Wednesday
Aug062014

An Essay on Love

Patrick Rosal




In the old days, there was once a magnificent land known for the achievements of its engineers and generals. Its city center had eight minor squares, two of which were designated for lovers to meet. Each square was built beneath one of eight towers ascending from the high minister’s building.  

Now, the city’s ordinances were not very severe. They were just meant to keep the city clean, disciplined, and calm. For example, only approved merchants could touch the waters of the brooks that ran through and around the city. Boys and girls, men and women, all were to walk from place to place, not run. Shouting and loud noises were looked down upon. 

There was one couple who wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. They thought the rules of the ministry, all the cold concrete, and the pigeon shit of the squares were a real drag. 

They mutually decided, as prelude to their lives together, they would embark upon 40 nights of wishing. Each agreed to make their own wish before they slept on each of forty consecutive nights. And out of the dreams they had they would invent tests for each other. “Deal,” they said and shook hands on it, laughing. 

*


The next day. they met in the South Square. And the man told the woman “I didn’t dream of nothing.” And she said, “Me neither.” Disappointed, they agreed to go home and try again.  When they sat down in the East Square the next morning, the woman told her lover, “My dear, I didn’t dream of anything.” And he said, “Me neither.” But they weren’t going to give up and agreed to keep on with their plan. 

Next time, they said they would walk away from the city center—and at night—to the outskirts, where the long paved roads crossed the short dirt roads. Excited at their own plan, they shook hands three times, laughing again, and went home.

*


They set out just before midnight. When they reached the crossroads of pavement and mud, the man whispered to his love. “My darling, I dreamt of trout. So you have to catch a fish,” he said, “by hand—from one of these forbidden brooks.” And both of them, stifling their laughs, walked to a nearby stream, which neither of them had ever touched before. So both of them, stifling their laughs, snuck up to a nearby brook, which neither of them had ever touched before. The woman entered ankle-deep squealing quietly at the crisp, cold water. The man touched the brook, too, with all his fingers. He patted his face like a man reunited with rain. 

And to fulfill both the dream and test, she imitated pictures she had seen of bears snatching fish from streams. She even made The Bear Face. The waters indeed writhed with catfish and trout, but their long rubber bodies wriggled out of her hands. Because she had no long claws to spear them, the fish just splashed back into the brook.

What a racket they were making. 

Unable to catch a fish, she highstepped back to the muddy bank and the lovers, sogging cold from romping in the waters, kissed each other in the dark.  

The next night they met beside a field of ginger grass. And she said she dreamt of a long-neck warbler with a cough. So the man, for his test, had to compose a song that reached a note he never sang before, and he, who had a beautiful singing voice, made up a song on the spot. The melody landed on a bass note so low and so out of tune the petals of all the ginger blooms started to shake and even some of the lamps in the bedrooms of the outskirt houses flickered off. With the towers in the distance, they kissed and kissed for as long as they could until people started coming out to see what the ruckus was. 

*


The story is pretty simple from here. The tests went on for weeks: To pick six ripe fruit from the top three branches of the tallest tree in the town square. Many times it was as simple as a foot race. And the lovers would touch a wall then chase each other back to the starting line before falling to the ground, out of breath, laughing, too exhausted to sit up. And both had dreamt of making each other swim to the rock not far off shore and shouting Porcupines for sale! before swimming back. Some of the longest kisses blossomed after such feats. This went on from the third night to the 39th

*


In time, the authorities caught on and sent out guards to investigate the Outskirts. For weeks, the lovers evaded the patrols. The citizens had caught glimpses of the couple darting around the Outskirts at night. The ire of the Minister was red hot by now. He demanded that the outlaw couple be arrested, separated, and imprisoned for life for wrecking the peace. 

People traded tales about the lovers’ little adventures. They were charmed by the trails of laughter and their bad singing and all the splashing in the brooks. 

On the 40th night, there were so many armed guards sprawling the limits to look for the couple, the couple had no chance for escape. An old woman appeared from nowhere and said, “Young ones, the guards are everywhere. If they catch you, they will separate you and jail you and you will never see each other again. Let me hide you.”

When the guards approached the old woman, asking if she had seen the couple, she said, “Yes. I struck them both on the ear with my cane, then buried them in this field.”

To prove it, the old woman yanked a ginger blossom out of the ground. “You see—here they are—at the bottom of this plant.” Sure enough, tangled in the loam was the root of the ginger blossom in the shape of two bodies twisted in loving embrace. The guards returned to the Minister and reported the couple had been killed by a witch.

To this day, there are accounts of strange phenomenon like the shaking of the earth in strange places like Brooklyn. And whole bodies of water are flung up in a storm so that trout go flopping on the banks. They say, it is the escaped couple’s mischief.  It is the man’s bad singing. And the woman—they say she is the one splashing in the rivers and lakes so that everyone will be touched by water.