Friday, May 22, 2009

Episode 14: Elements of Eden

The longing for Eden burns within the heart of all sentient beings. Haunted by perfection, we seek the greener grass, the ultimate experience, the perfect love. Occasionally, a place retains Elysian elements, and becomes a shrine, a temple, or in more recent years, the location of an all-inclusive resort. Our relationships also occasion such glimpses, and become our dearest friends. We miss them when they are away, but are able to effortlessly resume wherever we left off without awkward small talk or social crutches. When an experience retains elements of Eden, we find ourselves laughing for no reason, grinning like idiots, crying uncontrollably, passionately aroused to social justice or the heights of ecstasy. We savor the food we eat, langourously tasting the wine in our mouth, we notice small details on the object of our affection which only increase our attraction, and we pray to the powers to slow time. If we are wise, we take a moment to breathe in such moments, and focus all our attention on creating a mental snapshot, vainly hoping that the phosphorous we carry in our brain today will pass the moment clearly along to the phosphorous which will be in our brain tomorrow. Like wine, the memory will age well, and we will remember it when we catch a certain scent or see a vista that evokes the original moment.

The banquet held all these elements of Eden. The Hotel MacDonald, overlooking the Edmonton river valley, was pristinely predisposed towards perspectives of paradise. It was why the original builders had chosen its location, though they would not have known that. When Andrew and Silke went to grab a breath of air on the stone balcony, they sensed the absence of the Garden in the presence of the tableau before them, the sun's setting colors reflecting off the waters of the North Saskatchewan River, playing fiery highlights off the dark greens of the trees with their Spring growth filling in the spaces between their branches. They experienced it in each other, having found another to delight in, not to simply reflect back adoration, but someone who could help the other cease to be simply individual, and start becoming a unity. It began, as it always did, with the surface of things; it was too soon for deep to call to deep, and so the way her hair caught the light of the sunset, or how her eyes sparkled when she laughed. The supple tone of her arms. The thrill of brushing up against her.

But the night itself would have held an element of Eden even if they had not been lost in each other. The conversations held between beings from other spaces, and other times. The surreality of standing with Borges, the elder treating the younger not as student but colleague, questions and answers traded equally, and Andrew suddenly finding himself taking issue with something Borges had put forward. An eyebrow arching above the blind eye, and the old man smiling wryly. Andrew graciously thanking him for such animated debate, and stepping away with Silke. Spotting Jack across the room, and realizing again who the older man was.

"I can't believe it took me so long to realize who you three were," Andrew said.

Jack chuckled. "You actually mentioned something I wrote from The Magician's Nephew when we were having a teaching time, and I really had to bite my tongue to keep from saying something."

"Why didn't you?"

"Because it would have changed everything too soon," Jack replied. "If you'd thought of me as 'C.S. Lewis' the great writer, you couldn't have thought of me as Jack, a friend who had done what you are doing once upon a time."

Andrew nodded. "I have an odd question to ask then."

"On the balcony outside," Jack said. "If you're going to be asking odd questions, I'd like to have a cigarette in hand: in the eventuality I have any hard thinking to do."

As they turned to head towards the balcony, there was an explosion of light and sound which invaded their senses. Andrew felt overwhelmed by it, like being at a concert in front of the speakers and being blinded by the glare of lights all at once. And as his mind processed the experience, he was aware of a certain musical quality to the explosion, underneath the riot of color and noise.

Spots still in his eyes, Andrew tried to look about the room to determine the source of the commotion. As his gaze fell upon a figure dressed all in white, standing at the entrance to the hall, he heard Jack swear, and whisper a name under his breath.