of hubris. The humility he saw in her deep, ash-coloured eyes when she readily admitted a mistake, putting her hand on her heart and bowing slightly. All these idiosyncrasies he felt he knew intimately, as if was already expecting them before they occurred. In his mind they could be a long-married couple who knew each other’s ways yet who were still excited and enthralled by them.
At the same time as all these powerful expressions of attraction were manifesting, he strongly felt that Karelija would never be interested in him. Not in “that way” at least. She couldn’t be. For he had crestfallenly observed the ring on her wedding-finger. No way would he ever want to disturb the sacred tryst between two souls. He knew only too well what chaos comes about both supernaturally and emotionally when one becomes a burglar in another’s house of love. As a child, he had seen his father cheating on his mother and observed how his predatory secretary had plundered his father from his mother with icy precision. Once, while out in the car with his father as a nine-year old, he had been asked to remain in the vehicle while the father went into one of the houses he owned to collect the rent from a tenant. So he said. When he hadn’t returned after half an hour, Nathan had gone to the house to find him. He looked though a front room window and saw him sitting on a bed, on which lay a naked woman. In his father’s hands was a brassiere which he was fondling. He had recoiled from that window in a state of confusion and revulsion. Later, when he observed his father cuddling his mother as soon as they reached home he felt as if he was a collaborator for not denouncing his father to her. Nathan had never told her what he had seen and — although his parents later separated and divorced — he carried with him the seeds of guilt from the brassiere scene well into adulthood. It was only in what he called his Days of Elucidation that he let go of that guilt and forgave himself for his perceived treachery. (But we will learn more about that in its own place).
After sinking into the feeling that Karelija would never be interested in him, Nathan resigned himself to experiencing a lifetime of celibacy and monkdom. ‘If I can’t be with her then I choose to be alone!’ he thought, immediately smiling at his over-dramatic reaction. But he knew there was more than a mere element of truth in that. He had never settled for second-best in any field of endeavour in his life — even in the most mundane areas. So, arguing from the lesser to the greater, there was no way he was going to do so in such a major circumstance as who would occupy the achingly vacant space by his right-hand side.
Now he knew how Francesco Petrarch had felt when he saw the young girl, Laura de Noves, for the first time on April 6th 1327 in Avignon and had instantly fallen so deeply in love with her that — without ever consummating a relationship with her (or even speaking to her), for she was married to another — he subsequently wrote three-hundred and sixty-six sonnets in her honour. ‘Nearly four hundred sonnets,’ thought Nathan. ‘That would be nothing.’ The only limit to his sonnet-writing about Karelija would be the length of life he had left remaining to him. She was now his earthly muse and always would be. When Laura de Noves grave was opened some years after her death, a lead box was discovered with her body, in which was a medallion showing a woman ripping at her own heart, underneath which was a sonnet by Petrarch. Oh unfulfilled love! Would Nathan also now have to endure a lifetime of physical separation from the one woman he had ever loved so immediately and so completely?
He wondered why Livinia hadn’t warned him about this. He could imagine her saying: “At the meeting you will encounter a woman called Karelija Šviečiantys. You will be attracted to her but she is not for you. Not only is she too young for you but if you pursue her in that way it will be counterproductive to the greater aims of the group.” Yes, he could well imagine her saying such words in that austere manner of delivery of hers. ‘Angels can be tough sometimes’, he thought.
By now, every atom in his body was quivering with… he couldn’t even find the word, though he tried. It was something infinitely more than desire. It wasn’t mere excitement. That was far too mundane. During the forty-two years of his life, this was something he had never experienced before. An atavistic part of his soul, deep deep within, had been kindled into flames in a flash. He saw Karelija as more than a muse: a kind of goddess on which he could lavish his affection and devotion. At that point, he really did hear Livinia’s voice distantly whispering to him: “It is not so much that Karelija is a muse and goddess for you but that she has evoked something which already lives in a vastlittle golden box inside your own self which has awaited so many years to be opened.”
Right in that moment, Nathan saw clearly what was happening — with the exception of his Day of Elucidation, more clearly than at any other time in his life. He had known revelation but never so deep as this. He had the epiphany that it was not so much that he loved another but that the appearance of another was releasing the love which was already within him. Karelija was the catalyst for what had been harboured inside him, thus previously preventing him from being a full-flowing loving being, to be set loose in a powerful flow of energy across the world. He envisioned this flow of energy as being more powerful even than the sun. He saw how the stranger circumstances of his childhood had snagged his heart in a net, preventing its flight into the higher realms for so long. The weakness of his mother in the face of his father’s cruelty; her lack of “thereness” for him; her indifference towards (and failure to understand) his unique abilities; her continual siding with his father over how Nathan’s life should go; her superficiality and attachment to anything which glitters had all combined to create a shaky foundation in the way he related to women. He loved and respected them and would never commit an act of blatant cruelty. Yet, at the same time, just at the moment when any one of his relationships had reached a frisson of beauty and wonder (the place where he wanted to be), he couldn’t stop himself from smashing it all to pieces in a self-destructive manner. He could see himself doing it and know that he was destroying a thing of greatness but somehow he felt unable to prevent it from happening. It was as if he instinctively acted against his own best interests and that of the relationship. Every time.
Livinia had known all this when she came to him in that bar to initiate him into the group. But it was also planned that he should meet Karelija to complete his transformation and readiness for group membership. The appearance of Karelija in his vision and life was the marker of a healing process which had to happen if he was to be of any use in that RAGS group. It didn’t matter if she was to be a close friend, a co-worker or a lover (or all three). What mattered was that his heart should be opened to the full potential of love — for that was what was happening: The stupendous efflorescence of suppressed love. A person who has not tapped into the vast reservoir of love in his or her own being is not going to be a fully loving person for others. Now, as he lay in that field staring at Jupiter, the expansive planet of joy and fulfilment, he felt as if he was about to explode with love. This was now more than merely loving everything. He WAS love! So powerful were these feelings that Nathan began to wonder if he was dying or maybe already dead. He didn’t care. He even smiled at the idea of death. ‘It’s like walking through a door,’ he thought. ‘Just going from one room to the next as one dream fades out and another fades in like a DJ changing tracks’. Then, as a Nightjar churred in the distance, it occurred to him how it was a kind of reversal of birdsong. He laughed. For when birds sing sweetly in a forest or garden, they are mostly saying: “Put one wing in my territory and you’re dead!” It sounds sweet but is in fact the opposite. In Nathan’s head he saw that as a reversal of what happens in death. From our side it seems gory, grisly and tragic. Yet, in reality, it is merely a gorgeous transition after a very brief struggle on earth. It seems awful yet, in fact, it is the opposite.
It could have been many hours or just minutes that he had lain there in that state of pure love. He wasn’t sure. But during that time he received a visual impression of the way that, in his bodily cells, the full experience of love before this night had been squeezed into a contracted format of armour in his musculature. He saw how, as soon as that armour had risked being penetrated, he would take flight and in doing so had hurt a multitude of women in the process. It didn’t matter where he had run to, so long as he could escape whatever it was which was threatening his heavily-armoured equilibrium. Usually, it was the pure beauty of shared love which spiked his kneejerk rebellion. Now, as he basked in this illumined night, he saw how the whole pattern of his life had led to this point. Everything dovetailed into everything else. He even saw how it had been necessary for him to be in a state of darkness and suppression in order for him to come to the knowledge and light in the most meaningful manner. ‘If I had been in the light from the start,’ he thought, ‘I would never have been truly aware of its full wonder.’ For better or for worse, his essence had chosen those parents from before he had become Nathan in order to have the experiences he had undergone, in order to learn the lessons and absorb the light which would come out of them. These were now his thoughts as he found himself awash with love. He forgave his mother and father without hesitation, for they, too, were on a journey which would one day find healing, as all life-journeys do. It was not even an act of forgiveness. It was just love doing what it does — what it must do, for the highest and best good of all and everything.
Now Nathan was anticipating his next meeting with Karelija. In fact, he was mindful to go and seek her out right there and then. He wanted to thank her with a thousand kisses, whether symbolic or real. He saw her as a healing hologram which had been placed in his pathway to remind him of what he had forgotten. She was his memorandum — his heart-jerker — his nudge out of narcissim into nurturing. She was like a pressed flower one unexpectedly comes across in a book, eliciting a beaming smile and a tear of surprise from the eye of the reader. He then began to wonder if she really was married after all. The finger on which one wears a wedding ring differs from country to country, custom to custom. He was hoping he was mistaken. Then he wondered what was her story, her dovetails, her armoury. As he had looked into her eyes, he was so caught up in his own euphoria that he didn’t take as much notice as he should have of her impenetrable icy presence. She was animated and smiley and seemingly well-adjusted. But behind that confident and welcoming exterior was a whole world of longing and pain which would also have to find its resolution.
For parallel to Nathan’s journey into a healed heart was that of Karelija. In spite of his practical skills as a jeweller and assumed responsibility as traditional head of the household, the coldness of her father — who, as a Lithuanian refugee from Soviet cruelty, had witnessed more atrocities than anyone should experience — had left its mark on her soul. That yearning for the love of a real and warmhearted man had determined the direction of the twenty-eight years of her life which had passed by the time of her meeting with Nathan. During the final thirteen years of that twenty-eight, she had thrown herself foolishly into the arms of many pretty but mean-hearted, cruelsome older men, in the vain hope of changing them into the beautiful male who she really desired. This chain of co-dependency had eventually led to her falling into a pit of despair, during which she had decided upon chastity as the safest way to proceed in life. Indeed, she saw herself as a kind of nun whose habit concealed a broken heart waiting to be found by the man who was enough of a knight to disrobe her, revealing the hidden gem at the core of her being. Although penetration scared her, she longed to be penetrated to that core, as we will discover in the following pages…
© Alan Morrison, 2016