765 - The world was just going to let me
To suddenly have the capacity again for joy, for enthusiasm, for the urge to do and laugh and look for challenges and feel intensely alive, was disorienting so soon after the living death I’d been living. I often wondered how it was possible. Perahin would tell me, “The effects of rest seem like a miracle, if it was severely enough needed. Besides, despite how old you have felt, you are young, only mid-twenties, the time of life of greatest vitality.” Kaninjer reminded me how I felt after the moon of rest near Chinisinal. This was like that, when I thought about it; but more so.
I looked in the mirror, saw my face, knew I was Chevenga Aicheresa rather than Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e, and it didn’t matter. All was somehow, inconceivably, miraculously well. It gobsmacked me over and over.
“You remember Alchaen’s five recommendations,” Kaninjer said to me, a morning or two later. “If you don’t, no matter; I have my copy.” He drew the paper out of his portfolio. He’s anticipating, or Perahin told him, that I’ll be done here soon, I thought. I guessed it was that my loves had told him we’d had sex (glorious sex) the night before; a reasonable indication. I didn’t have any all-encompassing sacred imperative driving me to rush my healing this time, so hadn’t tried to do any talking down the time.
“Perahin reminded me of them,” I said. “Before you belabour it, Kan, I know which ones I have and haven’t done.”
“Good,” he said, but laid the paper on the bed anyway. “Believe me, Chivinga, I understand why you didn’t do the ones you didn’t, with all that was required of you; everyone does. But now there’s nothing stopping you… well, you’re doing the second and third ones already, keeping strain to a minimum and resting a quarter more… much more than a quarter more, now. I am not urging you to do the first, not now, not yet… it will be very hard and you need to rest more first.”
Complete the torture-healing, he meant. If not now, when do you mean? I wanted to ask him. And how long will that take? Another half year of going through Arkan Hayel, for the sake of the three and a half afterward? If I’d had fifty years before me, it would be worthwhile, and that of course was what he and Alchaen were thinking. As it was, I was cold to the idea.
“What has happened since Alchaen wrote these is that you depleted your strength so severely you had two collapses,” Kaninjer said. “You didn’t rest long enough after the first one… it’s more complicated than that, actually, with everything else that’s happened to you. Remember I said life-strength is like a cistern of water? Yours has never been full, not since you were tortured, because you’d never replenish it before it would get emptied again. You’d never completely finish healing from one thing before the next would happen.”
You’re telling me I did all I did since then without being at full strength? Of course Alchaen had said it first, that by the torture alone, I was not at full strength. I remembered Perahin saying it too. It made me wonder if I could have fought the war faster, with fewer losses. Or not sacked Arko… That thought was almost too much to bear. Remember all the good you did them afterward, I told myself.
“What I prescribe for you now, Chivinga, is the half-year of rest I would have prescribed any number of other times… at Chinisinal, after the Hayel-rain, and so forth. You have no obligations now, so you’re free to take it.”
“That means something more than not being semanakraseye, which I’m already doing?” I asked him. “If Artira wants to appoint me chakrachaseye or something, I should say ‘Sorry, not yet?’ Or are you asking me to avoid even lesser responsibilities? No one can avoid all responsibility, and live.” If you say I can’t fly, I’m going to defy you, bet or no bet.
“What I want you to do exactly, Chivinga, is avoid politics,” he said. “That’s what over-stresses you.”
“That’s like asking a fish to avoid water,” I said. “I may be Aicheresa now, but I was born Shae-Arano-e.”
“If you are a fish, you are a fish with a mind. Remember you said we are the animal of choice?” He wasn’t going to give a finger-width. “Politics, and war. I want you to stay away from that, too.”
“That’s easy,” I said. “Neither of the nations for which I would fight are fighting any wars, or will be for half a year, I think.” There are always the minor things, raids and border-brawls and so forth, but they’re minor. “But what means avoiding politics? Not taking a post in it, I assume…” For half a year I can bear that, I thought. Well, actually… welcome it. I felt it in my heart. I’d been feeling it the whole time I’d been on Haiu Menshir, but never been clear that I did until now.
“I want you not to be worrying about it. Keeping track of things, taking it upon yourself to advise people, so that you reacquire responsibility; that’s what you don’t need.”
“What, I can’t read the Pages?”
“Good idea.” He made a note, and I cursed myself for saying it. “Or write any but personal letters to Artira or anyone else in the government of Arko.”
“Kaninjer, if I can’t associate with people who work in politics, I’m going to be a hermit in Vae Arahi.”
“Chivinga.” He put down the noteboard, and held out his hands, meaning I should give him mine, which I did. “You are rested enough now… close your eyes. Clear your mind.” I did, as if I were meditating, and he waited a bit for me to fall deeper into it. His voice sounded distant and inside my mind both at once when he spoke again. “Chivinga, take inventory in your body, by feeling it. Probe yourself inside, all over, and back into the past, remembering all you have experienced. Then ask yourself what is there.”
I did. My insides showed me, as clearly and starkly as the hard-edged stones in a motionless pool, how right he was, and had always been. In the clarity of being removed from it, I felt what I had done to myself, how brutally I’d worn myself down on top of all the wounds and pains, the exhaustion and panic and anger and shame I’d ground into my own muscles and bones, day in day out, so even after this much rest they still bore the mark, though it was fading back into the past.
“You can feel it now,” he said. I could not speak for tears, but I turned my hand in his to sign chalk. “Just let it come.” They were the quiet tears of something half-relieved, though, not the full-throated ones of something raw.
“I’m not so worried about Yeoli politics,” he said gently. “Yeola-e is steady, it’s just continuing with the traditions it’s always had. Arko… is in a transition, one into which you poured your heart. Whatever happens there is going to affect you. That’s what I don’t want.” I was suddenly reminded of him telling me, as I lay waiting to be shipped out of the war-camp at Chinisinal, “You’re not going to get any regular news.”
“You’re going to ask everyone around me to keep secret what’s happening in Arko?”
“Yes, and I’m also going to ask you to refrain from finding out. To avert your eyes, in effect. That should work well enough.”
I stopped resisting. To just forget about it all, for now… Many people enslave themselves to wine or herb, so as to do that. I was blessed; the world was just going to let me. “I agree,” I said.
“Swear,” he said. “Second Fire come.”
“What, my word is suddenly no good, because I went the way that impeached semanakraseyel go, even thought I didn’t go all the way? Or is it the incompetence thing? If so, my oath is no good, either.” But I said it mildly.
“No.” He tapped the paper with Alchaen’s recommendations with his finger. “It’s because you never swore to these, and look what happened.”
It was amazing, when I thought about it, that this and the shy, self-doubting, I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-it young healer whose eyes would barely meet mine when I’d been hiring a personal physician were the same person. I can be happy that I’ve helped him find his confidence, I thought, even if many times it was in ways I didn’t intend. The thought was full of happiness. I was delightedly amazed, again.
Thirty-eight hundred thousand Arkans voted, I thought. I did that. I carved both my peoples free. And that will always be; that change will always have been made. I’ve earned the right to put my feet up for a while; then when I feel like it, I’ll go on to the next thing.
Life was suddenly so good, and good to such an incredible depth, more depth than I’d thought I had in me for joy, that in wondering when it had last been so good, I had to go back to before my father had been assassinated.
“No appointments, no consulting, no advising, no Pages or other publications with Arkan politics, avoid conversations about it,” I said, taking my crystal in my hand. “All-spirit be my spiritual witness and you my worldly, I Chevenga Aicheresa so swear, second Fire come if I am forsworn.”