752 - I will always know that one such as you could love me
“Oh, Kaneeja… love does not feel plentiful to you, does it? You give out so much, but you feel there is so little for yourself!” Now I heard tears in her voice.
“Well there could be more,” I wanted to say, “if you’d give it to me!” I didn’t.
“I’ve had a lot of bad luck,” I said. “You know.” I’ve told her the stories of my past relationships. If I can’t have your love because I love Chevenga, can I still have what I don’t get from him—sex? Mainlanders say men think like that, sometimes. Straight from their penises. I guess it’s not just mainland men. “But…! Wait, Kil…!” A thought came to me that made me think I was tying myself up in knots of fear for nothing.
“You said you’d like to love others, too, and didn’t mind if I loved beyond you; we agreed we were both fine with that. So why can’t Chevenga be a second partner for me?” Even as I said it, it seemed ridiculous, though I wasn’t sure that was because I so don’t think of him that way, or because it sounded like me grasping at straws, or both.
“But with each of us the other’s first preference,” she said. “Maybe I didn’t say that right out… I guess I thought it went without saying.”
“You are my first preference,” I said.
“Why won’t you quit him and stay in Arko with me then?”
Just like that, she said it. I have always said her frankness is one of the things I love about her, haven’t I?
I’ve also said, her acceptance of my frankness. “I could just as fairly ask, if I am your first preference, why don’t you quit Arko to be with me in Yeola-e?” I said. “I could say, as you say I love Chevenga over you, that you love the City of Arko over me.”
She heaved out a long sigh. I knew it was not of anger, or at least not entirely, but at least part in concession. “You could… though I guess I feel the same as what you say, I don’t think of Arko that way.” You could more likely get sex, of every description, out of Arko than I can out of Chevenga, I could not help but think. I mean, my penis could not help but think. It was as bitter as acid in my heart, so awful a superimposition over the sweet afterglow. I hated myself for it. I reminded myself of what they told us over and over in Emotional Healing class. People, including me, are only human.
“I’ve been thinking about it this whole eight-day, trying to see the future,” she said. “When I have children”—it’s no longer when we have children?, I thought, wanting to whine like a child—“I don’t want them raised Hyerne. I’ve known that for a long time. Haian, I wouldn’t mind… our little half-Hyerne healers.” (Sometimes before she has said of the children we might have, “On the field they won’t know whether they want more to take the wounded enemy’s testicles, or tend to his wounds.” Fortunately this time she spared me.) “But I don’t want them raised Yeoli… in truth, Kaninjer, would you?”
“They wouldn’t be raised entirely or even mostly Yeoli,” I said, “since it’s the parents doing most of the raising. We’d teach them our tongues first. But given the choice, I’d prefer them raised, or, I mean, part-raised”—I set my teeth and told myself I must be honest even if it does offend her—“Yeoli than Arkan.”
Why do I keep thinking she’ll be offended, when she’s always understanding? She didn’t even blink. She just said, “Arko is not what it was. It was the centre just of the Empire before, with Kurkas sitting in the middle like a fat spider in his web, sucking out the blood of whatever touched it. But now, by being taken by the rest of the world, it’s become the centre of the world, the crossroads of the best of all nations.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I remembered what that Pages story said about there being a great awakening, intellectual and artistic foment. You see it everywhere. You couldn’t get a Brahvnikian samovar in Arko before. It’s being led, as history shows these things always are, by the foreigners and the young people. Chevenga is both. What is happening on the streets and in the galleries and in the writings of Arko is the mark of his soul, the manifestation of the freedom in his spirit.
It makes me want to scream into his frozen face, “You did that! You did all that! How can you so… negate yourself?”
I’ll never understand him, will I, Mamin? It would be easier if I just accepted that and gave up, wouldn’t it?
Kilalulana was waiting for me to answer her point. And you want me to forsake the person who made Arko into this place you love? I thought. But didn’t say. I guess I didn’t want her to decide for both of us after all.
Clarity comes to us in different ways, doesn’t it, Mamin? For Chevenga, a flash… for me, I guess there’s a sense of light but it’s almost more warmth, and a kind of relaxation. “The trouble isn’t that I love someone else,” I said.
She interrupted to speak my thought. “It’s that we both have something else sacred to us. And those two things are too far apart. It’s true. I shouldn’t be surprised, knowing you, that mine is more selfish than yours.” Mamin, Kil rarely cries freely. She did now, and so did I, and we held each other and it felt as if the world would fall apart if we let go.
“You need to find a Haian in Arko,” I whispered to her. I surprised myself, in how easy it was to say, even though my eyes were raining tears. It was as if I were outside myself. “One who is as full of love as I am, that’s easy. We all are.” She didn’t look as if she believed me, her eyes raining tears too.
“And you need to find someone who will go with you wherever Chevaga goes,” she whispered. “So that you can have everything you desire, not have to give up one part for another. I want that for you.”
“Exactly… I want that for you.”
“Kaneeja…!” She took my face between her hands. I guess she saw my despair. “I know you’re thinking you’ll never find her, I know it doesn’t seem this way to you, but the world is full of love. There are a thousand women who would go wherever Chevaga goes to be with you. You just have to find one, that’s all.”
“It’s that I don’t… go after them, isn’t it?” I said. “I wait until they find me instead.”
“You don’t think you are as beautiful as you are. So you think you have to be too modest. Kaneeja… have I helped you learn how beautiful you are?”
I couldn’t speak for crying. I gave up and just signed chalk. It’s the truth; she has. I will always know that I could be loved by one such as her. “Have I,” I whispered, “given you something… so good, too?”
“Yes,” she sobbed. “You’ve shown me how a person’s love can be as big as the world. I didn’t know that was possible. And I will always know that one such as you could love me.”
We couldn’t say any more in words then, Mamin. We could express it in nothing other than tears, and sex that neither of us ever wanted to end, and… Mamin, in some part of my Emotional Healing class I was taught that ecstasy can be all the more ecstatic for having agony in it, and agony the more agonizing for having ecstasy in it. I got full marks on the exam question, but didn’t at heart believe it, at least for normal human beings. It sounded like madness to me. Now I know it.