Lilac on Lotus
Lilac on Lotus
It is a perfect spring day. The sky is a blossoming blue achieved only after a heavy rain, when the clouds turn everything a bruised, wounded purple, dark and wet and cold. It is the same color Noah must have seen after that fortieth night, lifting his eyes in terrified awe to the still-healing heavens.
Upon the pond, which is centered in the garden, the lotuses are white and chaste and delicately moist, with the pearled droplets of dew lingering against the arc of their petals. The pond is not wide but it is deep, the water clear and pure and echoing with the jade color of the lotus leaves gliding over the surface.
The light spring breeze curls through my hair and around my lilac bushes -- I have always been partial to the demure yet wild purple of my lilacs -- a few of the blooms swept away from the lush green foliage. They dance mere moments on the air and then drop, making slow, purple circles over the ripples in the still pond water. I have cultivated my lilacs to look just so. When they drop they nestle in the spaces between the lotuses, where pale, swan's down white burns bright against the contrasting color of the smaller blossoms.
I am a businessman. I do not pretend to be anything more than what I merely am. My business is in beauty, and I am not modest about my proficiency, either. The more aesthetically pleasing something is to the human eye, the more acceptable and desirable that something will be. Whether you are dealing in silks or furnishings, in gardens and flowers or in women, this rule of basic human nature will always apply. I must admit, I too like beautiful things; I too fall prey to those predictable lines of thought and want. For who doesn't like to see the world as a pretty thing before them, all softness and sweetness, with no roughened edges and no part of it displeasing to the senses?
Men have many weakness, but when they are caught by the charm of a beautiful woman they are all but lost. In this category, I am not as such men; I do not have such a weakness. But the beauty of my garden on such a spring day as this leaves me just as breathless, just as weak-kneed, as the ruby red smile of feminine lips might render any other man.
Men have many weaknesses, but when they are caught by the charm of a beautiful woman you know they are all but lost. In this category, I am not as such men; I do not have such a weakness. But the beauty of my garden on such a spring day as this leaves me just as breathless, just as weak-kneed, as the ruby red smile of feminine lips might render any other man.
I cannot pride myself for the lack of this weakness. In all, I am a weak man. I am easily captured by other types of beauty; I am easily overcome by my own emotions. I envy those without such passion. They are not open books for all the world to read them, like words upon a page.
"Good afternoon." He has come up behind me silently, as natural as the spring breeze. He speaks in an even voice, as if he did not come to me last night with blood on his hands and suit, with his good eye like glass and his fake one wild at the sight of death.
"Mh." Already, I can smell him on the air. There is a cleanliness about him to cover up what lurks beneath He is a sterile white, not a pure one.
"It is a lovely day, is it not?"
"Yes." That is something I can easily agree with, but I can say no more;
I wish to say no more. Were I to open my mouth to speak too many things would tumble forth. I am, as it is, too predictable in my emotional ways It shames me, sometimes, to know how well he knows this.
I realize that I am holding myself, my arms wrapped tight around my waist, my eyes half-opened to the world around me. He must think that I look small, standing diminutively in the midst of my garden. As with most people I can only convince those weaker than I am of my imagined strength. But we know each other too well. At a single glance with those calculating, unreal eyes, he can see right through me. Once, the knowledge that he understood me so well was comforting; now, it merely unnerves me. It is like someone reading you as they would read your diary without your permission.
Once, I thought his mind was a wonder. He knew things - about the world and about the people who inhabited it - that no one else I had met could ever possibly comprehend. He was then, at that age, a true visionary. His mind may have been even from the beginning like a maze, but he could always find a way to the finish once he started. In that maze of his thoughts, the most tortured paths would yield the most brilliant results. I was in awe of him.
It was his beauty that drew me to him. The more aesthetically pleasing something is to the human eye, the more acceptable and desirable that something will be, as I said before. I am no exception to the application of that rule. However, I did not know how to approach him. He was the antithesis of myself: all his passion on the inside of him, stored safely away where the world could never find it. But it was there. I could feel it. His hair and his eyes were that light, ethereal silver whereas my own were a dark, earthly brown. For a while, I wondered if he was even real, or intangible, like the faded shadow of a ghost.
I know now those things that are opposites compliment each other best. The purple lilacs against the pale lotus petals; the splash of color against a muted white. I know now that our friendship was not odd coincidence, or the touch of providence suddenly on my life. We drew to each other because our natures were two parts of one whole. It made sense - but I was foolish then. I did not know, and I could not understand.
I would like to pretend that now I know more, that I have, through the years, matured. With maturity comes strength - and it is true that, with everyone else but him, I can pretend so hard that I am strong that it becomes true. He, however, knows me too well and sees through me too easily. I can pretend nothing to him, while he keeps himself so perfectly hidden from me.
As always, I am the one who is relied upon to break the long silences that sometimes pass between us. They are not always uncomfortable; they are for my reminiscing and for his acquiescence, his allowing me to remember They are sometimes just companionable moments of silence between two old friends who are standing in a garden, in the springtime, together. They do not speak of the rage his calm eyes see, stamped in red across the backs. They do not speak of my guilt, or of all that he has done. Sometimes, even the awkwardness between our two different bodies is smoothed over; sometimes, I do not feel so estranged from my childhood friend.
This is one of those silences. It is a welcome respite to me, for I know the awkwardness all too well by this time.
"Have you eaten breakfast?"
"Yes. It was very delicious. Thank you for all your kindness."
"You needn't mention it."
"But I insist."
"So thank you."
"If you must - then you are welcome." His eyes curve up into pleasant, cordial curves, his lips tugged into the sort of expression I would use when passing by an acquaintance on the street.
Once, there was a time when I would see him smile and truly mean it. It was an aching sort of expression, oddly hollow, but there was still happiness in it, still a youthful vitality that has long since been drained from him. Now, when he smiles to thank me, I shiver. It is a dark look on his pale face, a tiger hiding behind a water-lily, and I wish to shrink back from it.
I turn my eyes away from him, pretending to be offended by the thanks he has given me. There had been a time when things passed between us, unspoken, not needing to be said. There was a certain knowledge of each other that we felt, ingrained into us by repetition. Our bodies were worn with each other, our minds and our motives running along the same courses.
Somewhere along the way his turned so sharply and so suddenly that I did not realize we had grown apart, and by then it was too late to follow. A sort of loneliness crept over me at first at the lost of my best friend - the boy whom I had killed for, the man whom I would gladly do so for again. What he makes me is an unsteady creature, unsteady on solid ground when he is beside me, unsteady on shaky ground when he has left me to myself. What he has made of me is something I revile, but I cannot push it away and pretend that side of me does not exist. Perhaps he planted the seed and cultivated such growth, but it is there now, as if I had been born with this darker side to me.
I would kill for Kazutaka Muraki. There is no doubt in my mind or my heart about that.
I have killed for him, and I would do so for him again. Even if it was not necessary. Even if he merely came to me and asked me with that smile I hate so much upon his face to kill for him, told me it would be rather convenient if I could, if I would comply. But he would never come to me, I know that. If he thought of me to come to me for help, I would not be so useless to him as I realize I have become. In that dark way, I would be proud that I could be of help to him.
"The lilacs are your touch?"
"The lilacs by the pond - they are your touch, I assume."
"You have always liked them, I know."
"And against the lotuses, they are particularly nice. But I assume you intended them to have such an effect." The little purple lilacs dance lightly on the water, but the ripples they cause barely disturb the lotuses beside them. I wonder as I watch them and think of him what it is my eyes reflect.
"When are you leaving?" I ask, casually, flicking the ash from my pipe.
"I intended to leave tomorrow morning, if that is does not infringe upon your hospitality?"
"My hospitality is not something upon which you, of all people, can infringe." He nods faintly. I watch him as if he is encased in glass, a museum exhibit. There is a point where I cannot come any closer to him, and I begin to see only my own reflection lingering between us.
"Then I shall go avail myself of your hospitality once more, and make use of the rather large bathtub in my room."
"By all means."
He was so human, once, a boy of pain and anger and sorrow -- all of those vibrant, human emotions. Now, I see him as merely a doll, with the memories of such passion faded in the vacancy of his dangerous eyes. His features seem unreal to me, though they are still exquisite.
He reminds me of porcelain, white and brittle.
"Will you join me?" He turns to look at me, silver hair hiding the puckered skin around his bad eye. To an untrained eye he looks almost human, but to me, he is merely a mockery of what he once was. Still, I cannot help but feel drawn to him when he remembers to ask me such a question.
"In a moment." I face my garden as a statue. Who is to say what is real and what is not? I, like many men, fall prey to the call of beauty. I, like all men, am too weak when I let my heart rule me.
But at least I still have that as an option.
I must admit the lilac on lotus is lovely, this time of day, though from where I stand, the colors look lonely and contrived, the last memories of a cheapened spring.