755 - Can’t I just have it easy and die?
The emotions of emergency make children of us. I had known that; I had seen it often enough, whether it was a dying warrior in the field begging for his mama, or Kurkas shrieking at me “You can’t say no to me!” (for him, that was emergency) ...or even myself, throwing tantrums when I was on the edge of falling from exhaustion.
But it was something else to feel it as I did now, lying with my hands bound and my head on my mother’s shoulder. “Ahh, love,” she whispered. “There’s nothing there any more.” Half asleep, I’d felt my mouth watering for her nipple, and rooted for it like a baby. I was so ashamed I didn’t say anything about it to Perahin for a long time, long enough that I felt distanced from it enough to pretend, in myself, that it hadn’t been me. He just told me I’d done nothing abnormal and so need not be ashamed, because the emotions of emergency make children of us.
“We’re doing talk-healing, but easy talk-healing,” he said, the next time I remember him being with me. “All factual.” I was sitting up in bed; he was insisting on that, now, and that I walk across the room at least twice a day. The first time I was stiff almost beyond belief, but other than that and the hobbles and the Haian-rigging that had to accompany me and not be tripped over, it was not that hard. I had no inclination to do it at all, though, and only did because he prescribed it.
“We have files for everything emotional up to when you left the House of Integrity last time,” he said. “And everything physical to date, from Kaninjer. I’m trying to get full knowledge of everything that has happened to you.” He had a notebook on his knee and a Haian quill-pen. I saw him scrawl at the top of it in his neat hand the Haian date and my name in Haian letters. I know what those two things look like from seeing Kaninjer do it.
All-Spirit, I thought. So much trouble. For what? “Emotionally, since I left the House of Integrity last time? There hasn’t been that much, other than losing friends in war and a child in the stream, and those things are just part of life. Oh, and Farnias, I guess I have to count that, considering what happened to me… but not much else, really. I assume you want dates; Farnias, that was hyerasora 72, 1552, the child’s death atakina 81, 1552, the friends...” I couldn’t look anything up, I realized; all my papers were in Vae Arahi. For all I knew they wouldn’t let me look things up in my own papers while I was incompetent anyway. “Sachara and the others who were killed taking the Marble Palace, atakina 6, 1551, Aras 26, 55th-last; Evechera Ano, etesora 56, 1551…”
“I thought I read in the Pages that you tried to kill yourself by jumping out of a high window and then refusing water, at one point in your life,” he said.
“That wasn’t about suffering I took, that was about suffering I inflicted,” I said. “We can’t count that as mine… you’re writing it anyway?”
“Suffering you inflicted does not negate suffering you took,” he said. “And it all must be counted in measuring your overall condition. Are you also separating the physical from the emotional in your mind, judging that a physical trauma cannot also be an emotional one?”
“No,” I said. “I know it can be both.”
“Say, for instance…” He had paper tucked into the notebook that had Kaninjer’s writing on it. “Assassination attempts since you became Imperator, there are three severe ones, two physically and emotionally, one just emotionally—”
“Severe emotionally? Assassination attempts? Are you serious?”
“Yes,” he said, fixing my eyes with his. “Someone tried to kill you.”
“Perahin, thousands of people have tried to kill me!”
“Hnn.” He wrote something. “More in the Arkan war than the Lakan, I gather?”
“It was a longer war and more intense, the battles more frequent… my own fault, I made it so myself… you’re writing these things as emotional trauma, but they’re nothing.”
He didn’t argue with me, just wrote. We went through the whole time, with me protesting the triviality of things he was including all the way. Haians, I kept thinking, they think all people are milksops, or want to make us into them. He even counted the Ten Tens as an emotional trauma. “The most ecstatic moment of my entire life!” I said. “You must be joking!”
“Intense emotion is intense emotion, even if it’s good,” he said. “It still takes its toll. Do you still have emotion when you remember it?”
“I cry every time I talk about it, sometimes even when I think about it,” I had to say. He wrote it down, like the victor signing back a surrender declaration to the vanquished.
I remember his finger touching my left cheek, so tenderly it was like a tiny breath of slightly warmer air. “How did you get this?” The nine brand-marks, he meant. I told him. “The emotional trauma wasn’t then, it was when I killed them,” I said. “Therefore it should already be in the file.”
“Chivinga, did you hear yourself, when you were telling me? How you had to struggle to get the words out, so hard they were to say?” I wanted to be in my soft land of oblivion again, let my mind fill with the mist that dampens away the thoughts. Before we got across the Arkan border in the war, I started closing my eyes in between my answers. He didn’t take the hint. Easy talk-healing? I thought, when we came to the end of it, after three beads or so. I felt wrung out like an old rag, and yearned to be burned or thrown out as if I were one.
“All right, second thing.” We’re only half-way done? All-Spirit, can’t I just have it easy and die? The paper he drew out of the notebook now had Alchaen’s writing on it. “The recommendations your psyche-healer gave you when you left here last time, I must go through with you.
“First, when your schedule allows, undertake further psyche-healing to complete the full process; I know you have not done that else there’d be a file on it here.”
“My schedule never allowed.”
“Hnn,” he said. How laughable an excuse do you think you can put over on me?, it meant, I was sure. “Second, keep physical/emotional strain to the absolute minimum possible until you’ve fulfilled the first recommendation… well, we’ve already answered that. Third, arrange your work and delegate responsibility to allow a quarter again more rest than you would typically take... that, too.” I didn’t try to argue. “Four, continue with daily remedies—”
“That one I did! The fifth, too—hire a Haian, that’s Kaninjer.”
All-Spirit, I prayed inwardly, like the atavistic forest Yeolis who think All-Spirit is a willful entity like an Arkan deity, let him not have the sixth one. Alchaen had given it just to me, not even to Kaninjer.
“So: two out of five,” Perahin said. “Chivinga, with that, and this”—he tapped the list of traumas with his finger—“do you see why you are where you are?”
“Yes.” Thank you, thank you, All-Spirit.