758 - There’s nothing left of me
Now I understood a little better why Kaninjer had been so flummoxed by finding out that Kilalulana and I had had sex. Though this was more like finding out your lover has made love with your grandmother. I felt things I could not name. Another part of me could not help but try to imagine it: the wiry, bent, bulb-jointed woman with ancient mottled skin, the smooth and perfect and muscle-rippled man, smelling and tasting as I knew so well… that part of me giggled insanely, inwardly. Another part of me was vaguely jealous; she’d never had sex with me. More of me balked at that thought, though—I’ll have you know—than was warmed by it.
Kall flinched, his eyes clenched shut. “I’ve betrayed her! Muunas… save this undeserving one from smothering in Hayel.”
“Don’t worry, love, I won’t tell anyone, second Fire come.” (Another part I will have to edit out of the version of this I bequeath to the Workfast Literary, if I do... when I think about it, there are quite a few pages I’ll have to burn before I die.) “Or are you worried I’ll think less of her, or you? You’re forgetting my nationality. And she’d understand why you told me, when I am where I am. You know her well enough to know that. The important thing is, she cured you.”
He let out a long sigh. “Yeolis… curse you all… it was all so Yeoli. I don’t know that I can ever learn what that means.”
“If it means you are alive,” I said, “I don’t care that you don’t understand it; you didn’t have to, it still worked. I knew I was causing you pain, and I still—”
He put his two fingers over my lips. “No, don’t start with that, Fourth Shefenka. None of us will tolerate even a bit of it, right now; we made a pact. You had orders from your people. And it was best, even for Arko; I came to understand that, which helped a great deal.”
“But then... came the Sack,” I said. If I had known you’d had thoughts of killing yourself, I might have remembered to give the order that would have prevented it… I didn’t say that. In truth, I could not know for sure. “I’m glad… that didn’t make you go up to that cliff-edge again… or at least, throw yourself off.”
“Oh no, not at all. I had to talk to you first.”
“Thank you, love, for ascribing the blame correctly, in the end.”
“Yes. It all went back to Kurkas. As you always said. You’re welcome.” He drew me in again, and kissed my cheek, smiling. “I’ve gotten better at not getting that wrong.”
“…Swear to that and we’ll free you and remove the invaders and transfer you to the House of Integrity, where we can put in a wide bed so you can sleep with your loves.” Perahin wasn’t going to quit saying it each time he came in, no matter how tired I got of hearing it.
“No,” I whispered.
“You are Yeoli,” he said. “You do chiravesa… so far you have been too distracted to put yourself in the places of your spouses; do you think you are strong enough to do it now?”
“I don’t have to,” I said. “I know how it is for them; they’re tearing their hearts out with worry for me.”
“Why,” he said—with a lack of judgment that, when I think about it, defies belief—“do you do nothing to reassure them, then?”
“They aren’t seeing it clearly,” I said. “I am not the person they all fell in love with. There’s nothing left of me, Perahin.” I tried to say it without tears, and failed. “I have nothing to give them any more, and I’m taking far too much; they’d be best if I were gone.”
“Let out the feeling.” He held my head between his hands as I did, which somehow made the tears come harder and yet more beautifully—that’s the only word that describes it—at the same time. “That seems at least in part like making their choices for them,” he said when I was done. “How certain are you that you are seeing it clearly? Be absolutely honest with me… search your heart and mind a little before you answer.”
Perahin was a master, knowing to ask me that way. In such a state, there is still part of you, however small, that knows full well you are making no sense. The emotion might all but burn it away, but it is still there. To be absolutely honest I had to say, though it curled my toes to say it, “I’m not entirely certain.”
“The assumption in those words, ‘There’s nothing left of me,’ is that you can never heal because you are no longer semanakraseye,” he said. “But, however little you can imagine yourself if you are not that, the healing power in us knows nothing of position. You are healing.” He smiled. “Like it or not. Will you describe to me what is in your heart?”
I didn’t want to look at it enough to describe it. I couldn’t even begin to without tears, so he held my head and allowed the full course of them again. “Blackness,” I finally got out through the sobs. “All over me. Overwhelming.”
“Infinitely huge and without hope of relief, ever, it seems?” He read my mind it as if he saw it every day. I choked out, “Yes.”
“And this is why you want to die.”
“It’s not that I want to… it’s that if I don’t…” I couldn’t speak for tears, for a bit. “I must live.”
“With this blackness, and you dread suffering it for the rest of your life.”
“Perahin, I dread tomorrow.” I had not admitted it to myself. It fell together, ringing with truth. “I dread even the rest of today. If that makes me a coward, I guess I am one.”
He took me into his arms, which undid me right to infancy. He told me to scream if I wanted to, so I did, for a while. When I was done, which seemed like beads later, I couldn’t lift my head from his shoulder. He laid me back in the bed as gently as if my back was broken.
“You aren’t a coward,” he said. “You’ve just had heart-wounds laid on you past your limit. Anyone else would be the same. This is why we drew up the list; you’ve been refusing to see how much you’ve been hurt. But, Chivinga, now that you are resting, it’s not only possible to heal; it’s inevitable. You remember other times in your life, when you felt overwhelming blackness that seemed it could never end… when your father was killed, say?”
“Yes,” I said. “It was very bad then.”
“But you came out of it.” Some of it. “Likewise being tortured in Arko, and everything else you’ve come through. You recovered every time.”
“This feels different…” I just spoke the words that came to mind. “Those are distant islands; this is a continent, on top of me.”
Master psyche-healers also know that the mad sometimes speak in riddles or poetry, so they’ve learned to understand it. “So it feels, but intense emotion always disguises itself as reality.” I had learned that last time I’d been on Haiu Menshir. Over and over; and yet still it seemed I had not learned. “Do you really think it is different, and unhealable?”
I had to say, “No.” Though I was not crying, he held my head in silence for a while, saying, “Be with that.” A master psyche-healer knows the importance of the moments of revelation as well as the moments of emotion, and gives them as much due.
“You’ve improved more than you know,” he said finally. “First you came out of ketanin and were willing to speak; now you’ve told me you fear life because you expect it to be endless pain, meaning that you have recognized your motive for suicide as emotional rather than reasoned. You’ve also both expressed that emotion strongly and described it well, which is a huge improvement over burying and denying it.”
I barely heard him for confusion and resistance, almost anger, though I remember the words, oddly enough. “Just be with it, Chivinga. I’ll let you be for two or three days.” I got myself under the covers. “And let all your spouses in at once, if you’re all right with that?” I stuck my bound hands back out again just enough to sign chalk.