It was late
afternoon. The birds' voices rang shrill and clear over the silence. A gentle
breeze swept through the apartment. Jennie was still sleeping. The air was
fresh, smelling of the sea.
as I could, I made my way to the kitchen. I had a craving for tea. I put the
kettle on and sat by the table in the living room enjoying the sunshine that
came through the partly drawn curtains. The atmosphere created a warm, peaceful
feeling that underlined the stillness of the hour. The mellow sunshine shimmered
in the palm leaves near the balcony, where a lizard made its way up the
brickwork of the building. It moved effortlessly. It halted once, looked into
the room through the window and continued straight up the wall. Moments later it
disappeared. I went onto the balcony to see where it had gone. I couldn't find
it as if it had vanished off the face of the Earth.
distance, a sailboat negotiated a turnabout in its play with the wind. On the
grounds below us children were playing, diving into a circular swimming pool,
and splashing each other.
over the railing to watch them. As I did, I remembered Harry's kids. Seeing the
children at play jolted me. I felt a sudden emptiness. Fiona came to mind. Could
I have seen her at the airport behind the wall of plate-glass if I had known
that they were there? They must have been all there. They must have seen my
plane approach. Fiona might have been told that this was daddy's plane. But they
saw me pass them by without stopping at the most dangerous hour in their life, a
mere ten feet over the runway, hardly a thousand feet from where they stood. We
had come so close to meet, but too distant to touch and too far for a cry to
I was glad
when the kettle began to simmer. It woke Jennie. When I noticed her, she stood
drowsily in the balcony doorway. She yawned, then joined me at the railing. She
brushed her hair back, looked into the sunshine, squinted, then smiled at me.
fortunate she is, to be partly asleep," I thought. She didn't seem tortured
by the thoughts I had just encountered. Hearing the kettle boil I went into the
kitchen to make tea. The kitchen counter was open to the living and dining room
area of the apartment. I could see Jennie perfectly from the kitchen as she
stood in the light of the setting sun. She stepped back after a while, put her
hands over her head and leaned against the frame of the balcony door, still
looking out towards the beach. She said she was glad to see the sunshine.
in the thin nightgown that I had bought her aroused a deep, profound feeling in
me that became almost painful. Her silhouette was like a scene from a dream
world in the light of sun touching her. Although she probably wasn't the beauty
queen of the world, to me she was more than that. What I saw was angel,
excitingly female, beautiful to look at. Only once before had I felt anything
nearly as powerful as this, when I first met Melanie. Now this feeling
resurfaced again in a new dimension. It pervaded my being. It fed me with life.
It separated the moment from the logical, the familiar, and the things I had
control over. It was insanity in the conventional sense, but it was totally sane
in our new unfolding reality and Jennie was at the center of it.
response, a response to a greater sanity, seemed to be built into the design of
the human being that thereby becomes transposed into the surreal world where the
conventional is replaced with the wonderful and the inexplicable. A door had
been opened between us by the recognition of a truth that had been stored away
in consciousness to be triggered into life by a greater openness towards
reality. With so little certainty left now in the world, our being together
became more profound in its reality. She was tangibly real. Our being together
the day when I first met Jennie high up in the Rocky Mountains. She was coming
out of Frank's camper to greet me. I had already felt a bit of that same feeling
then. For one brief fleeting moment something had happened that day that had
brightened the world. Perhaps it was the surprise of the situation that allowed
her to respond without reservation to the innermost design of her as a human
being, letting go for that moment all the traditions of relationships,
responsibilities, commitments, obligations, and the myths surrounding them.
There had been magnificence in this moment, a brightness that made the glaciers
appear dull by comparison, and the mountains insignificant. Moments later when
Frank introduced us the formality of it became a call to 'order' that drew the
attention back to the conventional world by which the magic ended. Still, its
echo had lingered in the mind.
Jennie leaning in the balcony doorway re-kindled still another feeling, one that
I had first felt at the beach after we arrived on the island. It came as a sense
of peace that unfolded by taking a holiday from the so-called real world,
setting aside all the rationality of the ages that has kept mankind 'politely'
distant from each other, including Jennie and I.
I knew that
it was not by accident, therefore, that the nightgown, which I had bought Jennie
for a present, had been selected by me for its exquisitely thin fabric that now
appeared almost transparent. I should have looked away from her according to the
rules of politeness, but there was something in the honesty of the moment that
didn't allow this. Also, I had the feeling that I was not the only factor in the
equation of this moment of peace. Humanity played a large role in its unfolding.
I realized that I hadn't designed the nightgown that I had bought. I had merely
bought it. It already existed when I entered the store. It had been created for
a purpose, perhaps the same purpose that it now fulfilled, a purpose that is
rooted in the design of our humanity, a design to acknowledge and respond to
what is intrinsically beautiful and good.
slender body stood darkly against the sunlit fabric. The sunlit gown suited her.
She looked grander in it, grander than the most beautiful model may ever have
looked, and more exquisite than the most exquisite work of art. How could I not
gaze at her? How could I look away?
her was wonderful. Nor did I design the feeling that I felt. I didn't design
humanity. I wanted to touch her, kiss her nipples - right through the fabric if
it had to be - run my hands over her back, her thighs, her chest. I felt
infinitesimally close to her!
I knew that
Melanie would never have allowed this, nor would have Jennie herself, just a day
earlier. But now, we lived in another time. Our world had been turned upside
down. We had become a part of another world in which everything that was human
had become immensely more precious.
background to this peace and joy, thoughts of doubt resurfaced. I feared that we
would never see Frank or Melanie again. We had been hoping against hope that
they were still living, somewhere on this earth, we had been building scenarios
that they might have escaped by. But was this just hopeful dreaming? They seemed
too far distant, too far out of reach. And even if they lived, how would we ever
find each other again in this overturning world? I wished them well. I wished
them a good life wherever they would end up if they still lived. I dearly wished
that we would see them again, but I wished more deeply that they would find
hope, peace, joy, and happiness until that day would come. I wished that their
world would be one without grief and without pain. I also knew that I was
dreaming again. The world had become too much a caldron of agony for that to be
I was going
to say something to Jennie about this, but I decided not to. I didn't want to
spoil the peace of the moment and its magic 'eternity' that had somehow crowded
out the world we had known too much of, and the ugly reality we had seen. The
unfolding peace had substituted in its place a different reality that I wanted
to hold on to. I wanted this moment to remain. I wanted it to linger for all
finally turned around and looked at me with a sad smile, which was so unlike
her, the magic was over. But moments later the sadness vanished. Something was
in the air. Did she realize what my thoughts were? She looked at herself,
blushed, and stepped out of the sunshine. She went to the far side of the
balcony where there was shade, and looked down onto the garden.
at this moment I became angry with myself. I wanted to join her there. I longed
for her, but couldn't move. Some hero I was! I realized that it was pure
delusion when I imagined that one could simply cast to the wind the great
apartheid that had divided mankind by sex since the most distant ages.
you, Jennie," I heard myself whisper, but whisper was all I could do. Oh,
why must the world of women be shunned out of respect, divided by marriages? Why
did this apartheid exist? I needed more at this moment than it allowed. Mere
survival was no longer enough in this unfolding theater of tragedy. Something
had to drive the urge for survival. Survival should have felt like the most
precious privilege in this torn-apart world, but it didn't suffice any longer.
There is more to being alive than mere survival. Survival didn't seem precious
in the face of the constant denial and self-denial that draws everything down to
the lowest denominator. Why couldn't I acknowledge to myself what I felt deep
inside? Why couldn't I tell her about it? I had to laugh at myself. What a
hypocrite I was!
A girl named
Vanessa came to mind; a stewardess I had long admired; a black African girl. She
had told me how a friend of her once tried to console her in a time of a great
personal crisis. This friend had said to her, "But Vanessa, I have never
regarded you as a black person!" The girl nearly committed suicide over
this blatant denial of the worth of her identity. And, damn, I was doing the
same thing in a different way and couldn't help myself! I was saying to her, you
are a wonderful friend, while I should be saying to her that I cherished her
deeply as a most precious, beautiful woman, a gem from the treasure chest of our
humanity. What on earth was I lying to her for with this act of silence, and
subjection to apartheid? Was I even lying to myself?
could find the answer, Jennie altered the situation. She came in from the
balcony and sat into the living room, on the sofa across the way from me in the
kitchen. There, I could see her clearly again, in her full beauty. "Would
you like some tea?" I asked. I could almost kick myself. That was the least
of what my thoughts were centered on. I poured the tea.
myself together as I looked for a cup. I promised myself; this time I will be
honest! I started by serving the tea that I had made, and I did in a manner that
allowed me to come close to her. I sat down beside her, almost trembling.
Oh how does
one deal with a mythology, like marriage, that has persisted over countless
centuries that shouldn't allow such closeness? I didn't know how. Apparently,
neither did she. Once I had served the tea I feasted my eyes on her,
unabashedly. That, apparently, was all the honesty I could muster. Naturally, it
didn't escape her attention. She responded with a smile, a lovely, gentle smile.
She didn't seem to mind that couldn't help myself, noticing, but neither did she
come right out and talk about it. Nor did I. Thus, the silence continued, but in
a more 'gentle' way, now.
I became embarrassed by it all and escaped into the kitchen once more. My
excuse, this time, was that I had forgotten the sugar. Of course, I could see
her from there just the same.
her from a distance was different. Or was it? I had thought, that by retreating,
the situation would become less intense. I was wrong. It remained as beautiful,
as exciting, and as agonizing beyond measure, as it had been when I sat right
beside her. I experienced a paradox in this that I couldn't resolve. There was a
deep peace in those moments that refreshed the soul, but this peace left me
exhausted as though I had run a mile in three minutes.
I filled the
sugar bowl, set a small pitcher of milk beside it on a tray, and went back to
her. The sugar bowl was shaped like a coconut. I had found it the night before
in a cupboard. I placed some slices of lemon on a plate beside it. I did
everything I could to avoid what I really wanted to do.
began to pound as I came close to her again. She looked at me with a grin as if
she wanted to comment. Perhaps the grin was in response to the shape of the
sugar bowl. Still, she didn't say a word. God, she was as shy in her way as I
was, and I was too shy to ask what in heavens' name the grin was for.
I retreated to a chair at the dining table across the room. I knew deep within
my mind that this wasn't a game. It was an exploration to find whatever had been
lost through centuries of false civility, a search for something that could
bridge the isolation which had kept us apart since the day we met. I feared that
pushing too hard could widen the gulf, and pushing too little would cause the
isolation to persist and perhaps be strengthened.
to Jennie that I should open the package of pound cake we had bought. I sliced
it carefully, though still watching her out of the corner of an eye. She smiled
when our eyes met. Moments later she got up and came towards the kitchen. She
stopped at the doorway for a minute or two, until I had finished slicing the
cake. I arranged the pieces carefully. Then she grinned at me. I responded with
a grin of my own that turned quickly into a stare as she lifted her nightgown
over her shoulder and pulled it off.
not play games with each other," she said to me as she folded the gown and
leaned back against the doorpost. Let's stop playing games.
petrified, with the plate of cake in my hand, my mouth wide open, stunned. There
she was, like a beautiful dream: naked, honest, inviting, beautiful. The odd
thing was that I still couldn't touch her. I began to reach out, but pulled my
hand back. I held onto the plate of cake and carried it into the living room. I
offered her a piece. She declined. Thank God she declined! I put the cake down.
With the deepest honesty that was within me I put my arm around her and hugged
her, gently. "Thanks, Jennie!" was all I could say.
I let go of
her after a long time had passed, so it seemed, and sat on a nearby chair and
kept on looking at her. Oh, why was she so patient with me? Was it compassion?
Did she feel my great need? Or was it love? She felt soft, warm, wonderful, why
did I let go of her? I valued her as a fragile remnant of a fragile world that
was fast slipping away. I was frightened. What a laugh! Me, a veteran of
thousands of flights, being frightened? Yes, I was. I was frightened for both of
us. I knew she wasn't a dream, she was tangibly real, and the chaos in the world
was real, too, but the two realities had become exclusive of one another. I also
knew that none of that was cause. The cause was that I loved her.
I beheld her
like a delicate butterfly, fluttering through the open balcony door where she
had stood. As I saw her standing before me in the same brilliance, like the
loveliest of all women, bold, free, delicate, infinitely precious, more
cherishable than the most delicate butterfly, I stood up and embraced her again.
"I am in love with you, Jennie," I said. "I always have
been." I felt wonderfully alive. We were no longer just surviving, but
living. At least I had begun to life. How absurd the denial of the past now
appeared that I had wallowed in, in my thoughts before for all these years
before, and even earlier, whenever I met another woman, which had blocked from
me this wonderful experience of a boundless unity, of being alive as a human
Out of the
depth of this re-awakening arose the total acceptance of her, and of myself too,
a total honesty, an acceptance of my own feelings, an acceptance of her as she
was, a feeling of unity unfettered by any myth or fear. On this platform I was
finally able to embrace her fully and without reservation. It was as if we had
gained access at last to a new dimension of reality that we hadn't even been
aware of before.
warm. I felt her breasts resting tightly against my chest. She felt wonderful to
touch, soft, smooth, gently outlined. There was no shame in this union anymore,
or tensions to mar it, or guilt, or torment, and no pain in the heart in
response to being honest and free. Neither was there the rage of excitement that
might have been associated with such moments had we stood on lesser platform,
like a platform of uncontrollable passions that drives the human spirit to fill
an emptiness with the intensity of rage. There was no emptiness in my feeling
that led up this, that needed to be filled. There was only love that needed to
be acknowledged and allowed to be. The isolation had been invalidated. Something
had been created that was infinitely rich, which would now remain. "I have
been in love from the first moment I saw you," I said quietly.
too," she said softly.
for a long time in each other's embrace. It seemed that this moment would never
end. The peace of it was reflected in everything. The lace curtains moved gently
with the wind. The sun stood low, painting the sky a warm orange red.
precious thing our human world is!" said Jennie with a soft smile once we
faced each other again.
what a privilege it is to be part of it!" I answered and smiled back at
her, "and to be able to experience its wonders!"
"We should never take anything for granted that is so intrinsically good
not each other," I added, and kissed her. "What we take for granted we
lose. We must build on what we have achieved. If we don't move ahead and build
on every achievement no matter how slight or profound, we stand still. But life
can't stand still. If we let life stand still we may be in danger to loose
at me and pointed to the sunset, which she said was but the prelude to a new
I kissed her
for this wonderful thought. The silence between us had finally been broken. For
years I had respectfully nurtured 'this' silence. Now we had drawn the curtains
The sky had
turned a dark pink. The palms at the beach stood tall and black against the
richly colored sky. There were no shadows on the lawn any longer. Still, the
sand on the beach glowed as brightly as before.
only we could know where beyond the horizon our children might be," I said,
"and Frank and Melanie!"
"I wish I knew what they are doing, if they are well, if they are
happy." Moment later she began to cry. "If only I could see them once
I tried to
comfort her. I said that they could be anywhere in the world, in China, Mexico,
Japan, Europe, possibly even in the good old USA. "They might be in
Honolulu, for all we know."
it be wonderful if we bumped into them in Honolulu on our way back!" she
said smiling again, and wiped a tear off her face.
I had to
smile at the thought myself, but then I shook my head: "Don't get your
hopes up too high, Jennie. There's a slim chance of finding them until there are
computer listings compiled to help locate the displaced persons."
are going back, aren't we?" she said.
"I can't be at peace with myself in any other way, Jennie. I must go. We
both should go, because our world is a human world and this world needs to be
cherished. This means rescuing of it what can be rescued. The earth without
human beings would be an empty sphere. It would be like a solar system without a
sun," I said. "We must protect our humanity I all aspects and raise it
up, because we are a part of this world, and this world is a part of us. We need
it to be alive and the means consciously living, treasuring life, fighting for
hoped you would say something like that," she said and put a finger over my
lips. "You said enough, and you said it more beautifully than I could have.
We'll both go back," she added. "Only let's treat ourselves to a quiet
dinner together, before we go back, if we can. We need to celebrate what we have
built here. That's an acknowledgment, too, isn't it? We need these
with a nod and a gentle embrace. "I know just the place," I said.
"There is a great restaurant not far from here. It's a small place and
right at the beach. There is a large tree growing right through the middle of
it. We must celebrate our day there! This would be fitting our first day of
really being together. Afterwards, I'll give Honolulu a call. I promised then
that I would call to see what time they need us."
don't you call before we go for dinner?" she said, and kissed me.
"While you call, I will freshen up."
I raised my
hand, slightly. I didn't like the idea. But she didn't respond.
call now, we could plan our time better," she said moments later.
she had a point there. Deep down, however, I couldn't shed the feeling that this
was not what I ought to do.
they won't need us," she added.
there is little chance for that," I replied.
saying another word, she went into the bathroom. Reluctantly, I went to my
flight uniform and got the 800 number of the refugee center from my top pocket.
I kept hoping that I wouldn't get a line through, but I also felt bad about this
thought. The thought was that Honolulu was on another island and might be hard
to reach. Still, I took the phone off its shelf and brought it to the
chesterfield near the open balcony door as if I would be dialing for a long
time. I knew I would give it my best in spite of my nagging reservations,
because going back was in both of our thoughts. Skipping out in this hour of
need was not an option.
As I waited
for the circuits to create a channel to the operations desk of my airline, the
desperation in Vancouver came to mind and our experience in Abbotsford. Would
the chaos have become worse? It seemed logical that it should have. It might be
absolute hell by now. We had to expect that. Fallout would surely have risen
past the critical level. I was just about to hang up when I finally got through.
can I help you?" said a voice.
still need volunteer pilots for the airlift?" I said. I stuttered out of a
hidden fear when I asked for my airline, hoping in some slight fashion that the
voice would answer, No!
connect you," said the voice.
connected to our Honolulu office. I was told that our company didn't exist
would like to speak with someone who is in charge of the airlift," I added.
I was passed
back to the switchboard, then to security. Someone switched me through to the
control tower. The tower, however, was too busy for anyone to answer the phone.
Eventually I reached someone who had some dealings with what was going on.
come any time you're ready," the man said, "we'll fit you in. The
traffic's unbelievable. It busier than it was during the war. They group them
into squadrons before they land or take off. And this goes on hour after hour.
And the crowds we have here, like you wouldn't believe!"
know what the situation is like in Vancouver?" I asked.
was terrible to the end! It's closed now. They've got three-hundred-mile-an-hour
winds that are feeding the firestorms in the South. Vancouver was shut down an
hour ago. At midnight we'll have the last run coming in from there."
of people have fled to Vancouver Island. We're picking them up through Alaska.
Alaska is one of the few places with enough fuel for an unlimited number of
round trips. It's close enough too, to get to the island and back without
refueling. The problem is, we have to land on a highway. An earthquake has
damaged the only large airport in the north of the island. Can you land a 747 on
highway?" I asked.
a highway! They took the dividers off a four-lane highway."
we lost any aircraft there?"
Eleven all told. That's not bad, considering the risks."
you want an easy mission, I can pass you through to the East Coast Operations
Center. All our big aircraft will soon be withdrawn. They have plans in place to
evacuate the entire northeastern United States all the way down to St. Louis.
The fallout has already spread as far as Kansas City and is getting more
radioactive the farther East it goes. In two days it will be over New York like
the Mt. St. Helens ash-fall had years ago."
I could well
imagine what this meant.
the man that I would much rather service a highway outpost than fly into the big
eastern cities in such a crisis. I told him I would call back as soon as we were
ready to leave.
hurry too much!" he replied. "I have no plane to give you at the
moment, but I'll put you on the 'Vancouver Island run.' I have a small 747
coming in after midnight that is suitable for the Alaska run. I have you logged
in for around two-AM!"
I said that
was great. I had only one more question after that, how to get to Honolulu from
Maui at two in the morning.
the shuttle!" he said. "There is an hourly shuttle between Honolulu
and all the islands to distribute the refugees. Take the midnight shuttle!"
the man, put the receiver down and called to Jennie.
want us!" I called to her.
There was no
answer. I knocked on the bathroom door. "Vancouver has already been shut
down. Three-hundred-mile-an-hour winds shut the airport down. Most have already
by evacuated to Vancouver Island by boat."
the entire city! That can't be closed already. That's impossible! That can't
be!" Her voice came through the closed door, strong at first but getting
Jennie, that's what the man said. Most of the people have fled to Vancouver
Island. We are going to lift them out from there! Apparently they have converted
a highway into some primitive airport."
don't you come in, Paul?" she interrupted me. "It's no good talking
through a closed door."
need to hear this invitation twice. She was sitting in the bathtub surrounded by
a sea of foam, with only her head sticking out. What a peaceful sight!
terrible that I asked you to call," she said. "This mission is
troubling you, isn't it?"
"Maybe we shouldn't go. Its tempting to just stay put."
Melanie or Frank were there, and the children, wouldn't we go?" she asked.
course we would. We would do anything to get them out."
why we must go, Paul. That's why we must help, whoever needs our help."
not on the East Coast, I made that clear to them!" I said strongly to
Jennie, and then laughed at myself. When I became serious again, I told her
about the fallout pattern and the evacuation plans that the dispatcher had
course I'm not scared of the fallout," I insisted at the end, "I'm
more scared about the 200 million hand guns that people own, especially in the
East. No! I'd rather take my chances landing on a highway in the remotest part
of the wilderness."
I told her
about the north end of Vancouver Island. This part of the world was apparently
still free of fallout, but was crawling with over a hundred thousand people who
became stranded there, waiting to be airlifted out. "We're their only
hope," I said firmly; "we must go to them."
She stood up
and reached for a towel. She looked rather sad now.
it! They won't need us until 2.00 AM!" I said. I tried to cheer her.
She began to
smile again, and sat down deep into the warm water. Eventually she sat up and
handed me the soap and a brush. "Would you wash my back, please?"
wonderful being there, kneeling beside the bathtub, washing her back gently, her
shoulders, legs, breasts.... The situation didn't seem at all strange or
unnatural. It was peaceful. The disaster seemed so far away in this moment of
intimacy that I tried to make last for as long as I could. Eventually she stood
up and invited me to join her.
go to the bedroom," I broke the silence a long time thereafter.
her head; "Maybe we shouldn't, I haven't any pills, I...."
interrupted her, "I wish to God that we had enough of a future so that this
mattered! How long will it be until someone hits the button in earnest and
tears in her eyes again. "Why did you have to say this? Couldn't you keep
the illusions alive by which all those rescue flights have some meaning? There
is always a reason for one to hope. There must be."
about it for a moment and began to laugh again; "OK, Paul, it still won't
work. I have no pills, nor anything else. If we do come though this alive, and I
know we will, we may have to survive under the most primitive conditions.
Becoming pregnant in times like this might be fatal."
Now I began
to laugh, too; "No, I don't want to invade you and get you pregnant. I want
to appreciate you. There are better ways for doing that than getting you
pregnant, don't you think?"
at me astonished after I had stepped out of the tub. She let herself slide back
into the hot water. She didn't even reply right away, but looked at me with a
gentle exploring look.
was surprised myself, at the language I had used. How vulgar! I told her I was
ashamed of it, but still couldn't think of a better way to say it.
means that you are totally serious," she came back.
her head slightly, but then handed me the towel again.
It was cool
in the bedroom, refreshing, and comfortably peaceful in the dark atmosphere. One
could see the shadows of the palm leaves projected on the far wall and the
and all too soon as it seemed, we dressed. I went outside onto the balcony,
waiting for her there. I watched the gas-torches on the grounds. A breeze had
come up. The giant fans of palm trees were swaying in the wind. The flames
flickered. I wondered what we might have to face when we resumed our mission.
Would we be able to return? Would we be able to stay together? Would we survive
the next day, or would the nuclear fire spread further and destroy everything
that is fragile, beautiful, and human?
looked up I noticed Jennie standing beside me. She smiled at me. She said she
was ready now.
not survive this," she said. "But if this is the end, let's end our
life as human beings, helping one another."
back at her and nodded. Still, in spite of the happiness I felt being with her,
I couldn't shed the feeling that this day might be our last one on the islands,
if not our last day altogether. I didn't dare voice the thought. However, to
judge by her lack of talkativeness, she might have been thinking the same.
I took great
care to close all of the windows, took my coat from the rack, stepped outside
and locked the apartment thoroughly, dead bolt and all, as though we wouldn't be
back for many days. This time I decided to be true to my feelings. Perhaps
Jennie did, too, for she suggested that we select the longest possible route to
the parking lot, across the gardens, lawns, along the beach, past both of the
swimming pools, the lily pond....
At the lily
pond, we stopped to watch the old toads with great interest. Jennie had to
laugh. They obviously believed themselves to be perfectly hidden, while in fact
they were right in plain view near the torchlight. We could actually touch them
before they would notice us and jump away.
It was fun
chasing the toads, seeing Jennie laugh again like a child, and holding hands
with her as though we were children, indeed, holding on to each other. By this
playing the heavy mood dissipated. It was as if the New World we had touched
upon had won us over. The Old World lay in flames, everything of value in it had
been torn apart. But out of this chaos and fear a new spark had sprung that lit
a fire in us that was new, a flame-less fire that seemed to be building, a fire
that wasn't destructive.
We walked to
the car arm in arm. I felt great. For years I had denied myself the right to be
this close to her. I had denied myself what now seemed like one of the most
basic rights of any human being to associate intimately with other human beings.
We ended up embracing each other in full appreciation of our newfound reality,
as two human beings, male and female, bound to one other by nothing more than a
commitment to being alive. And this we were. We were intensely alive. In this
fashion we arrived at the restaurant.
what a romantic place this is!" she said excitedly as we entered. She was
delighted with everything about it, the setting, the decor, and the atmosphere.
I shared her feelings. The place was charming, simple, and comfortable. By name
it was a steak house. We had smelled the aroma of roasting steak long before we
crossed the street. Still, Jennie wanted to have something special, something
unique to the islands, rather than steak. Following the waiter's suggestion we
ordered the Mahi Mahi, which simply means the 'right' fish, the finest fish of
the season. It was well prepared, covered with a delicious dressing, graciously
served with a glass of white wine.
We had been
seated in a quiet corner, at a table by the seashore. We could see the surf in
the moonlight. The place was dimly lit. Soft music filtered from nearby
speakers, mingled with the sound of the surf. This was exactly the contrast that
we needed, a contrast to a world that we tried so hard not to think about. It
was amazing that the restaurant was still in operation, and that the prices had
remained the same as one would have expected in normal times.
hanging baskets of flowers and planters filled with tropical greenery, I had the
feeling that we were totally by ourselves in the restaurant. Perhaps we were. I
had feared that the place would be crowded with angry people, all debating the
horrors of a nuclear war. The opposite was true. Maybe the people were all glued
to their TV screens. In this atmosphere of horror they probably didn't feel like
celebrating their living, not even that they were still alive. Or perhaps they
didn't realize, as we had realized, that they have a great treasure in
themselves that is worth celebrating. We needed this wonderful intimate supper
to celebrate those treasures of our humanity. This celebration also marked the
beginning of a new era for us.
at the restaurant was not the greatest. There was only one waiter, probably the
owner. But who cared? Who needs speedy waiters in times like these? We didn't.
The place was an oasis for us, in which there was no talk about war. There was
only music in the air that spoke of love, a flow of gentle melodies for and by a
gentle people, the native Hawaiians.
on a holiday," I said to her. "We are on a holiday of the kind I had
dreamed about at the beach. We are on a holiday of love, filled with the most
We smiled at
each other across the table, often in silence. I wanted to tell her how much I
appreciated the privilege of being with her. I wanted to say to her; I love you!
I love you! I love you! But those words were not needed. They would have spoiled
everything. There was no need to tell with words what our eyes said much better.
silence in these moments was filled with a symphony of communication, heart to
heart, soul to soul. When words intruded the scene, they were anticlimactic.
that you have always loved me," she broke the silence. "You have loved
me from the moment we met, as you said earlier. I had seen it in your eyes. You
had loved me as no other man ever did, including Frank. I believe you even loved
me in a way you never loved Melanie, or ever could, because in spite of her
loveliness she also represented a barrier for you against other women. There had
never been such a barrier between us. That made our love richer. I only hope
that some day we can dissolve this barrier that Melanie had given herself to
become, so that your embrace in love will be as rich as ours is."
for a moment. "Except, why had I always felt so embarrassed for loving you?
Why could I never allow myself to acknowledge my love for you openly, and to
acknowledge our love? Would Frank have stood in the way? I always assumed he
would have, without giving him a chance to defend himself against this
indictment? I shouldn't have been that cruel to you and unjust to him."
I tried to
answer, but she hushed me. "I don't think an answer can ever be
found," she said. "It belongs to the past and the past is no
chose the desert, it struck me that I hadn't realized since we left Vancouver,
how charmingly she was dressed. She wore the same black velvet dress and jacket
that I had seen many times, that blended beautifully with her hair and her
complexion. Perhaps her appearance hadn't had the same meaning before. I was
lost for words, suddenly, to pay proper homage to her. I could only wonder why
it had taken me thirty-six hours to notice what now was so overwhelming. I put
together some phrases of flattery about her fine appearance, but they missed the
mark by a long way. I finally invited her for a dance to the soft music that
pervaded the place, a dance between the courses of our meal.
She began to
grin when we sat down and I thanked her most cordially. She replied to me with
that same smile on her face that I had cherished from the moment that I saw her
that day at the summit of Milner Pass. "You're quite handsome yourself,
Captain!" she said in the most romantic tone of voice as we became seated
consisted of a giant orange, expertly peeled at the table, sliced, served on a
bed of sherbet, and topped with a creamy sweet sauce that I had never tasted
before. Perhaps it tasted so great because of the mood I was in. Perhaps the
simplest, sloppiest pudding might have tasted just like that, as we gently
stared at one another. I was glad we were quite alone in the restaurant. I had
experienced something that day that I had never experienced before, a touch of
life that I had virtually forced myself to ignore in the past, as much as the
whole world had done, so it seemed.
me," I asked her, "what prompted you tonight to take your nightgown
"It was necessary! If you could have seen yourself, you wouldn't ask. You
needed it off. But more than you, I needed this done. For most of my life I had
hid beneath my wedding veil. Frank was everything to me, but it wasn't because
this union was the pinnacle of my existence, as I told myself it was, but
because there was nothing else. When the PA system announced in Vancouver that
we had only fifteen minutes left to live, my whole world was suddenly empty. I
needed Frank, but Frank wasn't there. Suddenly the whole airport erupted into a
mad scramble. Everybody rushed about to get on a plane, any plane, to get away!
People were crushed to death. Can you imagine what this was like? Then someone
taps you on the shoulder. A stranger stands in front of you with a yearning to
appreciate one final moment to live as a human being. Paul, in those moments
before you die, you don't think anymore, you react by reflexes, you live by
what's deep inside you. I embraced this man, can you believe this. The
experience changed my life!"
know how to respond. I didn't know whether to shake my head or nod.
when it became evident later on, that we were going to survive, Frank came to
mind, and with it a feeling that I had done some great wickedness to Frank. I
felt ashamed for it, but out of the depth of my soul came another message, a
deep-seated protest. What should I be ashamed of? Ones feelings aren't the
domain of another. My feelings are mine, not Frank's! In reacting to them to
what flows from the depth of my soul, how could I possibly hurt Frank, unless he
regarded me, indeed, as his property, which I was sure he never had."
felt so good being myself at last," she said. "It overwhelmed me. In
this tumultuous overturning I saw myself no longer as Frank's wife, but as
simply me. I saw a person standing on her own two feet, though still deeply in
love with Frank, except this love was suddenly richer. Now, this new dimension
of love has expanded to also include you, fully, and the world," she
you landed in Vancouver, there was hope again. You were the last plane coming in
with people on board, except you came without Frank. I felt a numbness setting
in, an utter hopelessness. I stood there in tears, as you know. But if this had
happened ten minutes earlier I might not have been moved by my love for Frank,
as I had been then. I might have felt totally empty inside, as if, with Frank
gone, there remained nothing left of my life. This brief episode at the airport
during the moments of chaos and an unfolding love for a man who might have
struggled against similar barriers, had somehow taken away the wedding veil and
given me my life back in which I could love Frank for the wonderful person he is
and always will be."
I could only
stare at her as she said these things. "I had no idea," I said.
really feels great being my own master again," she added. "I feel a
freedom now, that I can't even define, that I've just begun to explore. I feel
so different, so rich!"
hung open. "I thought you and Frank had the most wonderful marriage anyone
could possibly have!"
and smiled. Her smile was as gentle, just as it had been all evening.
"Paul, I wasn't referring to that when I spoke about the wedding veil. I
was referring to the veil itself, which one creates in one's own mind, which
isolates one from the world. Frank had not done this. I had created the veil.
Humanity had created it. A veil hides, you know. It hides and hints at something
mysterious, and by that it takes away from what there really is. That's what I'm
free of. That's why I had to take the nightgown off which you had bought me. It
had become an impregnable veil. This beautiful thin nighty suddenly appeared to
me like another wedding veil, if you believe that. It had to come off. I'm free
of those myths now that I have lived under, the mythology that forces a person
under its spell to behave like a different human being. It dawned on me during
the moments of great crisis when I embraced the Russian soldier that I really
wasn't any different than I had always been. I was the same person that I had
been before Frank and I were married. The veil of the mythological was gone,
that separates people. It has separated the sexes into two isolated camps, and I
had been stuck in such a camp for so many years, but I am no longer. This
doesn't mean I won't wear your beautiful nighty again. I will gladly wear it,
but not as a veil. I will wear it as a token of your love for me. I will wear it
proudly, whenever it can be worn proudly, when it is no longer a veil, even if
it is so thin that it won't hide anything."
She told me
that she actually had to laugh when she realized the utter absurdity of this
'thing' called a wedding veil. She said that it is a contradiction in language.
"A wedding should signify a union," she said in a most serious tone.
"Not a separation. A union that is solid, secure, a platform from which one
can build upwards to reach for infinity and embrace the whole human race. Frank
and I should have supported each other in this reaching higher on the scale of
our existence, instead of mysteriously tying each other down as servants to some
ancient model for relationships which reveals itself as inherently unnatural,
which in the end isolated me from my own self. This model had strangled both of
our lives, Paul. This is what I'm beginning to feel free off, that allows me to
love Frank and not mourn him, that allowed me to love you and take my nighty off
for you with love. I really wish that Frank could be here so that I could tell
him about my great breakthrough."
I suppose, I
must have smiled, maybe grinned, or laughed.
not something to be taken lightly!" she protested. "You're caught up
in this river, too. I know are, even as deeply as I was. I also know that you
have become freer. Everyone will come to this point who is honest with himself,
or herself. The man at the airport was a soldier, Paul! As far as I could tell
he was from Russia, a naval officer whose ship lay at anchor in the harbor. I am
sure he would have laid his life on the line to defend his world. It didn't
really sink in until much later that the soldier I held in my arms had in effect
stood ready to kill the very person he himself would be, were he by birth
married to the other side. And he would have done it gladly, Paul! The
mythological veil, whatever its name may be, hides mankind from itself. Under
this veil, atrocities are committed with ease. Maybe that is what I meant when I
said we mustn't play games with one another. God only knows how many people have
been put to death under this veil, or been tortured to death. In ancient times
the death sentence was actually being applied against those who violated the
prescribed marriage boundary."
I was amazed
at her; flabbergasted! I knew instinctively that she was right. She was telling
me in a different context what my experience that evening had in essence been
all about. Nobody would have convinced me of this earlier. I would have laughed
had anyone suggested that she would say the kind of things she said. I felt
closer to her that night than I ever felt towards anyone before. She had laid
out my own soul before me and defined for me what I felt, which until this
moment had lacked a clear definition.
time the waiter came by, I quickly requested another coffee to make those
wonderful moments last for us as long as we could make them last. The waiter
suggested a fine liquor when he came back, which we sipped ever so slowly to
savor the mood we were in. Something was in progress here, something gentle, and
something that had no name because it was still too new, even though Jennie had
courageously dared to define it.
We left the
restaurant totally satisfied. We went to town, strolling hand in hand through
the old parts of Lahina, along dimly lit streets, amidst crowds of people. We
passed the windows of the town's brightly-lit shops. The absorbing intimacy of
the evening had made the pain of the world appear so far away, so unreal, so
like a dream. There were many glum faces in the crowd, but those no longer
mattered to us. What mattered, was, that we smiled, that we felt intimately at
one with each other.
at every display window, I am sure of that, and often went inside the stores to
examine the wares. Everything that a tourist would want was on sale, from
seashells to exquisite diamond jewelry. Browsing created the feeling that the
world was in the midst of the deepest peace. I relished this feeling. Maybe
others did, too. Maybe that's why things appeared so strikingly normal and
people had wisely determined to keep it that way.
time wore on, the glad feeling faded. The weight of what we would soon have to
face exacted its toll. The cruel reality became stronger than our new inner
peace, even though that peace was founded on a more solid reality. As if it were
in response to a deeply drawn urge to acknowledge this more solid reality, with
which to hold back our fear, we put our arms around each other and avoided even
the slightest syllable about the awesome task that lay before us.
passed, we walked slower, and slower, and went into every shop. We even tried on
various items of clothing that we saw, though we had no intention to purchase
center of town we stopped and purchased an ice-cream cone each, in a brightly
colored and brightly-lit store. We had a double scoop of Pina Colada, and
another scoop of Swiss Orange Chocolate, both of which tasted wonderful, and on
top of that a scoop of the finest vanilla. The giant cone in itself was enough
to make the evening last for as long as it possibly could. We took the cones
outside to the park and ate them under the legendary Banyan tree that covered
the entire Town Square. The tree had long been a famous landmark. For decades
people had loved and dreamed beneath its branches. My dream that night was for a
safer world, and that our paths would never part. Actually, I felt these were
related, though I couldn't see how.
our ice creams were gone, Jennie said quietly that she was now ready to face the
world. But those were just words, bravely spoken. I was certain that Jennie was
no more ready than I was.
being careful not to hurry, we turned back towards the car. We stopped at every
window again, browsed through every store, tried on hats, scarves, and
bracelets, and checked out the trinkets and toys that were offered for sale.
buy you a present to remember this day by," I said to her in a small,
narrow shop in a side alley. The walls of the shop were covered with everything
that was interesting and valuable, from rare seashells to fine wooden boxes,
carved figures, items of brass, silver, and gold. In long glass cases behind the
counters, a wide variety of jewelry was displayed, polished pink coral - an
ideal present for her, I thought.
when I asked her, but urged me not to buy anything. "Not now," she
entreated. "Wait until the last day."
But what if
this is our last day? I wondered. What then? Who can be certain that we may live
through to the end of tomorrow? Was her denial of my present a rejection of some
neither of us was ready to face the world, I was sure of that. But if so, why
were we going back? The answer was simple. We had no choice. The human need was
too great to be ignored. The rescue work had to be carried out. There existed no
other option. Not to go, to suppress the compassion I felt for those in need
would have been a betrayal of everything I believed in, even a betrayal of
myself. That, I could allow no longer. I had stepped too far away from this
grave to step back into it. We simply did not have a choice. Our love to one
another was intertwined with that sense of unity that embraced all.
It was quiet
in the car as we drove back to the airport. There were shadows on the road,
shadows of trees projected by the moonlight. We spoke only of trivial things
now, of make-believe ideas that seemed supportive in some way.
As we turned
away from the shore, Jennie noticed that the mountains were still wrapped in the
same covering of clouds that we had seen when we came. "I suppose they will
still be like that tomorrow when we come back," she said.
but I couldn't shed the feeling that we would not make it back to see them.
airport we had almost an hour until the next shuttle arrived at one o clock. We
had just missed the midnight shuttle and I was glad that we did. This also must
have been the first time in my life that I was glad for having to wait at an
airport. With great joy I also realized that I no longer wished that shuttle
would never come.
didn't delay us. It gave us plenty of time, though, for one last stroll and a
cup of coffee in peace. The air was moist and aromatic. We walked arm in arm in
the dim moonlight and held each other close. The thought that this may indeed be
our last day on the island, in not forever, grew stronger. The feeling emerged
that this might indeed be our last day. The feeling grew to such force that I
nearly protested out loud; NO; no; no; that can't be! - There will be a tomorrow
- and it will be as beautiful as we care to make it! I didn't voice those words.
back to the terminal more quickly now. I would have loved to run. I was happy in
the night. As soon as we came near the terminal, I excused myself and sneaked
away into the souvenir shop. Luckily the shop was still open. The storekeeper
said it was because of the shuttle flights, which kept coming in all night.
Jennie the most delicate, red coral necklace the shop had, and two cups of
coffees as a decoy, and a package of chewing gum. I kept the necklace well
hidden until we were on the plane and back in the air.
As we where
alone in the plane, I brought the necklace out and placed it in her hand. Tears
formed in her eyes as she asked if this was the souvenir that should not be
bought until the last day.
I nodded and laid the necklace on her neck. "This may be our last day on
the island, or maybe our last day altogether. It certainly has been our last day
of exile from each other," I added. "It is fit, therefore, Jennie,
that a souvenir be bought to remember those moments by, to celebrate the way in
which the conventional has ended, the celebrate the last day of the Old World
and the joy of seeing it disappear from the horizon."
I grinned at
her as I closed the clasp and moved back to see how it would compliment her
wonderful charm. It did full justice to it. "May this gift adorn my lovely
female friend who brings out the female in me," I whispered to her.
back at me.
emergency shuttle isn't the most likely place to celebrate the beginning of
something that may never fully be. The plane was filthy. There was a sour stench
in the air. There were no snacks or drinks served. But for me, this filthy plane
was fit enough to celebrate our 'continuous' beginning. The physical
surroundings no longer seemed to matter. Not even hope seemed to matter. The
moment itself, just being alive, was enough.
looked down at the necklace that blended well with the black velvet of her
perhaps," I said to her, softly, "I may need to buy you another
present like this for another reason, and maybe another again, the day after,
and at all the days after that."
faded. She turned to me and whispered as it were a state secret; "Do you
think there is the slightest possibility that I could have been infected by the
man at the airport? The man at the airport said that he had the AIDS virus. It
didn't matter, then."
I shook my
head. "Hack no! It takes more than a single kiss, no matter how intimate,
to become infected." I almost laughed. "And even if you were infected;
so what?" I said. I began stroking her hair as we faced one another.
Thinking in terms of years suddenly was like thinking in terms of eternity.
"I wish we had the kind of a future where all of this matters," I
repeated. "What matters is, what happens here, today, now! And even if it
should happen, against all odds, that you have become infected and the world
should hold together for many more decades and centuries, a cure for AIDS may
not be far off when this happens, so don't worry my love."
what I thought, too," she said, and began to smile again. Soon her smile
turned into a gentle grin. The dark mood that had gripped us and had receded
several times during the past hours, now appeared to have been turned away for
good. It was replaced with a hope that actually didn't seem important anymore
compared to the excitement of just being alive at the moment, and to be with
each other the way we were.
tears in her eyes when we kissed. It had been a significant day in every
respect. Everything fitted together. When the wheels touch the runway, I
remarked that this was probably the finest day we could possibly have had.
and smiled, touched her necklace, and then added that it must seem totally
ridiculous for anyone to make a statement like this in a time of the deepest
crisis that ever occurred in the history of humanity. "But I know it is
true!" she added and grinned.
I kissed her
in response. "This has been our day," I said, "and it still is.
May it never end."
her eyes, embraced me, and agreed that it was so, with a kiss.
than the Sun, Chapter 5)
related to love
Let's drink to the truth
A girl named Lianhua
Love: The Thing - I had a dream
Land of Four Rivers
Queen of the New Law
The voice of a bird woke me
The Royal Dance
Love Among the Stars
Harvest is Seedtime
Love: Home Page
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