813 - Love makes people really stupid
I give you this in writing so as to spare you my presence while I am so angry. I hereby tender my resignation as Captain of the darya semanakraseyeni AGAIN, due to just having learned you plan to do the Ten Tens AGAIN. Cheng, are you out of your hairy-anused wart-encrusted mind? WE ALL SAW YOU HACK OUT YOUR OWN BRAIN ARTERY last time and sure you were somehow miraculously saved, but THAT DOESN’T GUARANTEE THE SAME NEXT TIME, does it!? Flying globs of galloping-hoof-torn-up sheep dung with flies clinging to them with pox on their parasites’ parasites... well, you read it, I QUIT.
I accept your resignation with sadness and understanding both, knowing that it comes out of the feeling of protectiveness which bests serves the guard captain’s mandate, and having always valued and been grateful for that feeling in you, even when I chose to ignore counsel prompted by it. I bear you no hard feeling, intend for us to remain friends and hope we will so long as we both live. I look forward to requesting that you accept reinstatement to the position once the Ten Tens is done, and hope very much that you will.
In sincere love,
7 Akim, 4979 : Arko the City
Kilalulana and I met just as I last wrote you we were going to, the evening the family and I came in. We went to that delicious Haian place on Temerity Street, then to a new play she’s been raving about at the Cerulean Theatre. My Arkan is good enough that with the motions and expressions, I get most of the jokes. Kil’s is good enough to translate the rest.
It’s about Arkans finding their way in the new Arko—a cross-caste couple who can finally marry but whose families aren’t happy with it, an embittered solas who lost an arm in the war, a woman who wants to be a writer, a group of kids who are dear friends but split up because two of them become Dyers, and one of them gets arrested and… well, in a letter I really can’t do justice to who they all are and how the play follows the stories of their lives. Chevenga’s a character in it, mostly issuing platitudes from Presentation Balcony, which Kil thought, correctly, I’d find funny. My escort did, too. The four of them were laughing more loudly than anyone else in the audience at those parts.
It really struck me how much I’ve missed all these sort of things, and doing them with her. It’s hard to disassociate the two, so I don’t know how much I’d miss them if I hadn’t been doing them with her. Her laughter across the table, her arm touching mine as we sit in our theatre seats, talking about it afterwards as we walk hand-in-hand through the streets with their lines of lamp-flames casting a line of pools of light on the pavement… I can’t imagine it without her, really.
I guess for her it goes without saying that I haven’t found anyone else, because she hasn’t asked. She hasn’t said she has, but I haven’t asked. I guess I’m afraid to. But would she have sex with me if she’s made a promise to someone else? (We did that very first night, saying it was for old times’ sake.) I don’t think so. She hasn’t mentioned going out with anyone else… is it just with her Hyerne friends? Her news was all about which of them have gone home to get married or are pregnant, and what’s happening to family at home, and what shows she’s seen here. She’s started to buy more Arkan-style clothes, but she wears them in a Hyerne way, hiding much less of her beautiful brown skin than any Arkan woman ever would.
That first night… I said to her, “I’m only going to be here temporarily, again. Because I’ll go back to Yeola-e again when Chevenga does.”
“I know,” she said. “You were right, that he would leave the Crystal Throne some other way than feet first. I have to believe he’d do it again.” And there I’d thought we might have an argument.
“So we… shouldn’t get back in deep with each other… since we’re going to be parting ways again.” Even after all that time away from her, Mamin, it was so hard to say!
“I agree,” she said. I could tell it was as hard for her as it was for me.
“We’d just be setting ourselves up for pain and heartbreak again,” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “We would.”
And then we jumped right back in as deep with each other as we’d ever been. Love makes people really stupid, doesn’t it, Mamin?
My sister had been planning to leave the day after I took the robes, having made her proper appearance at the ceremony. Now she decided to put it off. “I find myself wanting to spend time with you,” she told me. We had dinner together several nights in a row, telling everyone it was to wrap up last Imperial matters. Among the things we talked about was who I had and who I hadn’t told.
“If you didn’t trust even Mama Denaina or Esora-e with it, I guess I can’t be angry that you didn’t trust me,” she said. “I know, I know, what you said at the start: it wasn’t about not trusting.”
A lie of tact; of course it was, in part, about not trusting. The old saying, you can trust three people with a secret if two of them are dead, is still said because of the truth in it. Even as a child I knew the more people I told, the more likely it would come out.
“Still,” she added, “it would have made more sense to tell me when you became semanakraseye… though I knew I should be prepared anyway.” I had been about to say, I was hardly living a barricaded life. Could she even imagine how many arrows or spears had whistled past my ears? What you should have done was began learning Arkan as soon as the vote to cross the border went chalk. But she’d had her hands more than full doing the work I’d left behind, being semanakraseye to a country rebuilding itself.
I asked myself why I hadn’t told her, and an answer came to me that I decided I would not share with her. You are so lawful… and you have that deep fear of breaking it that very lawful people do. I thought you might turn me in. Perhaps there is a bond of mind that comes through the blood-bond, even half. “Did you think I might let out your secret, because of 21-1 and 21-5-7?” she said, right then. I was trying to think of how to answer when she added, “So I could take the semanakraseyesin, and win our old rivalry?”
That made it easy to answer; in fact it burst out of me. “No!” I hadn’t even thought of that. “All-Spirit, no, not at all. I… Artira, I didn’t calculate reasons not to tell people. I only calculated reasons carefully to tell them. I wouldn’t do it without very good reasons.”
She gazed at me for a moment. “It amazes me,” she said finally, “how alone you were willing to be with it.” In the silence, I remember the candle doing a tiny sputter, not much more than a click. “Well. Everything about you amazes me. It was ever thus. You were quite possibly right. I might have lost my nerve, as you never do, and I might have let it slip. I won’t now, though. Are you going to let people know… afterwards? Leave something in writing… or give us who know permission to tell?”
“Leave something in writing,” I said.
“That’s good,” she said. “Best it come straight from you.” She took my hands in hers and held them, as she had many times and for a while each time, during these dinners. I let her do that as long as she wanted, even if I had to scratch; I’d endure the itch instead. After this, we might see very little of each other. When I finally saw her off on the Marble Palace roof, we stood in a clench for a long time. People would think it was emotion due to the vote, and be happy for us that we were so reconciled. She told me she’d come up with some pretext for our parents and as many of our sibs as possible to make extended visits to Arko. “The Ten Tens for sure,” she said. “I’m coming for that; I want to see how it’s done.”
After all these years, it seemed, she had finally forgiven me for my excellence.