September 21, 2013 — Manon began her diary of Sebastian and their strange, mystifying relationship in the middle, allowing it to fan out from the center to the tips, the beginning and the end, like a sunflower burst into yellow flame for a summer, and then in the autumn, drooping its head, the seeds falling at its roots:
Sebastian came by this afternoon. It is a fine weather day. We walked out to the little bench in the garden, sat among the roses and talked for two hours. We spoke of our relationship and the closeness we feel with one another, and that it has caught us unawares. We do not know what to do with this. He came by for afternoon tea, he said. But, in the garden, our conversation soon turned to our feelings. I feel so natural with him. I believe he does with me, too. I could tell him anything. We talk endlessly on every subject; we could probably talk for days, almost without breath; yet, our silences are communicative and deep. Kindred spirits. I feel as if I have known him for lifetimes. There is a haunting quality to it, though. Something… something dark, something I see beyond him, as if when I sit looking at him he is transparent, and there’s this dark entity behind him. He has said nothing about it; nor I to him. He may not see it. I sense he is hiding something, or he fears something, something unsettling to him.
Reflecting at this late evening hour, I cannot recall our first meeting. It seems in this lifetime we never had a first meeting, but that he was always near me, an unseen but felt presence, and when we matured on our separate paths, we would become aligned and meet. Thus, this happened: eventually, we evolved into the same group of friends and associates; then we knew each other, yet had little direct contact until recently.
The light burns low now and the air holds a chill. At the hearth, I have stoked the fire, gift of Prometheus, and what remain are glowing embers, spirits of the flame. The wall sconce in the corner hisses with gaslight, and here at my writing table, pools of wax clot around the stunted candle base.
When we will see one another next I do not know. Our meetings are spontaneous and erratic. I have my garden club and the orphan children’s benefit; he has his businesses and men’s club. It is as it should be. It is part of the natural flow of our relationship. I inhale the essence of what it is and expect nothing more.
—Yet, the dark side. It carries a sad mysticism, something from long ago, like something from a past lifetime. I can see bits of it, like faded photographs in an uncompleted album, our loving companionship abruptly and tragically cut short. Why? Or am I having a premonition?
He knows. He doesn’t want to face it…. The hour is late. I must go to bed.
I sat at my blog round table rereading this opening of Manon’s diary when Moriarty entered. He had been in the back kitchen, this time sweeping up enormous droppings of Japanese spam.
He’d brought his fluffy black dog, Dickens, with him. I stroked the white patch under Dickens’s chin, scratched deep behind his ear, finishing by running my hand along his back, ruffling his coat. He shook, then, sending pieces of disconnected Japanese character strokes flying, like loose spider legs.
“He rolled in the spam,” said Moriarty.
“My last post, part two of this story, attracted page after page of Japanese language characters,” I said. “Must have been the keyword ‘masquerade.’”
“I built the foundation for the folly,” Moriarty said. “Come out and see it. A low wall we can sit on and finish our discussion begun the other night over the Chinese.”
We walked across the tall yellow meadow grass to the foot of the folly, parallel on the hill to the blog, overlooking the stream. I carried Manon’s diary.
Moriarty had set a cornerstone into the foundation and carved into it Sept 2013. What a Phantom. I beamed at his thoughtfulness to detail. Sitting on Moriarty’s masterpiece, I tilted my face upwards and took a long draft of the deep blue September sky, the honeyed warmth of sun drenching my face.
Dickens sat next to me and leaned against my leg; and then he lay down, resting his head on his tan forepaws. Crickets chirped and locusts buzzed. The rubber tip of the dog’s nose twitched as he sniffed the air. Maybe he smelled blue deer. I patted his head.
“There was a strange sadness to Sebastian,” said Moriarty, sitting down at the opposite end of the foundation wall and crossing his leg over his knee.
“Sebastian typified perfectly what most humans fear – they are afraid of the light, not of the dark,” I said.
“Clearly it seems,” I went on, “that he was deeply drawn to Manon in the beginning; he drew her in; their association blossomed, becoming close.”
“And then he got scared,” said Moriarty.
“He fell into the flame he had kindled, and then tried to flee; he erected a firewall of superficiality,” I observed.
I opened Manon’s diary and read:
Sebastian has turned. I wanted to know his darkness. We have become very close. Of late, though, he has begun to be controlling. In truth, I want to know if he is worthy of me. Would he always be respectful towards me. Would he accept my work for women’s suffrage? If we are to go forward, I want clear understanding between the two of us. I sent him a note. Would he talk with me? That’s all I wrote: what point would it be to discuss with him in a note what I want to discuss with him in person?
He wrote back: “When I have time. I shall let you know.” I replied that I understand he has other priorities, that such is as it should be. However, I stated, I do find that we must talk presently. I sought to prevent a miscarriage of our friendship, although I did not tell him this latter.
There is more …
Your writing is so vivid and descriptive. How do I learn to be like you when I grow up? Well done. Take a bow!
First, thank you, Gwynn. I will take the bow after you read Part 4, which I will post soon, if I am still worthy of that bow.
As for you, you write well. I think Kathy expresses the answer to your question well, below, saying to write whatever pops into your head. That punctures the writer’s block. And then the writing flows from there.
I have always been imaginative, a dreamer, and I had to learn to harness that. Also, I was so shy growing up that I had plenty of time to observe. So, awareness of one’s surroundings and of the reactions of others is essential. This observance was always there in the back of my mind; to wit, my mother’s telling me not to stare at the people sitting across from me on the trolley car when I was 3 or 4. They fascinated me, and I was studying them. And I always listened, overhearing many conversations, which I still recall from my youngest days. Too, I think it stems from reading the classics all my life, the great poets and authors whose style I strive to emulate.
So, now, I think, “What would it look like, how would he react, what would it feel like, smell like?” attempting to show rather than tell.
Good question, Gwynn. It gives me something to work with when I lead my writers workshops.
But, see, your instincts are right on the mark. Sometimes going with the flow pays off. Don’t worry about me, my friend. I know how much time it takes to write!
By the way, you’re right about writer’s block. The best way to overcome it is to write whatever pops into your head. It’s essential, and often the only way!
Yes, it’s amazing what comes out of your pen and onto the page once you get past that initial thought, Kathy. Thanks.
I’ll be over to see you soon.
Oh, Samantha, I love the opening image here–beautiful language. Also, since epics always begin in the middle of things, this piece lends an epic quality to your tale.
Hugs from Ecuador,
Oh, thank you so much, Kathy. Your comments on my writing mean a lot to me, these from a fellow writer, one involved in a writers group there in Cuenca.
Beginning in the middle lending an epic quality to my tale, I had not thought of. It just seemed easier to me to start at my first thought and write it out from there. 🙂 It IS one of the ways to overcome writer’s block, I think — just start writing from that overpowering image in your mind, the one that’s held in front of you as by a friend going, “Ya can’t miss THIS.”
Hugs back to you. And I will be over to see you via your latest blog post. Writing this tale put me a bit behind.
My dear Ms. Mozart,
May I dare to compare thee to Shelley, Austen, Fitzgerald and Barth…
My dear devoted reader,
Dare all you like. (Mary Shelley, I assume to whom you refer.)
Yes, it is Mary I refer to here. Though, Percy Bysshe Shelley is floating in the gossamer ether of the Kindle on my phone I have yet to find time for him; though at any given moment he may climb that darkened set of steps to be seated at the round table in the palace of my mind.
Your affectionate reader,
Percy Shelley is one of my favorite poets. If you like Keats and Byron, you will like Shelley and Swinburne.
My dear Samantha,
Ah… well… as satellites continue to traverse a curved path and our globe keeps on spinning and tilting, your story within a story is intriguing, inventive, intelligent and intense – literature: accomplishing it’s ancient purpose of amusement and revelation.
Very pleased to find that there will be further insallments.
Thank you, R. High compliments. There will be more, true, one more installment to this “Sebastian Quartet.”