Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...
A Piece of My Soul
I can't help it. I'm not ready yet.
You'd think it would be easy, after all this time. So many things are automatic, just the way we work together.
Even when we spontaneously switch around our chores at night, after a long day on the road or helping someone – we don't even need to talk about it.
When I need time alone, she is always willing to give me space – and she doesn't feel threatened by that need when it comes. Instead, she blesses me with one of those smiles I've come to depend on to light my days, kisses me on the cheek, and goes off to practise for awhile.
Who could have guessed, that of the two of us, she's the one willing to do those little things? A kiss on the cheek, a squeeze of my hand. It was so hard for her to get close to me when we first met.
But somehow the many gentle little things a courting lover does, are what she does. Without a thought. Without realizing it.
She's ready. And I'm not.
It makes me feel terrible for her, watching through the flames of the fire on some night when she's finished practising, and hasn't dried off her recently rinsed skin yet. Watching, through shadowed eyes.
We've shared the same bedroll for so long – and everything else, you'd think, how can there be anything else to hold back?
But I do.
Have you ever found yourself gripped by a feeling, a realization, that is so huge, so incredible, your words fail? Tartarus, your brain fails. You try to at least, stumble around the circumference of it, and end up just sitting there, with your mouth open.
Getting teased by a certain someone with pretty eyes about catching flies.
Gods – now I'm spouting bad poetry. Scary, isn't it?
The point is, what I feel for her, I know it's like that. It's like – not gold, because, gold is valuable to everyone – like, well – rather like a souvenir. The value, the meaning, all of it is for you and you alone. But bigger. Way bigger.
See what I mean?
It's like trying to get a horse into a turnip sack. You just can't do it.
Last night, sitting by the fire, struggling with a hole in my boot – you see, I've been brooding about this so long, aspects of it keep bubbling up when I'm not looking for them – it hit me. What if she decided she needed to leave me, for awhile?
How many times have I done it – gone off here or there, to learn something, to find myself. Only to discover, instead of finding, I lost. The truth was right there, and I looked over it, and got very, very lost.
From her, to the academy, and back again. From her to a mistake I should never have made – to anger and grief, and back again.
One of my trips to the Amazons, when I insisted she shouldn't accompany me. The aftermath of that was so hard – it took almost two moons before I could get her to understand that it wasn't that I didn't trust her.
I insisted she go somewhere else with an awkwardness and lack of diplomacy I'm still ashamed of, you see. Anyone would have felt doubts. It wasn't her, though. It was myself I was unhappy with, myself I was fighting.
We take turns at it, she and I. We each have our burdens of guilt we fight ourselves over. Together, we help each other through the times it gets bad.
It brings an image to my mind's eye – of a friend carrying a wounded companion off the battlefield, giving them the chance to fight another day.
She's everything to me. When she's not there, the world is a grey, empty place.
Oh, I can cloak my colourblindness without her quite well. Being a bard has some benefits, after all.
One night, this tall, beautiful woman was flirting with her in an inn we were staying at. It took – oh – two parries into the exchange, and steam was coming out of my ears. If anyone had ever told me I'd be as wildly jealous as I am, it would have made me laugh myself sore. After all, jealousy is a negative emotion bards don't indulge in, I once thought.
Good thing no one did. Less crow to eat that way.
In our room later, she smiled at me and sat down carefully beside me. Avoiding the jets of steam, I'll bet.
"She never had a chance. Not in a million."
Yeah, it made me feel better.
So, I've done the floating, and the deleriously happy, and the steadily content – but there's a moment, a space in time, where you choose.
You choose, right then, if you will let the one thing go tumbling out you hold back from your lover, and let them the rest of the way into your soul. The last little bit, the last step – after that – after that, it's like they have a bit of themselves curled up inside you, to stand in for them when they can't be with you. To comfort you in the middle of the worst of times.
To give a link from your soul to theirs.
I've been so close – so close, on those suddenly desperate, heated moments, when I realize more than anything, I want to feel her everywhere. All over, in everything. I want her taste in my mouth, her sounds in my ears, her beauty in my eyes, her touch everywhere.
And the feeling is as solid as a rock in your fist, as much of a need as for air.
And I can't let go.
It scares me, to be honest, to need her, want her, like that.
In those moments, I understand when poets write of how they feel as if their lover has bewitched them – and how badly they wish to remain ensnared.
I've left her, and come back.
She has never left me.
Never has she spoken of some desire or dream she'd like to fulfill, beyond trying to make up for the harm she did when she was a warlord. But she does have a few, a few she keeps carefully close to her heart, thinking I don't know them. Thinking she doesn't deserve the chance to experience them.
Of course, all these thoughts and broodings, and where they come from – none of this occurred to me at first. It never occured to me that somewhere along the line, I had started trying to stop what I had started with her. It took a long time before I realized what I was ultimately doing, was refusing to accept what she was offering me – which is everything, because she doesn't give herself by halves – and why I was refusing her. You already know why.
How can I accept everything from her, when I can't offer her the same? To do that would be to accept how big, how incredible, how beautiful, how frightening the bond between us can be.
To accept it's not just sex, or the companionable love intimate friends can have, but something far deeper.
Here, I'm a bard, who loves the story about how people were once bound together in one body with their soulmate, and how Zeus cruelly separated them because he was jealous. How each person's soul aches for its mate, and if the Fates are kind, soulmates find each other again.
Such a pretty story.
And being with her, makes me realize, it's real. That story, whether or not Zeus actually split people apart, tells one great truth. Each person has a soulmate, and damn, mine's right in the same bedroll with me each night.
The whole thing isn't just a concept, or a pretty story anymore. The whole thing has dropped from an exercise in a class at the academy, to real live NOW in my lap.
Which means, it's up to me to make up my mind. And I must, because this is hurting us both.
Makes me sound almost wise, these last few sentences, doesn't it? I'm not.
The journey to figuring this out was pretty awful. Part of it I'm going to leave out, because – because I still can't talk to you about it. Not right now. Maybe some day, when I can bear to look at where my jealousy helped to take me. It wasn't just my fault, but somehow, that's no consolation.
The journey, such as it was – started awkwardly, with a fanatic named Najara. At first, she seemed to be a warrior who fought for the greater good, because that's what should be done, not because she felt she needed to atone for something. It was a holy pursuit, an inspired path. Forget that Najara never found herself leading an army to protect her village at fifteen, never found herself blamed for the loss of a family member, never felt so abandoned and griefstricken and furious, she just gave up and became a warlord.
Way different background. I didn't see that then.
Najara was attractive, she impressed me, she had no baggage. My relationship with her started from an equal footing. So many differences, and the crucial ones I missed.
At the time, I just assumed – assumed my dark, tormented friend who had patiently hauled me out of more types of trouble than I cared to count – was merely jealous. Never realizing yes, she was jealous, but also, she was hurt.
We got through it. Najara ultimately showed all too clearly what she was truly like. And while I tried to sooth welts and bruises, swellings and cuts with cool cloths at the end of the day, somehow, I still felt unsatisfied. Like a question hadn't been answered – but what was the question?
The journey ended with Eli, believe it or not.
There was so much discipline in his teachings – discipline of the self, of the body. Discipline to follow of the way of peace, and lift up your spirit. It was like water after days in the desert. Never mind I seemed to have traded my writing – as much a part of me as my hair or eyes, as my right arm – for this sort of peace. So many things were stilled. It seemed like tranquility, and for some, I know it is.
Writing takes passion. To write, you have to feel.
When I found myself listening to Eli, I was trying to find ways not to feel. This isn't what he is teaching at all, but you can use his teachings to achieve it.
I remember the first night she understood my new spiritual practices meant there would be nothing physical between us. Even our arguments, our debates, changed character. After all, I could argue from a morally superior position, having found the way to light and goodness, and never having killed anyone.
Of course, feeling a bit holier than thou for awhile is not unusual – it's very common in people who have just found their way, and often in those who haven't, but think they have. It's obnoxious, and often a little funny, and you snap out of it.
In the middle of a courtyard, surrounded by Romans, knowing if I didn't fight, if I didn't defend my lover, she was going to die, I snapped out of it. Some would say I simply snapped.
Especially since, we were both going to die that day. But you have to understand, at the moment when my eyes came open again, I saw wasted time. Nights when in an attempt to still myself, to empty myself of the passion I felt for her and so justify holding back even when she held back nothing – never talking with her about my struggles when I was the one who said friends should always talk things out – trying to prop up the validity of my fears and insecurities with someone else's philosophy –
Nights when I should have been writing, pouring my thoughts onto scrolls –
No, I never thought that. That came later. The many nights I never made love to her – never held her hand, never told her a story – never watched the way her face changes as she speaks. Never watched her practice. Never asked her to sing – never tickled her, or scolded her when she walked a great big hole into one of her boots and wound up with a cut foot. That's what I thought of.
Wasted time – at one time, I thought that was the worst.
Until I found myself in another life. Successful playwright, wealthy, famous, respected. Yup, that was me. A great life. No spiritual confusions, no crucifixions or violent adventures. And no love.
This other life? Where did it come from? How is it possible?
Oh, just Julius Caesar making a desperate effort to escape his Fate by binding its three embodiments. Funny thing is, in spite of everything, he failed. He failed – so did he really bind fate? What did he do?
He kept me from meeting my lover, my soulmate, until too late. I found her only to discover, the thing worse than time wasted, is no time at all.
She was dying, nailed to a cross, and –
I found the Fates where they were, and their loom, where it was. And I destroyed it, without a second thought. I annihalated that poisonous world. In my despair, in that desperation, it was easy. Beware the desperate and cornered, isn't that a military dictum of some sort?
So now the question isn't, what did Caesar do. It's, what did I do?
You know, if anyone had ever told me how nice it would be here one day, I would never have believed it. Everything was wrecked and forlorn, the last time roads led here.
You know something else? You must have some incredible kind of magic, old friend. All this time, struggling. I should have talked to you long ago, when you could answer in words. I'm sorry about that – but I'll make it up to you, by making two of your good friends very happy.
I've tidied things up here for today, Ephiny. I know, I know, you're with the rest of the Amazons on the other side, having a good time. It's the principle of the thing – humour me.
I have a piece of my soul to give to a certain warrior princess.
- The End