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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Day 1526 - Longer than my never by Astra

PROLOGUE
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Once upon a time, maybe it was only yesterday, maybe it was before, I won’t tell you the details, there was a beautiful boy.

He was very tall, very slender, very strong. And very handsome. I know his face. I will always remember his face, because his face is emblazoned across my mind. His story - was never tattooed above anybody’s heart. But perhaps it will be now.

This beautiful boy lived alone with his father, in a small village, in a country you don’t know. A place in the countryside, a place with hard work, and a hard life. There were vineyards. There was a marble quarry. And there was a gold mine. There may have even been two. This is what work there was. Work in the fields, work in the quarry, or work in the mines. Small village. Back-breakingly hard work. A life with few mercies, and with little forgiveness.

There were no girls. No girls to speak of, in any case. And certainly no boys. There was work. And then there was home. At home there was more work, and at home there was father. Mother died. His mother died when he was young.

Backgammon. Cards. Chess. The radio.

Nights with no lights. Summertime nights spent outside. Only stars, and crickets. And wolves howling in the hills. Wild dogs and wolves, and sometimes, the stench of animal excrement from the pig farm, slicing through the night air and heaving in everyone’s nostrils, with the sharpness of knives. The smell of suffocating excrement tonight, only as silent precursor to the strangulating promise of incipient death.

A cigarette end burns in the darkness, but around it, pitch black. The night hides everything.

Creaking cellar doors. A bat in the cubbyhole. Wine barrels made of oak. Each one, made by hand.

Have you ever had freshly pressed, unfermented, unpasteurized grape juice? Freshly separated from the pomace? No. I didn’t think you had. Vinum mustum. It’s absolutely exquisite.

A sweetest kind of sweetness. A sweetness without end, a fizz without beginning, a taste without time. The taste of oxygen. The taste of the sweetest naked fruit. Its vital essence, and nothing more. The ancient Greeks used to say that this freshly pressed juice is not only the secret to longevity, but in fact the very secret to life itself. It only exists for a single week or so each year. Then once the juice starts to ferment, its singular regenerative properties are completely gone. So it is also the taste of - life. And everything has a taste, all its own.

Do you know my taste? Do you know the taste of my bite? My bite tastes like sour cherries. Like sweet, tart, sweet tart, but very sweet, tart, sweet sour cherries. You’ll have to take my word for it, on this one. Just trust me.

Trust me now, trust me never.


GRAPES
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When large oak barrels are made by hand, for a wine cellar, for the wine to ferment in, a tap, a spigot, any kind of faucet by which to extract the wine, would be a weak spot in the barrel. A weak spot where any pressure could be enough to make it burst.

Instead, a large barrel is constructed, and shaped, and built by hand. The wood is tenderized – this isn’t what it’s called - but it may as well be. Tenderized, and then cajoled into shape. Cajoled, but with a very knowing, very firm, and very experienced hand.

Because nothing in life can come by force. Or by spurious guile. Nothing worth having, in any case.

And certainly nothing worth wanting.


NO WINE FOR YOU. DON’T CRY FOR ME
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A solid barrel is constructed by hand, and there is nowhere for the wine to come out. Instead, a small hole is left at the top. Ferment me this way. Ferment me that way. Whatever you do, don’t ferment me wrong. Don’t ferment me too long.

If you ferment it wrong, it turns to syrup. Too long? Too short? Not enough? A thick, thick, THICK, syrupy syrup. No wine for you. Don’t cry for me.

If fermented too long, it must be poured into demijohns, and shaken, shaken, shaken. To separate once more, and to undo what’s been done. A moment too long, a moment too soon – and it was all for nothing. It’s now all wrong. It’s now all gone.

Can you ever undo, what’s already been done? Can you ever undo, what’s already been undone?


MORNING
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Father made lunch for his beautiful son one morning. This morning. That morning. Any morning. Every morning. The summer air wasn’t hot yet, the morning inside the house still cool, with the promise of the day still yet to unfurl. Just like every other morning. Sandwiches. Sandwiches wrapped in white paper table napkins. Everything in the kitchen, white.

Everything that is white is clean, new, pure.

Untouched. Untainted. Unknowing.

The beautiful boy had a weathered, leather bag. A briefcase, in fact. There is a certain solemnity in a briefcase. And there is dignity to be found, in carrying this briefcase.

You scoff? Don’t scoff. Never scoff at a life that you don’t know. Never scoff at a life that you haven’t lived.

The sandwiches, every morning, lovingly made by a father who loved no one else in life – and who had no one else left to love, then went into the weathered, leathered, satchel, on this beautiful, innocent, Adonis-boy’s shoulder. He was goodness incarnate, with a heart as pure as doves’ wings.

This morning, the beautiful brown haired boy with his piercing blue eyes, didn’t come back into the kitchen. Where is he? Where is he? I’ve looked everywhere. Now he’ll really be late!

Is he in the vegetable garden? Has he gone to the grapes, I know there was a problem with the vines. They’re coming in the middle of the night now, this never used to happen in the old days! This never used to happen before! They come in the middle of the night now, and they steal the vines! Right out from the ground. They dig them up, vines that were planted so long ago. So long ago that people say they were planted here by the Romans, when they came and conquered. Veni! Vidi! Vici!

They’re thick, and gnarled, and maybe thousands of years old. You can see the root, because from the root is from where the new vines must be spliced. And you can trace the epochs that this vine has lived with your fingers, and read it, just like you can read the rings of a thousand year old tree.

It’s getting hotter now. It’s not early morning anymore. The sandwiches know it. They’re still sitting on the table. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Now starting to limp. And soon to be limping.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, a slight worry turns into something more. A hollow pit in the bottom of the father’s stomach starts to churn. A hollow pit, but a hollow pit now with a density, and with a weight, and with a mass.

Outside, in the sunshine, in the garden all is quiet. All is well. Bright sun. Birds sweetly chirruping.

The somewhat far away, creaking chain of a neighbor’s well suddenly goes SNAP!!! And the metal bucket makes an almighty racket as it clangs and bangs against the sides of the walls, until it violently reaches the very bottom of its length, and the metal chain makes it snap up again. Clanging against the side of the well two last times, for good and final measure.

Midmorning silence. Riotously broken. But only for a moment. Now it’s all quiet again. And the sun still shines.

Bucket back at the bottom of the well. That’s what happens. And that’s where you end up, if you let go too soon. Or if you haven’t secured everything that needs to be secured. Someone just let go of the bucket too soon. That was all it was.


END
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Into the barn now. It’s more of a storage barn, in fact. Everything to be kept safe and dry. But not for the animals. Well, sometimes for the animals. If there are any strays. In that case, there is always a warm bed for them here, for the winter.

It’s dark and cool in the barn. Shadowy. Morning hasn’t come here yet, because it never does. Not entirely. The sunlight doesn’t fully reach. Safe from the sun, safe from everything. Here, inside, it always takes a moment for the eyes to adjust.

Suddenly, a heart stops. The father is frozen. His insides collide. There is an indescribable collision, of atoms, of neurons, of electrons, of everything a human being is made of. Is this what it was like, when the galaxies collided?

A big bang? The BIG Bang? Except this one happens inside of a human being. The mind stops, time stops, the world stops. But the mind is racing, time is racing, nothing stops.

Everything happening. And everything is not happening at all. All at once, and all at the same time. And the father doesn’t control any of it. It happens inside of him, and yet, he is oblivious.

A statue.

But what felt like an eternity was only a moment ago, because with a heart made of stone that will never beat again the same as it ever did before, as quick as a panther, the father leaps.

From a beam, the beautiful, beautiful boy, everybody’s son, and now nobody’s, - NO…no, not yours! The beautiful boy who was nothing but good, is hanging from his neck.

His body limp, dangling, but not still. An almost imperceptible slight back and forth to the rope. But it’s too late now. And it will always be too late, now.

In his death, he is even more beautiful than he was in life. The outside, merely a reflection in this case, of the inside. Because through his death, he showed his true colors. Through the pain he felt in his heart, through the sacrifice he made in giving up his own life, through the unspeakable agony he knew he would be causing to his own loving, aging father – who has no one else left at all now – the most beautiful boy on earth, showed his true colors.

There was a note. In his jacket pocket. They didn’t find it until later. Carefully folded into three. They were the last words that he would ever write. And these were the last thoughts that he ever had.

“My Father”, it began. “Please forgive me. I love you so much. But they came, and I could not walk away. I tried, but there were too many of them. They gave me a deadline. It was today. And I couldn’t do it. I could not do what they asked.

They told me I had to kill someone. And if I did not do as they said, they would have killed me. There would have been no discussion, no chance, there is no escape.

You know more than anyone else on this earth, that I could never kill someone.

If someone has to die, it will never be by my hand. And so now, instead of killing someone else, the only choice that has been left to me, is for me to kill myself.

Because if I don't kill someone else, they still kill me.

“I’m so sorry, my father. I love you. I will love you always. And now, I will love you into the forever after.”


EPILOGUE
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You may think this is just a story to be forgotten, at the bottom of a blog. But you’re wrong.

And you may think that you know the color of my heart. But you don’t. And you won’t. And you never will. And if you still think that you do, then you’d still be wrong.

Do you know the color of my heart?
Do you know the color of my art?
Do you know the taste of my sighs? You never will.
Never is a very long time.
And eclipsed in the longer, only by always, by tomorrow, and by time.

In other words – always, tomorrow, and time – will all last longer than my never.

A spasm like no other, my heart was clutched, my heart was wrenched. There is no time now left - the end.

These are the infinites that belong to no one, and to nothing.

And alongside them, I’ll lay down my sleepy head and heart tonight.

With an ever loving lullaby, lying in quiet wait in my heart. For everyone who needed one, when there was one not there

ASTRA


Posted by Astraea to Day 1523 - You'll Be Back at 15 November 2015 at 06:46

19 comments:

  1. I have now read this story a number of times since discovering it this morning. It has set me off thinking about the reasons that lead a person to take their own life. The boy in this story does it because he could see no other way out of a situation - despair. In 1974 my uncle gassed himself in his car because he could see no way out of his gambling addiction - despair. A friend of mine hung himself in February of this year because his wife had left him and he could see no future - despair. On Friday night in Paris, a number of men blew themselves up in the name of Allah - sacrifice.
    Are there any other reasons other than sacrifice or despair?
    It must be a pretty special God that can convince people to take their lives in the belief that they are going to a better place. I don't suppose those who take their life because of despair care too much about a better life, they just have a desperate need to make the despair go away.

    For those who sacrifice: "In God alone my hope is found"
    For those who despair: "Won't somebody stop me from thinking all the time, about everything, so deeply, so bleakly?"

    Thank you Astra for sharing.

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  2. not quite sure what to make of it, of course it is sad but sadness is a strange thing, you only ever really feel it when it effects you personally, also of course, the American spellings were included for us to pick up on because that is what we do as humans we categorise things, still not sure what to make of it, it kind of comes across as personal

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  3. Love love love you Astra and your stories.

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  4. The darkness of my mind makes me introverted.
    Loneliness rules the roost & saps my spirit.
    Reading this has been oddly energizing. It radiates warmth , sensitivity & tenderness. Its rare to see raw emotion expressed with such beauty & candour.
    It makes me want to reach out & I've not felt like that for sometime.

    "With an ever loving lullaby, lying in quiet wait in my heart. For everyone who needed one, when there was one not there" So angelic.

    Bless you Astra. And thank you for sharing this gem with us.

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  5. Star Maiden, That was such a beautiful, yet incredibly sorrowful, wistful piece of prose. Even after reading it several times, I'm not sure I understand all the different meanings and metaphors that are going on there. With the Paris massacre, the slaughter of animals and all the other horrid things going on in the world, this lovely, somber story gives one pause and much food for thought. Thank you so much. As always, Love, Harrison

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  6. I've now read this beautiful piece twice. Thank you for sharing it Astra.
    Just as Rat says, despair and sacrifice seem to be the reasons most people end their lives. Despair - hopelessness. Hopelessness - the feeling that seems to be a knowing - that nothing will ever or could ever improve. Sometimes this hopelessness takes the form of a shuddering, violent sadness - an ache you cannot shake. Other times the hopelessness creeps up on you until you're numb, and a veil of pointlessness or hollowness casts itself over everything. And there are many, many other shades in between and outside.

    Suicide has affected many of us. Like you Rat, it's not unheard of in my family either. I've lost a cousin to it and others have attempted. Some say depression and suicide are genetic. In my family, some attempts we know about... many, likely we may not know about. People tend to keep these things quiet, and they certainly did 50 or more years ago. Why is it so ingrained in us to be ashamed of pain? Who told us to be? It's brave to face pain head on, whether it be by living another day or by making that final choice. Neither option is cowardly, despite the stigma attached to one.

    When despair takes hold, depression or pain can feel insurmountable. Like when the chain snaps; when you’re holding too much, something just snaps, and you fall to the end of the length of the well. “Only so much despair can be survived before the mind finally caves in.” How do we escape a life we never asked for? In the case of the boy in the story there was no escape, no other option. No way out that he could fathomably see… except one.

    “Can you ever undo, what’s already been done? Can you ever undo, what’s already been undone?” And this is the agony of life, of regret, of the unchangeable.

    And how can we know inside of someone else’s mind, heart, life? How can you judge without living it? This is Truth in its beautiful, pure, painful simplicity: “You scoff? Don’t scoff. Never scoff at a life you don’t know. Never scoff at a life you haven’t lived.”

    This is such a powerful piece, and the imagery makes one see it, and feel it - and it will keep giving. I will re-read more times, and many of us will, I’m sure. Thank you again for sharing, Astra.

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    Replies
    1. Do you write professionally? You should.

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    2. No, I wish... That's so very kind of you; thank you.

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  7. Dearest Astra,
    I am so overwhelmed with emotion upon reading this, not only from the tragic beauty of the prose but also from the beauty of your being. Your poetic writing has a profound and magical way of speaking directly to the heart and stirring the deepest depths of my soul. I can not thank you enough for your presence with us and for your presents such as this - you're truly a goddess among us.

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    Replies
    1. I’m perfectly sure that I’m perfectly undeserving of your words and always open arms. So with perfectly undeserving, perfect grace, I'll just say, merci a toi.

      Your completely unassuming and undemanding kindness always warms my heart, particularly when it starts to feel like I may not have one left.

      C’est la vie. Clock still ticking. Must go find my feathers now.

      It would be inappropriate for me to be seen without them. Before noon.

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    2. I'm shocked you are up and dictating to your man-servants a comment on FTM before noon...

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    3. Astra, if anyone around here is undeserving, it's us, not you. But I think there can be no dispute that you're always the picture of perfect grace, with or without your feathers.

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    4. I'd like to blame my rosy glow on the Veuve. But I haven't had any. I must be blushing.

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  8. That beautiful boy loved his father so much. He loved those strong hands that shaped the casks, the pitiful sandwiches made with love. He could taste the love, I bet, but within the love there was bitterness, underneath the clean white surface was dirt and foulness. In the same green land that grew those delicious grapes was the scent of pig shit. And likewise underneath the layers of dirt were veins of gold. Beneath the beauty there is a hint of the hideous, that most, cleverly disguise. Maybe the boy thought suicide was his last chance to save not only his soul but the fathers. Maybe he thought it was a noble gesture, he could never kill, never touch another being with the intent to harm. He reserved that for himself, selfishly for himself. The noble boy, the beautiful stupid boy. What worth do those grapes have now that he is no longer there to smile upon them? Now that the sunshine of their life is gone. They are all sweetness with no vigor of life you described.
    This is a really heartbreaking story Astraea, In my heart I feel the pain, I've known the pain before, I've succumb to it and taken pleasure in "sinning". In doing so the beauty of life is maginfied. I live in the mid line between both.

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  9. Interesting interpretations. I'm very loathe to leave this comment at all, but I'll go against my better judgement on this single occasion. Nothing exists except in the incarnation of each individual's interpretation. Which is why Art does not require elaboration. Ever.

    However in light of the darkened spiral that some of you have gone on, may I offer that that was never the point, nor the intention. There is a backstory to the story that made it very apropos this week, but that backstory will keep its secrets. The story is unfortunately true, and was repackaged as part parable, and as metaphor and direct current social commentary following this week's events. That was all.

    A pleasant evening to everyone, I think this chapter can be closed.

    And now BRASIL, all eyes on you

    Always look to tomorrow. There's no time for anything else.

    Goodnight

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    Replies
    1. Ah, now I understand.... even in the haze of my current drunken hpur!

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    2. Hour even.... but you all knew that.
      X

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    3. I did indeed know that. And have one for me. Just try to not spill it on yourself instead!

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    4. Ahh... sorry, I do have a tendency to go on spirals, especially darkened ones. The piece was beautifully written and we always love it when you share your words.
      Enjoy Brazil xxx

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