I wonder if a finite heart can yearn infinitely?
I suppose many people have sat and wondered, over the years, about a loved one who was not there. A father, mother, son, daughter, husband, or wife. I suppose they woke up every morning and went to bed every night with a hole in their heart. With an empty space they carried around, pressing through the day with only half of themselves still there. I suppose that’s the most common way to go through life.
It’s warmer today, said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso. You don’t look very good, said Harlan, what have you been doing? I’ve been painting, said Blurtso. Painting? said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, I saw Lizzy again, and I think she should be immortalized like the models of Renoir.
I call it, “Jeune âne au piano.”
What’s the matter? said Alex. I haven’t been sleeping, said Blurtso. Why not? said Alex. I keep thinking of Lizzy. Lizzy? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, a donkey I saw on campus. What’s so special about Lizzy? I’m not sure, said Blurtso, there’s just something about her… I think I’d give anything just to brush against her. Really? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, and it’s driving me mad. Like in the poem, said Alex. The poem? said Blurtso. Sure, said Alex, the sonnet by Shakespeare: “By day my limbs, by night my mind for thee and myself, no quiet find.” Yes, said Blurtso, that’s it. Shakespeare sure knew donkeys.
I am mortified, said Blurtso. What? said Alex. Poor Jane, said Blurtso, and poor Mister Bingley. Who? said Alex. I never saw a more promising inclination, said Blurtso, he had grown quite inattentive toward other people, and is not general incivility the very essence of love? What? said Alex. I am mortified, said Blurtso, I am humbled, I am grieved, and hope against hope that Wickam and Lydia will be married. I have been so ungenerous to Mister Darcy, and now we owe the restoration of everything to him. What on earth are you talking about? said Alex. And what’s that book you’re reading? It’s Pride and Prejudice, said Blurtso, by Jane Austen. Oh, said Alex. You are too generous to trifle with me, said Blurtso, if you will take another cup of tea, please, tell me at once. Another cup? said Alex. Why yes, I shall accept your offer, with gratitude and pleasure.
“Another day,” thought Blurtseau, “and another night. The king is dead, and those who killed the king are dead, and Napoleon consolidates his power while those who would kill him wait in the wings. And the once-full moon that illuminated my vainglorious victory now wanes with a warbling light. Tomorrow the fighting will begin anew, the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian, Sardinian, Greek generals… and all the world spins with the bones of the living and the bones of the dead, so many dead, those who pursued a borrowed or inherited dream, white bones in the soil, white bones in the surf of the sea, bones as white as the flickering tail of the waning moon, sparking and submerging among the breakers, flickering water reflection of fleeting sun echoed upon half-eaten moon, half-eaten moon half-eclipsed by the globe it now reflects down upon… half-eaten glow that grows dimmer each day… until the moon, the day, the night, and all our blood-urgent exploits fall dark upon the darkness of the sea, and vanish in the low laving sound of the waves eating the rocks with their dance of disintegration.
“And when the moon goes black, the stars will mark my path to Montecristo where Echo, alone on her island, watches the same silver flicker on a different surface of the same sea. And the light that flickered in her heart? Has it fallen prey to the same dance of deterioration? Will I find the moon already extinguished in the sea of her breast? Eclipsed by the vainglorious sphere that was my haste to depart? The misguided course of this star-crossed corsaire pursuing a sinking star? Yesterday’s hero is the dark side of the earth facing the dark side of the moon, is darkness double, two-faced night’s faceless faces, an echo of existence which touches no ear, a shout across an infinite expanse, an unreciprocated smile, a source without destination, a word from the heart that never arrives.”
“My heart is an echo of the disintegration
of the heart of the universe
that penetrates and disintegrates my own heart.”
That’s far enough, said Blurtso, drawing a line on the ground with the edge of his hoof. The sand was dry and sun-baked and he had to scrape the surface several times before the mark was visible. That’s far enough, he repeated, and the others remained on their side of the line. Blurtso remained on his side as well, looking up at the others then looking down at the ground. The sun that had baked the ground was hot and began to bake Blurtso and continued to bake the ground. One by one the others walked away. Then there was only Blurtso, the sun, and the ground…
Ooops, said Blurtso, as he let his hoof slip across the line he had drawn in the sand. Ooops, he said, as another hoof crossed, followed by his haunches, his rump, and his stumpy little tail. Ooops, he said, turning and sweeping the line with his boxing-glove nose, then stamping and stomping and tromping until there was no mark left at all. Very good, thought Blurtso, as he surveyed his work and considered his new-found freedom. Freedom? he thought, looking in the direction where the others had gone. Wait for me! he cried, scampering off to join them.