Iron Behind the Velvet ~ Chapter 64

~ The Grain of the Wood Round the Hatched Knot, 
                                                                       Still Straightening Toward the Light 1




The sink’s wash-water rushed away leaving – for the suspended breath – a sense of ... erasure. As a boy he’d imagined tossing all his questions to this inexplicable raceway, later, his heartbreaks – Devin, Lisa ... and the confused memories of his first unmooring – later still, the indelible awareness of what marked the loss of his true innocence, an ... event ... no one had witnessed, of which to this day, only Father knew.2

He’d disclosed the circumstances, the emergency of the moment, with regret and sadness, but without apology, the alternative, the consequence of inaction, terrible and inevitable. Father had listened, silent with shock, it seemed ... or perhaps a kind of shared shame, Father’s concerns and intuition the reasons, after all, he’d gone Above to stand guard over a threatened, vulnerable Helper. He’d arrived almost too late.

Father had sighed with grave relief and thanked him. But the suggestion his defense go ... unmentioned ... was a revelation, an epiphany of resignation. Barely twenty, his wonderings – What am I? – answered. He was necessary ... and would ever be an exile among his own countrymen.3

One foot on the staircase out and away, his grip tight on the handrails, he fought back another wave of nausea. Father cleared his throat, ventured so, so carefully ...

And, you, Vincent. You appear to be ... all right.

There’d been small question in Father’s voice, more instruction, and no irony.  Appearances, his in particular ... He’d almost laughed, hearing Devin’s sure response, had he been there to comment – Wrap your head around that one, if you can. He’d assumed, soon enough, he’d be able to tell Father how he’d seen the path before him divide, that once he’d stepped forward – no, once he’d merely decided the way, once he’d chosen – the woods had closed in behind him. No going back ... had he wanted to return. He’d hoped he might be able to confess to Father – for to whom else? – his feeling of release, at once fearsome and satisfying. How he, like water long constrained by a dam, forced to an unnatural but placid, pleasing lake, had found the crack and coursed through; how he had known a sensual thrill of nature and purpose, as the water would rush its denied but never forgotten banks, wildly treasuring the channel of home, lapping this cove, spilling over these rapids, sighing with gratitude and the determination never to be dammed again, but to live this powerful, this free. Instead, he discovered, after three companionless days and three solitary nights, a river of penance and sanctuary flowing through the darkness.


He let himself smile, almost as if he were gazing on his young, wounded self. In life, he would counsel now, you will be incapable of forgetting, not even meant to forget, but to bear. Choose only those actions you can live with, yet risk yourself in the world, for the right thing, the right person. You are made in a fearful way and destiny will draw you into places of deep poverty. But the miracle will come. It will.

The water torrented back, the swift-swirling rise sending up nothing more than a cool, fanning spray. Droplets dotted his gray corduroys, the cream-colored paper. He smoothed the page across his knee again, turned it over. The words – the images – were still terrifyingly beautiful. After months, after years, of not, how easily he could now remember ... the weeks before, just before, Catherine.

____

Far, far below ... below the common routes and familiar wonders of his operative life, beyond the civilizing illumination of candlelight and literature, removed from restrained touch, the conjecture, the long after-look he often felt at his back ...

... the dark river streamed blackly on towards oblivion ...

And staggered to it, parched, on his hands and knees beside it, trembling ...

How the waters closed above him, we shall never know ...4

The current’s pull was strong, its drawing tide surely meant for him. His mouth was stones; his throat dust. He stared into the deep invitation of the stream, considered ... acceptance. But behind him where he’d dropped it, his one feeble torch flared, encouraged by some fresh, impossible breeze, and the river chasm brightened as if the moon filled and overflowed the night. 5

With revelations, a voice whispered. Though he whipped his head from side to side in search, the finish of the quotation wisped from a dozen rock crevices and none. His and not his, the voice whispered again: I celebrate myself and sing myself ... I breathe the fragrance and know it and like it. I am in love with it, I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked ... I am mad for it ... the smoke of my own breath ... the beating of my heart ... I and this mystery here we stand ... the unseen is proved by the seen.6  Cast before him on the wall, two dancing shadows gyred, twining to an exquisite one, its aura of cloudy-white growing pure and bright as he stared, glowing red-edged, haloed then with gold. Beautiful ... too beautiful. And no reflection of him or his, of what was or might be. He could bear to look no longer, but leaned out over the wet black rocks, where, in the mirroring surface, he saw his own face similarly, radiantly, splendidly wreathed. Into that still mockery, he plunged one fist, the water to the level of his forearm, to his elbow. His image blurred away on the ripples. Like Othello’s, it came to mind, and his dry lips parted in a soundless laugh.7  Such knowledge – the myriad poems he could recite, the soliloquies – was of what use?  A stage mask, an illusion of normalcy. Against his cupped fingers, the undertow was warm and insinuating. Seductive. Ready for him.

Yet a hand stayed him, formless but unyielding on his shoulder. He might twist and wrench and bellow beneath it, but he could not – did not – throw it off.



Vincent, holding a torch
He met no one on his steep and winding journey back. Three levels up, his torch went out altogether, but he cut a length of cotton rope from the neat coil in his pack and wound it ‘round the still-smoldering end, layering in as kindling some paper strips ripped from a small, coverless journal he found bent and crammed into the pocket of his jerkin. Without tallow or oil or pitch to soak the knot, the illumination was bleary, but sufficient to guide him home.

A retracting gate protected the back entrance to his private rooms, though years before some seismic shift had rendered it inoperable and, luckily, permanently open, granting him unobserved passage to his venues of solitude – the falls or the whispering bridge, the windy places ... and beyond and deeper, and deeper still. And beyond and out ... routes of access to his high perches, to unreported forays above. He crossed the atrium and mounted the sweeping staircase to its second floor, strode the corridor that led to the secret entry into his customary chamber.8  This side of the stained glass window, only a single pillar candle burned – a seven-day candle, nearly finished. The candelabras had guttered; ribbons of wax drooped from the scrolled iron arms. He broke off the brittle lace curtains, tossed the pieces into the catch-basket on the floor. Almost full. Rebecca would melt the paraffin and beeswax once again, dip fresh wicks. Tapers fitted to the holders, he lit a punk in the one remaining flame, touched off new fire. Tomorrow morning, he’d carry his scraps to the chandlery ... and begin again.

He’d been away four days. Six, if he counted the two he’d spent withdrawn to his secluded suite, unsleeping, unable to rest, the muscles in his thighs twitching, twitching, his breath refusing to even. His narrow cell-bed unfamiliar regardless of its hollowed fit to his form and weight, hard and cold no matter the quilts he wound himself in, no matter the pillows he stuffed and tucked and eventually slung across the room. Surely, he’d questioned himself, flat on his back, his eyes wide well past midnight, Father’s mere suggestion of bookkeeping was not provocation enough for this misery. Had he not counseled boy after boy, girl after girl, who came to him with the frustration of dreams, even the most exciting life would encompass some tedium? But the melody Father had hummed as he sharpened his tallying pencil – the Allegro from Mozart’s piano concerto, the 21st – would not cease its cycling in his memory. One of his favorites, he’d feared it might well be ruined for him, forever after.


Neither gained nor lost anything, neither gained nor lost, neither, neither, neither ...

He jammed his spread fingers into his tangled hair, pressured his temples with his palms. Even if he could have corralled, deciphered and penned his thoughts, journaling proved impossible, as he was unable to sit. Though around and across, his concourse was generous, he could not pace away his agitation; his footsteps echoed, hounded. Directionless, he only flailed thorns and ragged brush, grew broodier and broodier. It – whatever it was – was nothing ... and everything.


Downstairs and up, downstairs again. The dining table was set with one crazed ironstone mug, a single plate centered with one lonely apple, flanked by one fork, one spoon, one tarnished silver knife. Close, so close, to hurling the fruit, the plate, the mug, one after another, to shatter against the wall, the surprise of his own growl spurred his retreat from the room. The warm waters of his bathing pool and waterfall offered none of the usual therapy; he ducked under and hauled himself out, shaking with chill, the rising steam immaterial. In the library, the light was garish, and he set about extinguishing candle after candle, only to put a match to them again when the red, green, blue, and brown spines of the shelved books dulled to deathly taupe and ash. And though he’d passed it by innumerable times in the past with less than a glance, as many times stood before it carelessly, the effort now to avoid the great gilded mirror in the grand – and empty, empty, empty – bedchamber was exhausting, eventually infuriating. Here in these rooms, he had the aloneness he craved, the relief from expectation, from availability, yet it was both too much and not enough. He was too close, too waited for. By quiet covenant, no one entered without invitation, but if he did not emerge, eventually ... someone would come. He’d gathered a few meager supplies, stowed them to his smallest kit; outlined his lesson plans in one scrawled note to Father, in another apologized to Winslow for impeding the current course of work. There were places below his city, places no one knew, had no hope of finding, hard, barren places to which he could not be followed, no matter a friend’s tracking skills – a river cutting through the darkness, a sharp-rubbled stream bed he would walk bare-footed until his passions bled out, until he could be returned to the blessing and curse of a reasonable contentment.

Until at last ... or once more ...

The rain is over and gone ...9


The declarations of his absence he’d left on his desk were missing, replaced by a sheaf of notes bound to a neat stack by a dull brass paper clip. In the shape of a winging bird, it was one Devin had presented to Father – a birthday gift – a find unearthed from a pile of rubbish in a stall of an abandoned stable beneath the old police station. From that same night of adventure, he’d returned with a Barber quarter in his pocket and two broken headlamps, one of which he still possessed.10  He looked up. There – it gleamed from the jumble atop his dresser as if touched by a specific ray of light. He compressed the hinge of the clip, slipped free the reports. As he’d expected, Father had strayed from his prepared syllabus, yet he could not fault the study of Cymbeline, or the example of the courageous, tender, committed Imogen.

Beneath Father’s chart of his students’ progress, he found an envelope, unsealed, cryptically addressed FTR - V, within it a message from a certain circle of Helpers. Though Father would never agree it to be the case, under any circumstances, he read an all-clear in their assessment. Time enough had passed. His confrontation in the park was undistinguished, had encouraged no extra patrols, no disproportionate scrutiny from the authorities or news-press.  A good thing, he registered, reassuring but coincidental, for, regardless, he would go out. The thirst he suffered now would be slaked only by the moon, the stars, the liberty of night.

Father, as presumed, was still awake. He whipped from the study of his bookshelf, a worn leather volume open in his hands, his spectacles askew on his nose. He reached up with one hooking finger, his habit to drag the glasses from their perch, to then fold the earpieces and wave the frames about, usually in dramatic punctuation to some argument or reissue of a rule. The gesture had, for a decade, at least, carried little clout. After a moment’s hesitation, he merely righted the lenses.

“Vincent ... ... ... You’re back.”

“I am.”

Father took a step forward, but only a step, the book closed and clasped to his chest. “I’m glad.”

Vincent, looking not particularly happy
The Task, Vincent recognized. Cowper’s Poem in Six Books, its joints split, its corner-boards eroded and soft. He marveled the tome had ever attracted readers enough to render it so worn. Had he not returned to his classroom duties in time, his students would be, as Devin had once – regrettably – so bluntly proclaimed, in for a world of hurt. With any academic luck, they would never know to thank him. He swung his cloak to his shoulders. Father gazed at him with equal measures of confusion, curiosity and concern. The Three C’s, he remembered grousing, sent without supper to their room, and Devin had corrected him. Four, counting cross-examination.

“I will be Above, Father. Do not wait up.” His announcement allowed for no discussion. Father, to his credit, waveringly smiled him away.


The Ramble at night, a wooded path
The Ramble – nearly forty designed acres, relatively dark, believably wild – a camouflaging place. The concealment he required was coveted by others as well, and even in winter he was not always alone, but at this late hour, his hood up, he felt safe enough. By reason and instinct, he avoided the gazebos and shelters, keeping to the bouldered ravines, his own pathways through the shrubby woods. On this night, settled, more or less, to a favored seat of rumination – the ledge called Willow Rock – he heard no switching snick of a blade, no tinny cascade of aluminum cans from a slashed bag to the ground. No begging protests. No cruel laughter. No cry for help.

Usually, with only a small effort, he could believe this a natural lake, himself on the shores of it, freely awaiting the dawn.  At the water’s edge, the willows were soft with new catkins. A few white-flowered cherries bloomed in the thicket. The bramble understory had budded out since his last tour of the park; tenacious vines inched toward their next reach. The promontory of The Point obscured the lights from the Boathouse and the illumination along East Drive, distanced even the spangle of Fifth Avenue, the drone of traffic. The inlet was cove enough, if he turned just so, the soft golden glow from Bethesda Terrace might be lanterns in the streets of a welcoming village across the bay. The narrow path that gleamed silver-gray in the moonlight might lead to a cabin in a clearing – his – where a wood fire burned in the hearth, and someone ... someone waited for him.

His palms stung and he found his hands clenched to fists. As he’d been taught, he shook off the tension. He willed his thoughts weightless, to clouds on the breeze, his strong muscles soft and relaxed. Usually only half an hour’s practiced stillness would allow the wash of blue silence, ease the internal reconnaissance, ordain his uncertainties as natural and necessary as the drawn breath ...  Usually, he could be convinced he was here, on earth, in this place, at this time, neither accidentally nor neutrally; that he desired his life, was rooted in it, grew stronger from its nourishment. That he was no alien, no outcast, that he belonged. That he wanted no more than he had.

He’d been told turtles basked on this rock at mid-day in summer; here cormorants would spread their wings, dry their feathers. He envisioned the sun they sought.

And the mind altering alters all.11

Usually.


His meditation would not hold, would not even take. He could not subdue his imagination or stem his longing. He knew. He knew he could not unmoor a boat, row out to greet the streaky dawn. He would not walk the morning meadow, or count the warblers that flit the canopy. At daybreak, a Helper would push a vendor’s cart to the park’s 72nd Street entrance, but he would not visit his friend, would not sit with him beneath the green and white striped awning, share a coffee, watch the streets come to life. His sunrises would come in sonnets, sonnets only. His chamber was roofed with granite, not thatch, the round brazier his only hearth. And there, no one waited for him.

Unease provoked him from the rock, not dissimilar to the edgy turmoil that had sent him deep days before, but with less of the wretchedness and more ...

More ... something. Something just as sharp and undeniable. Alerting. On the cusp of spring, the park was less hospitable to night-roamers than it would soon be; he could sense no company, no menace. But his hand to his loudening heart, he could only name it fear.

He looked up at the sky, beseeched the stars, but even he could see so few. He sighed, and the grip moderated, some internal pressure ... equalized. He should go home. There seemed no other direction.

view of the apartments, Central Park West - the Dakota, the Langham, the San Remo, from the Bow Bridge at night
The entrance at the old cave was farthest from him, well beyond the nearby, sheltered culvert fitted with a secret door. Even so choosing, he might have taken a more direct, more screening, path to it, crossing the stream bed of the Gill on the jumble of rocks below the Azalea Pond, veering through Muggers Woods to the Ramble Arch where the doorway’s trip-latch was hidden. Instead, he followed the shoreline of the lake, the gamble of exposure dismissed without weighing. At the span of the Bow Bridge, he was drawn from the thinned cover of trees to its deserted rise, where, at its gentle crest, against reason and caution, he pushed back his hood, rested his forearms on the cast-iron railing. The many-storied apartments of the park’s west side rose up in the distance, a few windows on every floor bright, even at this hour. As he always did, he named the buildings, buildings whose thresholds he would never cross, whose luxury he would never enjoy: The Dakota, the Langham, the San Remo. Only the rooftop of the Majestic was sometimes his.

A clamor started up in his mind – the rattle of pot lids and tea cups, the hour tapped out. About his ... retreat ... he’d owe Father a measured debriefing. A backlog of messages would be delivered to him. While You Were Out. The image made him smile, the tasks awaiting him suddenly anticipated with a certain true fondness. Turned to leave, his cloak gathered close again, he was called abruptly and distinctly back to the bridge – a twinkling of a lamp, he told himself as he scanned the far architecture, a light fixture either off or on, either the closing or opening of curtains, of a balcony door.

Something within the wilderness of his being stirred, and beneath the layers he wore, beneath the flannels and wools, his heart hammered out extra beats and his skin ... hungered. Some shapely figure shifted from the invisible Elsewhere, stepped toward him, the gift, promise – the price, trust. The fear of aloneness he’d recognized earlier, of which he’d despaired ... he embraced now. The fear was uncertainty. This ... longing, longing to have, implied possibility. Because he knew fear, somewhere, deep inside, he must believe ... his future was not set. There was still hope. If the day should come when he was truly fearless ...



nighttime, Ramble Arch, approaching in shadow
The Ramble Arch was a narrow one, only five feet wide, spanning a cleft between two massive outcrops of ashlar granite. Built of stacked, worn stone, seemingly held together without mortar, it presented a solid face, though if a certain block were compelled just so ... a doorway opened nearby, at the base of a flight of chiseled steps that once – and still – led to the mysterious Indian Cave. For decades imagined sealed by city officials, nevertheless, inside the revealed cavern, a trapdoor granted access to a narrow chute fitted with an iron ladder that descended three full levels in utter darkness. Avoided by other tunnel dwellers, he rarely used the cave entrance himself. The trip-latch would likely be stiff.

inside the Ramble Arch, stacked stone, deep joints
At the edge of the woods, just beyond the watery amber glow of a single pathway lamp, he lingered, listening for more than the scurry of animals – for the scuff of leaves, a snapped twig, a rain of pebbles from the walkway above ... ... ... stepped up to a ledge of the jagged rock-face and leapt the wire fencing, landing solidly, softly, swiftly taking cover within the arch, already an afterthought of shadow. With an open hand, he brushed the rough stones, his fingers seeking the particular conjuncture of groove and indentation that would release the catch. Drugs, he assumed, when a tightly-rolled plastic bag dislodged from the masonry joint and fell to the ground.

But it wasn’t drugs. It was a message. A message left for a lover, one so exquisitely grateful, so full of anticipation, its reading brought tears to his eyes. Once more, before refolding and rolling and repositioning the letter for its intended, he tipped the small square page to the lamplight. Once more he turned it over to read the poem copied in a neat hand: I love you much (most beautiful darling) more than anyone on the earth ...12

Once more, it hurt to breathe.

All the next day, through chores and lessons and meals, he thought only of the letter, its writer, its recipient. The second line, the third, the first two stanzas of the poem, he could recite, but not the rest, and his copy of the poet’s collected works was bothersomely missing. After a lunchtime steam-pipe inspection meeting, he hurried to the library, where, with his arms folded, he casually studied the shelves, his back to the Latin class Father conducted, where he found Cummings ridiculously shelved between Billy Budd and The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Any other day, he would accuse Father of passive censorship, of sandwiching the lustful between the excruciating to keep it unread, but he plucked all three volumes, tucked them under his arm, Melville’s Most Boring outermost. Once in his chamber, he slipped the latch of the secret doorway to his private rooms, stepped into the alcove behind the stained glass. The now-empty wax receptacle turned over for a chair, he scooted close to the candelabra, opened the book to the table of contents, found the page. Although winter may be everywhere with such a silence and such a darkness no one can quite begin to guess ... he read and would never again forget.

That night, he climbed the ladder-chute, willing an answer be stuffed into the mortar joint of the shoulder-high stone in the arch. The locking channels of the bag refused at first to separate, but, by effort of will, he managed not to rip the plastic.

I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.13

He would ever only read one lover’s messages, never the reply of the addressee; his restriction to certain nighttime hours of passage made it so. But over the ensuing weeks, he would amass pieces of their story. Pieces enough. Two people desperately in love, kept apart by something equally desperate. He never learned the reason; perhaps, he hoped, nothing more than separation by shift of work, agonizing but temporary, though he suspected something more formidable. Uniforms, suits, skirts and heels – he couldn’t guess their professions, but as clearly as if he’d watched from behind the massive sweet gum tree that grew near the arch, he imagined someone nearly flying along the sunlit path, reaching up expectantly, smiling and sighing and substituting their message, and later, at dusk or on into dark, the other approaching from the opposite direction, retrieving the first, leaving the notes he’d find. He never learned either’s name, the letters and poems he read and memorized and replayed in a loop – under-music to his duties and every conversation – addressed D, signed only M; letters and poems that memorialized precious stolen moments, dreamed of the next. Never would he have imagined he’d intrude so on another’s privacy, but ... there was no help for it. He suffered more than a moment’s chagrin at his actions, but Love had overtaken, had overwhelmed him. The messages were a sign. He lived for them, lived on them.

I have found the one whom my soul loves.14

To be wounded by your own understanding of love; and to bleed willingly and joyfully.15

Love me still, but know not why! So thou hast the same reason to dote upon me ever.16

Love words, mad words, dream words, sweet senseless words ...17

What is thy mouth? ... What is thy breast ... What is thy body to me?18

Do you see these hands? They have measured Earth ... they have made war and made peace ... and still when they roam over you, little one ...19

Do you see these hands? Do you, do you, do you see? He turned his own palms up. Might he know mouth, breast, body? Might he speak mad words, dream words? Might he know something – anything – beyond these common years?

old stone steps down to Indian Cave in the Ramble
He could emerge above no earlier in the evening, could not jeopardize the cave entry to his world by being seen – or jeopardize himself, though he allowed that concern little acreage. Father’s admonition would manifest now and then, but it was habitual, entirely supposed; Father did not know his whereabouts, of his mission. Every night, he’d leave by way of his private rooms, hurrying the unshared passageway out past any sentry.  Hoping to see, he kept what vigil he could; he’d have stepped boldly from hiding to speak, risked everything for a word with the writer. He could not explain. It was too intimate, too inviolably personal. Regardless of the obsession of it, of the insanity, in his heart of hearts, whatever happened between the two lovers, happened to him. He told Father nothing, performed his expected role with a calm pleasance that tripped no alarms, returned home in time to avoid pointed questioning. He’d even agreed to a session of fiscal planning, though he’d need reminding of the date and hour he was expected at the library table. At times, he was almost able to believe in his biddable, docile, pacific persona, but only at times, surer and surer as the days passed, his life depended on this ...

He charged the steps from the cave entrance with little heed for safety, skidding down the slope.

M’s last letter had not been picked up.

The next night, the same message remained, rolled in its bag, stuffed into the mortar joint. He’d lost track of the days. Was it Saturday? Had the weekend intruded? But no ... something was changed. He could feel it the air colder within the arch, a stinging wind whipping through, an absence he could heft in the palm of his hand.

The next night, M begged for word from his love, the next to know what wrong he had done. Let me make it right, he’d written in a shaky script. The next, he worried; the next confessed to anger, the next contrition. The next he despaired. The packet of pleadings grew thick, nearly too thick to conceal.

Then ... nothing. The aggregate of messages disappeared. Had D retrieved them finally? Had M destroyed them? He searched the grass for shredded paper, the wire trash barrel around the bend. Nothing.

Is this my own madness? Had he imagined … everything? Left the messages himself? He crushed the empty pocket of his jerkin. The small, square, unlined journal he’d found there had been the makings of his torch. Used up. Gone. Burned. And altogether different. No. No. It was real, this exchange, this love. No more than a lover’s spat, he willed it. A misunderstanding. The clearing lies ahead, just ahead. Do not give up. He stumbled back to the arch, his breath fogging the night, his fingers on the stones blind-scrabbling. Please ...

His guttural cry was cut short. He sliced open the found bag, drew out two folded squares of paper.

On the first ... one word. One terrible word.

Why?

On the second, front and back, two poems, poems of terrifying beauty and absolute finality. Not even hand-written, but torn from a book. As if there were nothing left of him. Nothing left ...

No, there was more, he realized. Something handwritten after all, in minute block script along the bottom edge. The date ... and what he perceived a vow ...

APRIL 12. MY LAST.

As by a crystal dagger to his heart, he felt the death of hope. And he cursed the day he was born, able to feel, and raged at Father, at every poet, who encouraged him to believe, at every star that promised him anything. Why? Why? He found himself on the Bow Bridge with no memory of having traveled there, muttering, pacing end to end. Why? Why? Why show me so much to give me so little? He raised one fist to the moon, opened his hand. His nails glinted in answer.

He’d tamped himself to pass. For what reason? Have I been so beguiled as to be blind to my most grievous loss?20 Peering over the railing, he showed his fangs, preened and snarled at his reflection. Made a decision. Chose.

Vincent, staring into the water, looking very upset and raggedy
He folded the poems to a hard package, lodged the stone of it above his heart. April 12. My Last. It would be his own testament, should anyone find him. And then – No more fear. No more whys. He let the question loose from his hand, the paper fluttering out over the water, to drift on the spring breeze, to float ... to be caught by the drag of the lake, to sink ...


And there arrives a lull in the hot race wherein he doth for ever chase that flying and elusive shadow – rest. An air of coolness plays upon his face, and an unwonted calm pervades his breast. And then he thinks he knows …21

Enough.






Here's a small Christmas/Winterfest gift to you all ~
Vincent, Working





1. David Whyte. The Hawthorn. The House of Belonging. Many Rivers Press. 2002.
2. A/N: It's my theory Vincent was required to defend his tunnel family early on, well before he found Catherine and took down her attackers, that he has several instances of *deployment* in his memory and on his conscience. There's nothing in canon about this, and this reference  a story I've yet to write, on that will explain how Sebastien lost his Charlotte, and why he raised his grandson, Billy (the skateboard street-artist). I hope, for the purposes of this scene, it's okay to just *say* this happened without expounding on the details of the event just now.
3. Paraphrase of a quotation attributed to John Lothrop.
4. Emily Dickinson. How the Waters Closed Above Him.
5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Daylight and Moonlight.
6. Walt Whitman. Song of Myself.
7. William Shakespeare. Othello. Act 4. Scene 1.
8. The first, and more detailed descriptions of Vincent's private chambers can be found in I Carry Your Heart and Marriage Morning.
9. William Wordsworth. Written in March
10. Referencing the story of the broken headlamp – At First Sight. From WFOL 2011 - Keepsake Stories.
11. William Blake.
12. e. e. cummings. I love you much(most beautiful darling).
12. John Keats. Letters to Fanny Brawne.
14. Song of Solomon.
15. Kahlil Gibran. On Love.
16. John Wilbye. Love Not Me.
17. Chalude McKay. Romance. Harlem Shadows. 1922.
18. e. e. cummings. Erotic Poems. IV.
19. Pablo Neruda. The Infinite One.
20. William Wordswroth. Surprised by Joy.
21. Matthew Arnold. The Buried Life.
22. Rainer Maria Rilke. The Panther.
23. Ibid. Love Song.
24. Ibid. Pushing Through.
25. I Carry Your Heart. Chapter 14. See Me.
26. Gaelic:  Mo Mhile grá. Buíochas le Dia. My thousand loves. Thank God.


22 comments:

RedNightBird said...

Aye, indeed that image improved with enlargement...although I viewed it initially as if from a distance (AND BECAME A VOYEUR like V had earlier in the story)

OK, April 12th..... a date that lives deep within us...I await your further elucidation....

Have a wonderful holiday-

Krista said...

April 12

Oh, Carole . Vincent, nearly rescued from despair by poetry, by love letters is nearly condemned by them too. That irony would cut if you drew it any sharper.

I love the interplay with Vincent and Stuart and Noah---so nice, as always, to know Vincent wasn't alone in the years after Devin left.

I am some worried for Flynn...but I know you've got us all in your hand; you won't let us fall.

(And the pictures...um, YUM. :D)

Once again, great job again and still. I'll likely think of something more articulate to say later on about this chapter---it's the kind of chapter which demands it---but right now, I need coffee :)

-Krista :)

Mamacrow said...

Jumpin' Jimminy Christmas! I love backstory!

Carole - I woke up to a full long day of work after a full long day of work to your wonderful Hanukkah gift, early Christmas present, Solstice goodness. I will wax poetic later on, but...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the chapter!!!

Karen :)

Carole W said...

Thanks, Rusty. I hope you have a lovely holiday as well.

I'm glad you enjoyed the little photoshop, and the view made larger. I had fun with that one. :-)

Carole

Carole W said...

Krista, thank you for such a kind response, and for reading before coffee!

You've nailed it - the irony of the saving grace of and the savaging by poetry. I'm very happy with how you put that. I hoped that would come through and I'm relieved it did.

I'm thinking Vincent had forgotten just how pleasant it was being active friends with Noah and Stuart. Something might be fixing to give him a little nudge …

Flynn. Things are not as bad as they could be, but they're probably not very good, just now. I'm a little worried too! (But no complete downers allowed just before the holidays. I'm fearful, but that just means I haven't given up yet. :-) )

Carole

Carole W said...

Karen! You made me grin and dance in my chair! Thank you for such an encouraging message. Your generosity and enthusiasm make me crazy to keep typing.

I wish you all the best. I'm really grateful to you.
Carole

Anonymous said...

OOoooooohhhhhhhhhh Carole!

This is lovely, LOVELY, and so worth the wait! April 12! How appropriate that Vincent should find his Catherine when he is nearly consumed by one of his darkest moments. To stumble upon this secret message point for the unknown lovers, become vicariously connected to their desperate love story, and then have it end so mysteriously and so badly. Vincent must have felt this as almost a mortal wound, or a final judgment from the Universe -- You Are Alone and You Will Always Be Alone.

I shudder to think what might have happened, what Vincent might have done, if he had not happened upon Catherine's battered body that night!

And now comes the reckonning with Flynn, the confession of the harrassment Eimear has been quietly suffering, and, hopefully, soon, the meeting of the Braithre.

MORE!!!!

Best regards, Lindariel

Carole W said...

Thank you, Lindariel!! Indeed, April 12th! And you've characterized Vincent's experience perfectly. A mortal blow. His saving from that comes next. I'm anxious to get to it!

So terribly long ago (Chapter 18, good gravy) Martin said this to Catherine:

"It's said you most often meet your twin flame after experiencing a dark night of the soul; the pain, the ... emptying out ... prepares you for each other. I remember you from the newspapers, Catherine. You suffered a terrible ordeal. Is that when you first met?"

I'm not sure Catherine quite understood it was Vincent's dark night as well.

(I can hear folks saying, Finally, she's getting at least closer to the point of this really long story!!)

Thank you so much for reading and for your gifts of encouragement and kindness. I'll never forget.

Carole

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing Flynn home! I am still worried, but not as much. I hope Vincent gets a chance to talk to him soon. I hope nothing keeps that from happening.

This was a wonderful chapter and I do mean "full of wonders," too many to list (I am supposed to be working!) I look forward to what comes next, but I have no doubt I will read this chapter more than once.

Have a restful, inspiring holiday, Carole.
A'bella

Carole W said...

Thank you, Annabella. Your words are a gift to me - so encouraging. I do promise to move the Flynn situation along next chapter, though I will likely be a while getting to it. In advance, I beg for patient forgiving!

I'm grateful for all your kindnesses; certainly, you've made my spirits bright. :-) I wish you a fine and joyous holiday season, as well.

Carole

Brenda K said...

Carole,

Multiple re-reads to integrate this chapter into the whole of your story, into the complicated psyche you have defined for Vincent. I went back to Chapter 39, to read again Vincent's first realization of his uniqueness, and its terrible consequent aloneness. To re-read Father's methods for raising this alien child -- to instill the love and trust, the love-based controls, that would --hopefully!-- ensure that none Below need fear him grown to manhood.

The dots finally connect between this 5-year-old's realization of his differences, Devin's departure -- dashing a large part of Vincent's hope for his future, of the final damage Lisa, and Father's reaction, did to bring him to the place of this chapter. To know yourself feared, and thus trained from birth in ways so that your "family" can trust you. To know that you have been conditioned to serve as a tool for those you love, and to expect nothing for yourself. To know yourself raised all your life into a sort of benevolent captivity that will feed none of your own yearnings. The buried resentments, the gnawing despair -- I had wondered why, in ICYH, knowing to a certainty through his bond with her that Catherine loves him, he not only cannot ask her what he wishes most deeply, but cannot even entertain the thought of permitting it from her. It all connects, finally.

Vincent doesn't just love Catherine -- in a very real sense, he worships her as his salvation from a bleak, unbearable future. These waters run very deep, Carole.

Carole W said...

Brenda, thank you for such a thoughtful response to this chapter and to the whole arc of these stories. I'll have to admit, your analysis made me think and think hard. You definitely connected some dots! I was a little nervous too - I hope to live up to your observation of deep waters and hope I've not muddled anything beyond reason. Suddenly, I felt the need to reread from the beginning, which would set off my tweak-obsession. I'd better just leave it and keep going, and do my best to make it all hang together.

Vincent's psyche is complex and the things he deals with are beyond. His assumed life-limits are being tested again and again. Oh, there's still so much story to tell. I'm afraid I'll never finish!

Thank you so much for being willing to reread parts of this story and for such meaningful commentary. I'm grateful.

Carole

RedNightBird said...

You know....as we wait for the next post I'm left thinking:

With each 'new' venture that he NEVER expected his scope of wonder widens exponentially and he goes to sleep at night wondering....'what next?'

Have a brilliant new year...

Carole W said...

Thanks, Rusty! A very sparkly New Year to you, too!

It's a good thing Vincent doesn't seem to need all that much sleep, isn't it?

I'll be a while getting to the next chapter, I'm afraid. Lots of WFOL stuff to do and the deadlines are closing in. I'm itching to get back to it, though.

Carole

OKGoode said...

WOW. It took me so long to get here to read this - holidays and busy-ness and house guests and such - has there ever been something so worth the wait?! You brought so much backstory to such vivid life in this chapter!

I love the highs and lows you gave Vincent here. The pain at the nameless river, the soul-searching over his place and function, the one-sided letters - Brilliant! Anyone who disparages fan fiction should read your works. That'll shut 'em up fast enough!

And that pic of Vincent, hard at work... ¡ay, papi! Not enough gratitude in the world there, Carole!

HUGS!

Carole W said...

Oh, thank you, Laura. You've really started my day off in a good way. I'm very pleased you found the chapter enjoyable, and I'm nudged to work ever harder to deserve your kind words. Knowing you're still reading after all this time makes such a difference. You've kicked my motivation up a notch!

Ah, the pic. When I lucked upon the original Man Working on Pinterest, I sighed pretty hard myself. And when it morphed to Vincent Working in my head, I had to give it the old photoshop try. Glad it worked for you!

Hugs back!
C

RomanticOne said...

You've no idea the number of real-life questions you've answered for me as I've read this tale, not to mention the gift of hope I've found as I read how Vincent and Catherine (and so many others) have gotten through so many hard trials. The common current throughout has always been love... between a man and a woman, between friends, and of community. I feel blessed to have found your site.

Carole W said...

Oh, R1, your post moved me to tears. Thank you for finding hope in this story, for confirming love. I could hear no sweeter words.

But I am the blessed one, and you've given me, over and over, the gift of hope, helped me to believe in possibilities.

Hugs for this and for so much more,
Carole

RedNightBird said...

Will shovel snow, cook and clean for more of your story. (and I don't mean here at my place...)

<3

Carole W said...

Rusty - you're on, but you're gonna be dismayed at the work awaiting. :-) It's cat-fur tumbleweeds around here.

Post-cold/flu, post WFOL prep, post some RL time-consumers, I'm back to writing. It shouldn't be too awful long now. Thanks for the nudge, though. It helps to know someone wonders wonders what's next.

C

Carole W said...

PS - there's no snow, but daffodils!

Anonymous said...

Hee Carole! Upon re-reading I remembered your reference to "Melville's Most Boring." Goodness! You really don't like "Billy Budd," do you?

Regards, Lindariel