Methuselah's Daughter

Musings of an immortal being

Monday, September 29

Who was Jeremy? Why did I love him? Why is he such a powerful presence in my life? Why am I so inadequate to the task of describing him?

Jeremy was the eldest son and expected to take on his father’s law practice. There were his younger brother Reginald, and Catherine, the youngest of the three. There were two more siblings, but in the cold mortal calculus of the age they did not survive past early childhood.

He was a good student, but his heart was elsewhere. Jeremy saw the world shrinking before his eyes and he desperately wanted to see it, all of it, before it became commonplace and familiar. He left school, and his father’s good graces, and set off on a twenty-year journey around the world, paying his way with labor, skills and the occasional stipends from his brother. He began with wanderings across the frontier in North America. He joined the fighting in the War of 1812 where he served with distinction in the Northwest Territory before mustering out after the Treaty of Ghent was received in the States. After the war he traveled east, across the Atlantic and North Africa, into the Middle East, then Turkey. He entered India, and then went on into Asia proper, through China and then south to the British colony in Australia. From there he took ship via a rather meandering route to North America, where he ran in to me

Sounds simple, does it not? Consider that many of these lands were dangerous places for white men and Christians. He was on his own for much of that time, and on several occasions he found himself imprisoned, even facing death. Each time by providence or guile or both he managed to find his way to freedom. Never once did he consider ending his trek.

Consider further: in twenty years he saw more of this world than did I in three thousand. No mean feat that. Even our own jaunt across North America was the stuff of popular adventures. Jeremy could have had fame from writing his memoirs, but he did not live his life of adventure to seek out fame or fortune. He needed that time to nourish his soul. To see wonders. To see horrors. To see humanity in all its glory and despair, so that he could finally fully understand himself. And when he had that, when he felt complete, when he was satisfied, that was when he met me.

There I was, deep in my blackest, foulest of spirits, brimming overfull of disdain for men and Man when this confident, energetic, shockingly whole human being knocked on my door having chosen it solely for the fact that my lamp was still lit. I had never met a man like him. Let me repeat and emphasize that last: I had never, in three thousand three hundred and fifty-odd years met a man remotely like Jeremy. He shattered my angry wall of self-pity and cynicism with his courtesy and deference. He was grateful for my willingness to take him in. He accepted me in the guise I inhabited for he understood that sometimes, often times, women on their own were left with no good choices.

In appearance he was not remarkable, no more than half a head taller than me, and deceptively slender for he was quite strong as more than one ruffian discovered to his dismay. His eyes were pale blue, almost gray, his face was narrow, lending him an almost preacher-like severity that was shattered when he smiled, for when he did his face would light up and all the warmth within him shone through. His smile was quite disarming. He was well acquainted with the art of the fistfight and the blade, as well as being an accomplished marksman, but his greater strength was in negotiating his way out of the need to fight. He understood people. He understood me even when he had no inkling of the secrets I held.

He entered my life and in typical gallant fashion took me under his protection. In just days he came to understand that I did not need protecting and he took me to his side as a lover and partner in adventure. When he learned the truth about me he was afraid- afraid for me, not of me. He understood instinctively what loving him would ultimately cost me. He tried to protect me from that as well even knowing how futile it was. He loved me.

Yet some wonder why I loved him? Some wonder why losing him was so devastating? I fail to convey just what he was, try as I might. Were you a drinking man, you would have found him an able companion for a night of carousing. Were you a scholar an evening with him discussing the histories and foibles of man would have been counted as the best spent hours of your life. Were you a crusader for justice his thirst for the recognition of the innate nobility of all men would have set you on fire. Were you beset by misfortune his charity would have been easy to accept, for you would have understood his gratitude for being able to do so. Were you a scoundrel, an abuser of others, a thief and bottom feeder, you would have feared him. Were you as I, you would have had little choice but to love him.

Perhaps that last does say it best.

Thursday, September 25

Why would I allow myself to love? For me love is both a selfish indulgence and an invitation to despair. It is destructive to the object of my affections, for if they return my love they make themselves a part of a relationship that will can only leave them childless and in their grave. One could cogently opine that for me to allow anyone to love me borders upon naked criminality.

In very condensed form those are the arguments I use with myself when I find myself tempted to fall in to that delusional state. They carry no small weight with me, both morally and intellectually and I wield them as a club to destroy any hope I might foolishly allow myself to hold when it comes to the subject of love.

But love is an insidious creature, determined to have her way, undaunted by the most vitriolic attacks and desperate defenses. Love is as much my nemesis as Time, seeking to draw me in to a state of madness from which I fear I may never escape, taunting me with the promise of happiness, then fetching me up upon my personal Scylla and Charybdis of reality and despair.

Love and Horror: opposing faces of the same bitter coin.

So, why? Weakness, selfishness, narcissism, jealousy, all those apply.

Weakness and selfishness are self-explanatory. Narcissism plays its part, as my vanity would demand that somebody could love me. But those are truly weak forces in comparison to the lessons of my life. They have little sway over me.

Jealousy, there is one monster that gnaws at me. It is difficult beyond description to live amongst you, to interact with you, to become part of your lives even in the simple, mostly tangential ways I do. To see your friendships, your loves, your crises, and your tragedies… and know that there is no way that I can ever truly be a part of them. To always stand apart, knowing that all of what you call your lives will flow past me and vanish in to the mists of what was but is no more. And I will remember, at least that small slice that I was permitted to share. And I will be alone, insulated from your fate, an alien in every meaning of that word.

And in those times when my heart is cold and my thoughts are dark and lonely, I will hate you for that.

Hardly sounds like a recipe for romance, yes? Yet that was precisely where I was when I encountered the last great love of my life. Forced to abandon my situation because too many years were piling atop me, lacking the resources to reach a place where I could tap what monies I had stowed away I found myself in a Mexican frontier port selling my body for food, whiskey and what coin I could muster to gather what I needed to make an attempt for the East. To say my mood was foul would be the understatement of the ages.

Enter Jeremy, facing arrest for not being Catholic and desperate to head in to the wilderness before the commandante’s men caught up with him. Hardly the time for a man to take up for a night with a young red haired whore with a reputation for surliness and a sharp tongue. Yet there he was, and because he was courteous I took him in. Because he was gentle and kind he touched that part of me that despised my own self-pity. Because he was a unique man, he ripped open my oh-so-carefully constructed armor of cynicism. And when he had done all that, and I lay helpless and defenseless, I foolishly let just the slightest glimmer of hope grow in me. Not love, not yet, just some hope of getting away from the hell I was trapped in. And in two days and nights together, Jeremy never laid a hand upon me.

“Your brogue is atrocious,” he commented, “any real Irishman would catch you out before you spoke five words.”

“Lucky for me then that I’m dealing with Mexicans and lost boys from Philadelphia, yes?”

We were packing to set out for the United States, cross-country via Mexico. We had pooled our money to purchase supplies, and one very sturdy mule. Jeremy impressed me by what he bought- shot and powder, blankets and canvas, spare clothing, tools, some dried and salted beef and pork- it was clear to me he was ably prepared to live off the land. I could feel his apprehensions about me- I was still an unknown to him, but his sense of honor would not let him abandon me, particularly not after taking my money.

I excused myself as he finished tying down the packs on the mule. Back in my little hovel of a room I gratefully stripped off my dress, petticoats, and corset essentially losing all the useless acres of clothing. I put on my last good set of undergarments (think a neck to knees linen garment, somewhat akin to a union suit) then leggings, over which I wore a simple homespun skirt hanging halfway down my shins and a loose blouse that tied high about my neck. My hair had to be unpinned and let down and I was a bit surprised that I had let it get so long- nearly touching the floor. Quick work with a knife brought it to just below my shoulders and I tied it in a ponytail. I finished off with a leather wide brimmed hat, thick stockings and a new pair of sturdy boots, then slung my own rickety pistol in its holster over my shoulder along with my powder flask and shot bag, stuffed my knife in my boot, fetched up my last two bottles of whiskey worth the name and strode out the door.

“My, my!” Jeremy exclaimed, “Let me see what we have here.” I turned for him, smiling because I could feel his approval and relief at seeing me properly accoutered for the wilderness. “You look like a boy,” he finally commented.

Moi? I assure you I have had many comments upon my appearance, but never that!” but I was laughing because I could see the jest in his eyes.

“Have you ever fired that?” He asked, gesturing to my pistol.

“Umm, not recently, no.”

He took it from my holster and examined it with a practiced eye. “French,” he noted, “this was a nice piece of work. Have you ever fired it?”

“Once, last year,” I confessed, “It nearly broke my arm.”

“Well then, we will have to make a point of teaching you the proper handling of a firearm, once I get it back in to proper condition.” He handed it back to me and I returned it to its holster, then he swept his arm in a broad arc to the east. “Shall we?”

It was a long walk.

Wednesday, September 24

Comments are up again.

Monday, September 22

Awakening. Imagine you have slept with your arm under your body, squeezing off the circulation so that the limb is completely insensate. You roll off your arm and it flops free- you can feel the circulation returning, fresh blood rushing in as your arm returns to life in a tingling rush, sometimes quite painfully, stinging as if infinite pinpricks were assaulting you.

The first awareness is that of nothingness. I am numb, like that arm, but throughout my body, to the very core of myself I am numb. I recognize this; I know what it means even though I cannot remember exactly how or why. It slides in to the very center of me, a tiny thread of sensation, first warm, then achingly hot. I am drawing air, oxygen setting me ablaze from within. Pins and needles and fire and throbbing pressure are the total of existence for an indeterminate length of time.

I am on my back, with my hands folded across my chest. My ears ring so that I cannot determine my surroundings, but even though something covers my face I can taste fresh air and suddenly I am drawing in great draughts, my lungs eager for the taste of breath again. There is thirst; burning, raging thirst, and I can smell water.

Motion is pain, but I am incapable of resisting the babbling call of the nearby stream. My arms clumsily draw away the blanket that covers me and my eyes slowly focus on… stars. The canopy of the heavens is ablaze above the trees. Something calls to me, trying to force its way to the forefront of my mind, but I cannot think, only move, crawling towards the tantalizing scent of running water: sweet, cool water, sparking and wet and delicious, and irresistible. It is a journey made in increments of inches, but I arrive, first my hands are in the stream then I plunge my face in to it, sucking in water and grit, my body shuddering in the first sensation other than pain since returning to awareness.


That was the first coherent thought, forcing its way up past the now relieved thirst and the gnawing ache of hunger in my belly. I was shivering and weak, but at least I could think, and my head was clearing, I could hear the sounds of the night; the horses shuffling nervously, a rhythmic buzzing sound… snoring. Jeremy. I crawled towards him, my limbs stronger, but my right side still very much weaker than my left. I could smell the fire now, smoldering to one side, could see the silhouette of a sleeping man, recognized the strong scent of brandy.

Of course: Jeremy only snored when he had been drinking.

Then the hunger was too much to ignore, but our supplies hung from a tree, out of reach even if I could stand. I crawled to Jeremy’s side and lay there, warring with myself, frightened to wake him but unable to do anything else.

I pulled myself up to a sitting position, and laid my left hand on his shoulder.

“Jeremy?” My voice was a dry croak and I cleared my throat, “Jeremy, you have to wake up.”

His snoring abruptly stopped and he stiffened. I pushed feebly at him again. “Wake up, Jeremy.”

With glacial slowness he rolled on to his back and looked up at me, his eyes wider than I would have thought any man’s could be, his face… unreadable. He pulled himself to a sitting position, staring at me. His eyes flickered over to where I had lain covered, then back to me. There was so much I wanted to say to him, but I had not the words and my hunger was driving at me…

“Jeremy, help me…food…”

He stood and walked to the spot where the rope suspending our food was secured, releasing the knot to spill the packs to the ground. It took all the willpower I possessed to keep from leaping at them. Instead I waited until he returned carrying bread and jerky. He held them out and my control was gone- I seized them from him and tore in to it, ravenous, almost choking as I forced the bread down my throat in seven or eight large mouthfuls, then taking on a strip of jerky, pulling at the dried smoked beef.

“I thought I was deluding myself,” he whispered. I stopped for a moment, the need to speak, to say something, nearly overwhelming the hunger, but not quite.

“You just didn’t look dead. I kept uncovering you and looking at you… I’ve seen my share of dead men, in the War and through the years…you just didn’t look dead, even with that hole through your chest, and your spine snapped…”

He stopped then, regarding me as I choked down the last of the jerky, my belly finally full enough, at least for the moment. Almost immediately I felt the urge to sleep coming over me so powerfully that I began to sway and Jeremy reached out to steady me. It was so comforting to feel his hand on my arm- at least he was not afraid to touch me. I could not give in, not yet. Not until he understood.

“Jeremy, I am ancient.” I was whispering, unable to summon the energy to speak any louder, but I had his attention. “Rome was but a cluster of huts when I had seen a thousand years pass by.”

Why? What are… why are you here, with me? What can I have that you desire?”

I felt tears hot on my cheeks. This was wrong! So wrong! “I don’t want anything but what you’ve already given me! I love you…” I began to sway, unable to hold myself upright as torpor settled over me, a thick blanket of exhaustion enveloping me… just as Jeremy’s arms encircled me. He picked me up and I curled in to his grasp, feeling him shaking… he was crying. He carried me to his bedroll and set me down there.

“You sleep,” he whispered in my ear, “I’ll be here when you wake…”

He bathed me in my sleep, removing my bloodied clothing and cleansing away the stains of my brutal misfortune. When I awoke, he brought me food and water and brandy. When I was lucid, he listened, and I told him all there was to tell: all my joy, my fear, my shame, my sorrow, my hope, and my love.

“You have been injured like this many times?”

“No. I’ve been hurt, left for dead, but it was seldom so traumatic. When it was I usually took months to fully recover,” I smiled then, “I usually haven’t anyone to take care of me. How long has it been… how long was I down?”

“It’s been three days since you fell. Do you think you can ride?”

I lifted my right arm, feeling it shake uncontrollably. “I don’t think I can manage a horse. If we doubled up I think I would be good… you sat with my body for two days?”

His eyes dropped to the ground and I could see the raw emotion rippling across his face as he tried to work up the courage to lie to me. To his credit, he failed.

“I was nearly insane,” he whispered, “and I kept telling myself that you did not look like a dead person. Your face… when a man dies his face grows dark. Two days dead and you didn’t look… there was no scent of death… do you understand?”

“Of course I do.”

“You did not look… I thought I was deluding myself. It hurt so much. I could not just wrap you up, but inside I was afraid I really was going mad. You had to be dead, so I must have been… That night, last night, I opened the brandy I had brought for us and I began drinking… and I did a fine, thorough job of loading my pistol. Couldn’t have a misfire, you see? I was going to put it to my head…” He stopped then, and a single, gasping sob shook his body. The understanding of what he was telling me sent a sickening chill down my spine. That I could have brought him to that, however inadvertently…

“But you did not do it…”

“No? I pressed that barrel under my chin seven, eight times, but… two things stopped me, even as drunk and as miserable as I was. First, there was Reggie and the children. He trusted me to do right by them. And then there was you: I couldn’t shake the conviction that you would be ashamed of me. Eventually I packed the pistol away and I went to sleep, knowing that in the morning I would have to bundle you up and take you home.” He paused then, his eyes wet; yet very, very firmly fixed on mine. “When you woke me, for one long horrible moment I thought I had done it.”

“Jeremy? Can you ever forgive me?”

For the first time since I had crawled to his side that night, he laughed. “Forgive you? Forgive you for what? Not dying? Elaine, I know you planned to tell me. I knew when we set out on this little excursion that you were prepared to share with me that great, brooding secret you kept locked inside. The anticipation was writ all over you in your face, and your words and your bearing,” he reached for me, taking my hands in his, “I just never imagined… this.”

He believed me. He accepted me. He understood me.

He feared me.

I was content with that. Of all that he could have felt, fear I knew I could overcome. For the nemesis of fear is love, and that we had in abundance.

Friday, September 19

We were riding together. It was the spring of our second year and the house was rebuilt, the children were as settled and adjusted as anyone could expect and we finally had some time to devote to ourselves. No genteel traveling for us, instead we packed up what we needed and struck out on our own, determined to put as much distance between civilization and ourselves as we could for the next ten days.

It was a delightful time, a small taste of our past years together, though certainly made much easier by ample provisions, sturdy clothing and fine mounts to carry us. Catherine was horrified, of course, but she knew better than to try to stop us, instead insisting that Jeremy provide some clue as to our destination and coming away with no information of any real value. This was a chance to relax, and a chance to finish something I had been working towards for several years by then.

“This reminds me of you,” Jeremy commented as we rode away from our third camp, beginning our climb in to the low hills. It was late spring, the air crisp and cool with just a hint of the coming warmth filtering with the sunlight through the trees above, and the taste of resurgent life permeating the air. Nature was done with her first wild explosion, preparing to settle in to the long grind of summer- kill, eat, die, and be eaten. I love the wilderness.

“Really? How so?”

“So calm and peaceful on the surface; beautiful and lively and inviting, but underneath it all, seething with all the passions and tragedies of the finest Shakespearean dramas. Nature has secrets hidden from the eyes of the common man… just as do you.”

I turned to look at him, knowing the question I had heard in his voice, but desiring to see it in his face. I said nothing. I wanted to see how much he had figured out for himself. Not that he could have possibly discerned the truth, but knowing his thoughts would help me with the remainder.

“It made sense to me at first, your being with me. You were so young and alone in that festering pit. I offered you a way out and you seized it,” he laughed then, just a chuckle, “you know, I nearly left without you? I thought you might be too much trouble.”

He stopped then as the trail disappeared and we had to guide the horses through a spot of rough terrain, letting them pick their footing. Once on better ground he picked up again.

“Later, once I realized how unique you were, I started to fear you would leave once we returned to civilization. I was so hopelessly in love with you and I had no idea how to tell you. I hadn’t felt like that since I was a boy of fifteen. I took as long as I could making our way back. As it turned out, that was unnecessary.

“The strangest part is even though you are such a mystery to me, I’m still absolutely certain that I know you, that I know your heart.”

Fate has never been a factor in my life. I have never once felt that some higher power was watching me, prodding me along one path or another, or placing obstacles in my way out of malice or any other motivation. I reject that, have always rejected it, even in light of what happened next.

I turned to smile at him, to begin to tell him things I ached to share with him… Something spooked the horses. Jeremy’s mount shied hard, but my Melody reared with a screech, turned, bucked, and I was airborne. I tucked in to a ball, arms covering my head just as I hit the soft loam. I bounced once and unfolded as my spine slammed up against something hard and unyielding, the blow driving a red fog across my eyes.

A scream splits the air, something primal, horrified, agonized: Jeremy. Jeremy is screaming my name. I try to draw breath and sickening agony is my only reward. My sight wavers, red to black. I try to move and fire ripples through my belly, the bitter salt of blood and bile filling my mouth as I try desperately to call out. My eyes lower and I stare at the glistening crimson stained spar of the broken tree limb upon which I am impaled.

Jeremy. He runs to me. His face… horror, pain, tears… I try to speak, but only blood… only blood… my right arm will not move, the left flails towards him and he falls to his knees. My lips try to mouth words, his name…

Jeremy… secrets…

He is talking to me, holding me… the pain shudders through the core of my body as he draws me off the limb. I collapse in his arms, my blood, everywhere, covering his coat, his trousers, his hands... He is weeping as I find the strength to grip his coat, to raise my face to stare in to his eyes…

Jeremy… don’t leave me… don’t leave me…

Lungs scream for air as the cold seeps inward, slowly at first, then faster and faster as sight darkens and contracts, the roaring in my head drowning out the words he whispers in my ears. I am fighting, terrified of this, terrified of this for the first time in a very, very long time, but there is no strength left, there is nothing…

Jeremy! Don’t leave me!

“I have been wondering, is there anything you cannot do?”

I lifted my eyes from my book and smiled at my husband, “Whatever are you talking about?”

“Mrs. Trembley. A woman who could not bring herself to offer a civil hello to the new Pastor for three years invites you to join her for Sunday Tea after only six months,” he settled in to his chair by the fireplace and stretched his hands towards the flames, “it’s a miracle.”

“Oh, not at all. It’s simple self interest and nothing more,” and with that I returned to my reading, but I was laughing when he swept out of his chair and caught me up, then pressed me to my back on the floor, his hands pinning my shoulders back.

“I’m afraid I require a little more detail in your answer!” He was grinning down at me as I struggled in his grip.

“Oh, very well, if you must know. Mrs. Tremblay’s oldest son is in the business of importing lumber from overseas, amongst other things. It seems he had an arrangement to procure a fairly large shipment of mahogany for a certain individual. Said individual turned out to be somewhat of a braggart and hasn’t the means to make payment. Now, I‘m certain that given some time another buyer would present himself, but there seems to be a problem of capital. The young man in question was faced with having to go to his creditors and ask for an extension of terms.”

Jeremy sat back, releasing my shoulders, laughing. “Why do I begin to suspect we are going to have many, many mahogany treatments in our new house?”

“Because you are a man of astounding perspicacity. And we are getting a reasonable bargain as well. All because I was able to approach Mrs. Tremblay in all innocence and enquire as to where she had obtained the beautiful pews she donated to the church.”

“I can imagine,” he reached for the top button of my nightdress and playfully worked it open, “and are you certain that there were no… overt application of feminine charms involved?”

And so it progressed, until an hour or so had passed and we were both spent, curled together on the bed. His right hand traced a lazy loop about my left breast, then down to my hip… and paused.

“Your scar is gone,” he noted, his voice a mix of tired happiness and curiosity, “I’d have wagered a healthy sum you would have been marked for life.”

“Are you complaining?” I asked, my voice light and amused.

“Hmmm, you laugh, but you’re blushing,” He laid his hand firmly over my left breast, “and your heart is racing.”

“My heart always races when you touch me,” I whispered, emphasizing the point by stretching, my body out against his, rolling on top of him again. I dropped my lips softly on to his, feeling him rise delightfully to the occasion.

“Be mysterious if it suits you,” he sighed, “Besides, I prefer you flawless.”

“Prove it,” I invited him. And he did so, splendidly.

Thursday, September 18

How do you tell somebody you love that you are not what you seem to be? How do you tell anyone that you are immortal?

I met Jeremy in California in 1829. We journeyed together across what was then northern Mexico, pretending to be an Irish couple to avoid problems with what few local authorities we encountered. Most of the land was wide open then and we managed to avoid the natives, who were somewhat of an unknown for me since I had had no dealings with them at all, though Jeremy claimed he had and I believed him. From the Pacific coast to Jefferson City it was an adventure the likes of which I had seldom experienced, and by the end of that trek I knew that I would be spending many more years with him.

He was an odd man. Not handsome by any measure, and small, barely taller than myself, but possessed of a wiry strength, wily mind and an optimistic wisdom that shone through whenever he graced me with a smile. In short, he was infectious in his likeability and somewhat of a rascal in his behavior. A Gentleman he was not, but he could fake it, and when people deserved it he could mean it, heart and soul.

We traveled across the States, staying wherever the night found us, sometimes under a roof, often under the stars. We huddled together through miserable rain and blinding snow with naught but our shared warmth to hold us against the chill. I nursed him back from the edge of death when his lungs were assaulted by pneumonia of immense virulence. By then we had been together for six years and he had begun to suspect that his lovely and fearless young lady had secrets both deep and profound.

That is how I told him, or at least how I began to. I let him see the true me in small pieces, and every part of me that I gave to him, he returned to me in his devotion, his trust, and his admiration. He never questioned how I had come to learn to survive in the wilds, or how I had learned to handle even the most bizarre situations with learned aplomb. He accepted it and adored me all the more for it.

Then came Philadelphia, 1836. Jeremy had an attorney in Philadelphia who handled all of his correspondence. He tried to check in with him yearly, but oft times it was longer than that. He would collect his letters and spend a few weeks composing responses, or writing to his family- then he would entrust those letters to the lawyer for delivery. In this case it had been a full two years since they had corresponded so we traveled to the city to meet with him personally. It turned out to be a fortuitous choice.

I remember the look on his face when he returned to the Inn- there was pain etched in every line of his countenance, but there was also an aura of anticipation, something immensely hopeful. Without a word he took my hand and led me up to our room where he motioned me to sit by the fireplace.

“What has happened?” I asked. He knelt before me and took my hands in his, his eyes moist with tears barely held in check. I could feel him trembling, and even though the confused pain he radiated I knew what his next words would be.

“Elaine, would you be content to settle down with me? To end this vagabond life and be my wife, the lady of my house? Will you marry me?”

“You already know the answer…” I began, but I could see his need to hear it, so I said it, “I would be proud to be your wife. I will be content to be by your side wherever we may be, whatever we may do. I will be your bride. Now, tell me…”

“My brother is dead… and Clarice as well.”

Dear, Lord! How? What…”

“There was a fire. Five of the children escaped, but Reginald and Clarice could not find little Sarah. They were trapped…” he gasped then, deep wracking sobs shaking his body as he laid his head in my lap and I folded my arms about him, holding him, just holding him until his sorrow was spent enough to let him speak again. He slipped from my arms, standing and composing himself and I could see a definite change in him for he had made several decisions, and now that his first had been made real, he knew he could move forward with the remainder. He knew that I would be beside him.

“I’ve been a very fortunate man. I was never able to sit still, I always wanted to see what was over the next hill, what was beyond the horizon. I have sailed the seas, and visited lands most people only know through the tales told by great men. My father never accepted this- he always thought me a failure, but not Reggie. Reggie envied me. He loved his wife and adored his children. He was a farmer and a gentleman through and through, but he would have lived my life if he hadn’t found his love first. He is the one who made my journeys possible; always willing to part with a little treasure just so he could receive letters from far-away places. In very many ways he bought me a freedom I could never have earned for myself.

“I’ve always known that someday I could be called to stand and account for his patronage of me. It’s somehow unseemly that I should be the benefactor of a man ten years my junior, no matter what the reasons.”

“You’ve spoken of Reggie before. I know he never once resented you, never once begrudged you the money he provided.”

“Of course not, never,” he smiled at me then and I saw that he was content with that, “but there is a debt, a moral debt. A debt of honor.” Somehow he seemed taller, stood straighter as he continued, “ I am responsible for his legacy. The news only arrived here three days prior. Mr. Hannaford was just setting about hiring men to find me when I arrived at his door. I am executor of Reginald’s estate and responsible for his children.”

He grinned a bit sheepishly then and I laughed. “You already wrote back, didn’t you!”

“Yes… I told them that I would return home… with my wife.”

“Presumptuous man!”

“I prefer ‘prescient’. Elaine, I am forty-six years old. I have never married, and I have no children. I know that you can give me none. I am content with that. I crave only your companionship…” and then he was silent for my lips were on his for a very, very long time.

The first year was wrenching for everyone. Jeremy’s family was wealthy, but wealth is a relative thing when counted in the context of that time. They had land and crops, and social standing, but Reginald’s accounts were hardly overflowing and Jeremy desperately wished to rebuild the house and move the children back to their own home though his sister, Catherine, was somewhat mistrustful of Jeremy’s judgment and even more so of me. I could hardly blame her on either account for Jeremy had remained in contact only with Reginald. Catherine insisted we remain in the guesthouse on her husband’s estate and much rancor ensued.

Four months in things were getting out of hand when I finally took receipt of a package I had requested from a law firm in Boston, Massachusetts. It arrived at Catherine’s attorney’s office, a deliberate act on my part for I needed her cooperation. We took a carriage together in to town and at the lawyer’s office I opened the package with Catherine in attendance. It contained a small locked wooden chest, which I opened with a key I had been carrying for years. The chest contained 300 gold coins, Spanish doubloons to be precise.

“My word!” Catherine exclaimed.

“My dowry?” I offered.

“Jerome never mentioned a dowry. I thought you had no family living.” Catherine was probing, trying to be polite, but desperate to learn all she could. She knew Jeremy from her childhood, but despite the past months she knew little to nothing of me. I was about to test her taste for scandal. I asked the lawyer to excuse us.

“Jerome never mentioned a dowry because I never told him of it.”

“You never…” her blue eyes widened, “You have kept this a secret for six years?”

“Not at all. You see, this money, it is no inheritance. It is my money. I earned it.”

She digested that information, then her eyes narrowed a bit and she asked “How?”

“I spent a few years in the British ruled islands. The Gentlemen from London pay handsomely for comely whores with refined manners. Less unsightly, you understand, easier to pass off as a visiting niece should the wrong people take notice of the goings on.”

She started to laugh, derision lighting her face, then she saw my eyes. “Oh, my God! You’re serious! My brother… oh!” This last came as the inevitable result of the combination of shock and tightly laced stays- Catherine wobbled and sought a nearby seat. I took little mercy.

“Your brother, my husband, is well aware of my past. Remember, we met in a Mexican port. He had some money and I had a supply of fine whiskey and a warm bed. We bonded instantly and after just a week he invited me to leave my sordid past behind and join him on his journeys. He knew a kindred soul when he met one. We have been inseparable ever since. When news of this tragedy reached him we married at once and travelled here.”

“Why…” she gasped, slowly recovering her breath, “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because Jeremy and I love each other. It is a love born of our own pasts, a love that we could never have found with anyone else. I never expected to find myself in a place like this, in a situation like this. I did not marry your brother to better my place in the world, I married him because he needed me to be his wife, so he could face this and conquer it, and because the thought of being apart from him was too painful to bear.

“You don’t trust me, Catherine, and if you started snooping about and having me investigated… things are already too sharp between us, between you and Franklin, and Jeremy and I. This must stop. I am being as honest as I can be with you because I hope you might understand that neither Jeremy, nor I, are looking to make off with the family fortune or to ruin reputations. We are here because we see a responsibility to Reginald, and Clarice, and the children. I am giving this money to my husband because he needs it to rebuild the children’s home. I am giving you the truth because we need you to be a partner in this, not an obstacle. Your distrust breeds ill will amongst people with whom we must live, who form the circles these children should be part of. If you can find it in your heart to believe we have no intention other than to do right by Reginald’s trust, then that, too, can spread amongst your friends, and perhaps then they can accept us freely and without reservation.”

Catherine sat very still, very silent and I could almost see her mind working, feel the conflict in her beginning to resolve. I took a seat across from her, quietly waiting for her to speak.

“I know that you love him,” she finally whispered, and then in a firmer voice, “it shows so clearly. And he adores you, that is unmistakable.” Her eyes lifted to meet mine. “I cannot even begin to… no, that is not what I want to say…”

“You will help us,” I whispered, but it was a statement, not a question. I had read her correctly.

“Yes… yes! We will put this behind us, a secret that none need know of,” she nodded, her conviction growing, “and you and Jerome will make your home here, and we will be family. I can respect your honesty with me, even if I can’t imagine… never mind, we should not speak of this again.”

Together we took my small treasure to her husband’s bank while I quietly patted myself on the back for working out a resolution to one of our many problems. Unfortunately I still had one very large secret to share, but that would have to wait.

Sunday, September 14

Greetings to those who found their way here from Dean's World. I am afraid that my political commentary has been sparse of late, but please do take a moment to browse.

Friday, September 12

I made a brief visit to Boston where a certain Safe Deposit Box contains certain things of little value to anyone but myself. From that box I retrieved a Diary, and a letter. Both are quite old, but the script on the diary is still familiar. I can remember the first line without looking:

“I am most insanely foolish to keep a reckoning such as this, but my Jeremy insists, and I shall deny him nothing.”

Should any care to know, this is all Etherian’s fault. Her fault, and the perverse creature Fate, turning my thoughts to love lost and pasts left to dust. Once I set the issue of William Travis to rest I found myself drawn to this place and these desires.

I spent a quiet afternoon on the Common reliving two glorious decades. And when I was done I had made a choice without ever realizing there was a question before me.

Thursday, September 11

September 11, 2001

I tend towards the emotionless when it comes to world-changing events. I was watching on television the morning of September 11, 2001, at a fitness center of all things. The news had cut to the story of a plane colliding with one of the towers while I was listening to some very well educated and very well meaning woman moan on about how horrible things were going to be under George W. Bush as we both sweated atop our LifeCycles. She was not one of those rabid ideologues, but she certainly disliked the man and his party.

The second plane hit the South Tower and I instantly put two and two together and came up with four. She did as well, just a few seconds later. She looked at me, slack-jawed, the understanding of what we had just witnessed clear in her eyes.

Understand that when this unfolded I never once doubted that the President had the mettle to face this challenge. I will go even further and tell you that had Albert Gore been President, or even William Jefferson Clinton, I rest assured that they too would have proven to be as American and as resolute as George W. Bush has been. You Americans always tend to underestimate your politicians.

The woman was looking at me, in shock.

“It looks like you have a war on your hands,” I told her.

“Oh… oh my God!”

“Don’t worry, honey. George won’t let you down.”

I left the gym and never went back.

I am not the person to commemorate this date. If you are looking for something more, something with the meaning and gravitas I cannot provide, I strongly recommend visiting two places. First, this excellent entry at The Lemon, proving that satirists understand the world at a level some can only dream of. Second, the Voices project by Michele Catalano of A Small Victory, where you can read the words of many people who seek to express their feelings or share their experiences of that day.

In the end, this date belongs to all of you, American and otherwise. Try to learn the lesson it offers.

Tuesday, September 9

No more politics until January. I promise. The pain is too deep.

Only fools expect that good deeds exact no cost.

Americans must recognise such costs, and count them in the pantheon of Nike. Should you fail to comprehend, the loss is surely yours. Embrace your Heroes. In the end, what else have you?

Saturday, September 6

I have been a good girl. I have avoided politics and world events for some time now, concentrating on what I most desired to write when I started this site. Still, there have been some tentative questions sent my way from those who found this site when I was initially dealing with the upcoming war in Iraq, and it has been a while, so…

Handicapping an American Presidential election more than a year before it takes place is an exercise for fools and masochists. Rather than look at the relative merits (or lack thereof) of assorted candidates, I would like to look at two core issues that must be dealt with by American voters in the next election.

One oft-noted characteristic of American politics is how the economy reflects on the President, even though the President has relatively little to do with the strength or weakness of the economy. In 2000 the world was witness to an incumbent Vice President losing the Electoral College vote while coming off of what was arguably the greatest economic boom in the nation’s history. Much has been made of how Al Gore essentially squandered his powerful advantages, and of course there is the on-going and moot non-debate regarding the Florida ballot; however, it is my contention that in 2000 one thing caused the Democratic candidate more pain than any other and that was the American voter finally seeing past the idea of the economy reflecting upon the relative merits of a Presidency. Failure to recognize this created an ideological blind spot for Gore and his campaign. They assumed strength of support that was not actually there and hence were vulnerable.

The upcoming election will not turn on the economy. For one thing the economy does appear to be improving and any candidate seeking to make hay against the incumbent by arguing the economy could be stripped of the weapons in his arsenal. Conversely the incumbent President can count only on less animosity and not some great ground swell of support from a resurgent economy. The 1992 admonition of “It’s the economy, stupid!” has lost its ability to motivate since the American voter finally seems to grasp just whom the word “stupid” actually referred to. The politics of Economy may yet return to the forefront, but not in this election. Bear in mind, of course, that I have been wrong before.

The obvious fulcrum of this election is the War on Terror, but it does not break down neatly in to a “for and against” dichotomy. For one thing all of the serious candidates opposing the incumbent President are essentially in favor of prosecuting such a war. Instead of promising to end the fighting and bring the troops home, they are arguing that they are better suited than the incumbent to handle the complexities and make the tough decisions. This is a shrewd move on the part of those seeking to unseat the current President. It is also an immense boon to the American voter.

These days I am a woman of leisure. I spend my time at the University, at the shopping malls, in the parks, at the movie theaters and the like. I spend my time listening. What I am hearing gives me hope. Americans, whether they are old or young, concerned of the world, or hedonistically aloof, seem to have a fairly firm grasp of what is at stake, a far better understanding than either the media or the politicians give them credit for. They fear the war, some even despise it, but consciously or subconsciously, they all understand what is at stake.

So the stage is set.

There is no certain method to determine if any given event is a cultural or historical turning point. One can see the signs, the hints of gravity surrounding events, but it is history and history alone that passes final judgment on such matters. Still, I can taste the suspense in the air surrounding this election, not only from the fanatical fringe elements of the political spectrum, but from all corners.

The question of this election is who can best prosecute this war to a successful conclusion. The best choice is by no means clearly defined. While I have been generally approving of the conduct of the current President I do hear the criticism of those who claim he has failed to make a strong case for sacrifice in the pursuit of the enemies facing the West, and I do not find their concerns to be unfounded - premature perhaps, but not unworthy of debate. For without the commitment of the American people this war can most assuredly be lost, and with that loss the best hope for the future of humanity could be lost as well.

At the peak of the power of the Roman Empire you would have been hard pressed to find any who would openly entertain the idea that Rome could fall, that her power could evaporate, that she could cease to be the center of the world. Oh, certainly there were some for the Romans had been taught the classical meaning of Tragedy by the Greeks, but by and large the response to such a notion would be to cast about and point to the magnificence, the wealth and the power on display as if that were all the response required.

You Americans are subject to the same sort of blindness. If the troops come home and Iraq is left a chaotic mess in the hands of some feeble United Nations protectorate, so what? What impact would that have on the average American? Would there be no television? No Super Bowl? No tacos at midnight? No Senior Prom? What would be the evidence that some classic Tragic Flaw had been allowed to go unchecked and uncorrected?

Again, history would have to be the judge.

Yet as I listen I discern the evidence of understanding: the realization that for good or ill the die is cast and to withdraw now would be folly of the most egregious sort. It is an uneasy sort of acceptance for this generation of Americans is not so accustomed to the concept of non-retractable acts. You are used to the concept of Warranty, and Insurance, and the protection afforded by the skilled attorney-at-law. Nonetheless, you are aware that a line has been crossed and most of you seem to understand that it was not your political leaders who crossed it.

The political process in America is chaotic by design and this causes some discomfort for those who feel they know with absolute certainty what should be done regarding the War. That the conduct of the War should be at the mercy of the political process at such a critical juncture makes many people uneasy regardless of their political orientation; however, this is the proper place for this debate. It belongs squarely in the political arena of a Presidential election for this is the only way for the clear consensus of the American people to be heard. The notion to fear is that no such consensus will emerge, but I suspect that will not be the case.

Americans need to become deadly serious regarding this struggle. You need to understand what is at stake, and what may be required of you as a people and a nation. At this moment in history America stands at the apex of world power. You are the wealthiest nation on Earth. You are the most productive people on Earth. All who hunger for education and desire to be at the cutting edge of research and discovery in the hard sciences seek after your universities. Your military power is unmatched. Your culture is unique in the world in its regard for the rights of the individual and its glorification of individual initiative and effort.

You Americans consume so much. You Americans produce so much. But that is not enough. You Americans are being called to step in to the cross hairs of History, to Stand To and march deliberately in to the crucible. The mission of forging a hopeful future for all of humanity is yours because there is no one else who can shoulder that task. Only you have the power to act. Only you have the treasure to spend. Only you have the cultural and political philosophy that can lead and prevail in this fight.

So, if the war is the central point, what is the question? Simply this:

Will you be warriors? Or will you be slaves?

Americans need to choose a President who can stand before them and tell them that there are real sacrifices to be made. Not higher fuel prices, not extra hassles at the airport, but Sacrifices with a capital “S”. Loved ones overseas. Loved ones lost. Lives on hold and dreams deferred or lost forever. Americans need to choose a President who can tell them these things and explicitly trust them to understand. You need to choose a President who will trust you to step up to the challenge.

You Americans need to understand that such leaders do exist, that there are some small number amongst those who will stand for election in November of 2004 who can do this. There are also several who cannot.

Choose wisely.

Monday, September 1

Awareness is an odd thing. One is tempted at all times to draw a fine, bright line between the time when there was no awareness, and the time where there was. Unfortunately, awareness is seldom so neatly defined. Even in the most extreme cases, there is a disconnect between when reality reveals itself and the mind recognizes and accepts that reality. Think of the crash victim who recalls the violence of an accident as something he witnessed rather than experienced, or the cuckold spouse who has all the evidence of unfaithfulness before him, yet cannot comprehend the betrayal.

By my loose reckoning it required nearly half a millennia to understand what I was and even longer to fully accept it. The evidence was there almost from the very beginning, but I was too addled, too primitive in my thoughts and emotions to comprehend my uniqueness.

Consider the following:

I came in to consciousness naked, swathed in furs, uncomprehending as an old woman bathed a wound in my scalp. She spoke to me in gibberish. All of this is very simple, very primitive- I had no language, no internal dialogue with which to make sense of what I was experiencing. The memories are jumbled, almost abstract- impressions of occurrence rather than narrative recollections. I remember Gtochk, the sour odor of thin brew on his breath, rolling me to my back, dumb and uncomprehending as he opened my thighs and taught me the first lesson that would guide me in my relationships with men for nearly three thousand years. I must have learned that lesson well for he named me his Precious Flower and kept me by his side for many winters despite my fruitless womb.

Gtochk’s people told tales. From them I learned that I was taken in a chance encounter with a wandering band, but the details were sparse, or else my recollection is poor. When famine threatened I was sold to another clan where my existence was more wretched as there was no one man to protect me, but I was desirable so I could survive by playing on the lusts of the younger men.

That which made me acceptable to men made me despised amongst women, but I was a hard worker as well and able to ingratiate myself to some small degree, deflecting the worst of the animosity by taking the most arduous and unpleasant tasks without complaint. It was always a selling point when I traded hands for my childlessness could not be concealed: no one willingly parted with healthy and desirable woman unless she was barren. I was sold as whore and beast of burden many times over and it never occurred to me to resent it. It was the way of life for me.

The first hint came the day an odd traveler guested in the roundhouse of my master, a man small and swarthy with a lilting cant to his voice. I was sent to entertain his bed for he had found favor with our chief and shaman, no small feat at a time when strangers were habitually slain. In the dwindling light of fading firelight, in the idle talk after pleasures taken he asked my age and I could not tell him for I could barely count beyond my fingers and toes. He taught me the basic skill of counting (incidentally doubling my value in years to come) and I totaled the winters I could remember, then lied and told him thirty-three because one hundred and thirty-three seemed a ridiculous number. Even then I understood instinctively that honesty would not serve me well in that regard. To be unusual was ill advised.

A second clue. For the first time I was turned out in to the cold of winter- food was short, I was a luxury, and there were no buyers. I knew enough of the basic skills of survival to find shelter and fire, and I did not starve though there was little of nourishment to be found. I slept through much of that time, rousing only when fortune brought some prey close enough for my sling to fell. When spring arrived I knew better than to seek out those who had abandoned me to the wilderness. I struck out on my own and passed ten winters in solitude- the first of many such interludes over the centuries. By then I was counting myself at nearly three hundred and I wailed to the sky, pleading to know why. What had I done to deserve such misery?

A hunting party gathered me in, a fair bit of prey for their entertainment. I could have eluded them. Perhaps I could have killed them as I had become quite skilled with my small bow. But I hungered for the company of people, even for the brutal lust of men, and in the end they were not so brutal, being amenable to my charms. I entered again in to the dangerous game.

I knew I was older than anyone I had knowledge of. There were myths and tales of ancient ones, but they offered nothing to me. Those of legend had power, what had I but a comely form and a strong back? Every new clan, every new cult, and every new god I preyed to, sacrificed to, pleaded with. I sought deliverance, and end to this pointless existence. Yet it never occurred to me to deliberately attempt to put an end to my life by my own hand. It was just as well.

The final clue, the one that crystallized my understanding, came after many decades of dwelling with people. Another terrible winter after a terrible harvest. The man who called me his own led me out in to the wild in the company of one of the elder women and I thought I was to be turned out again. I had seen this coming of course, so I had a good idea of where I would go, but something was wrong. He was tense, far more upset than I would have expected and the woman, Katka, radiated a certain malevolent pleasure that I at first attributed to my departure- she despised me, and she was a vicious, vindictive sort.

“Far enough,” she said, and I looked to my man, then gasped as Katka’s wiry arms seized my own, drawing them up and back behind me, “This is the end of the trail for you!” she laughed in my ear.

“I don’t understand!” I cried, but then I saw the blade. I looked in to his eyes; saw his unhappiness, his determination as he reached for me, pulling open my cloak and my tunic to expose my chest. I smiled at him. “It’s better this way,” I whispered, “strike true.”

I could feel Katka’s disappointment. She had so wanted to hear me beg for my life. I trembled in fear and excitement, an intensely sexual thrill coursing through my body as I lifted my head, arching my spine to offer a clearer target. I could feel the conflict rising in him, but Katka broke the spell.

“Do you expect me to hold her forever? Do it!”

“Makta!” he cried, and his fist lunged forward, plunging the blade in to my chest, the edge perpendicular to my breastbone, entering inside the curve of my left breast, seeking and finding my heart in an expert stroke. It did not even hurt; rather it drove the breath from me, my chest collapsing inward from the force of the blow. Breath would not come and my knees buckled as Katka released me, letting me drop to my knees as he stepped back, drawing the knife from my chest. Vision wavered as I saw crimson stained snow, then I could support myself no longer, falling forward in to the cold and darkness, a throbbing, pulsating roar of sound filling my ears as their voices receded. I embraced the darkness, welcomed it, invited it to envelope and consume me, erase me, make an end to this, to everything…

Cold and pain and aching pressure in my chest dragged me from the embrace of the nothingness I craved. My body shook and I could feel the thin stream of air torturously drawn in to my lungs, slowly filling me with breath, then a wracking, agonizing coughing exhalation; thick, vile goo spitting from my throat, fouling my mouth, forcing me to full awareness. Hands sought purchase, trembling arms lifted me and another breath entered me, much easier now that the clotted blood and mucus had been expelled, then made its exodus in a scream of rage and anguish. I probed at my chest with numb fingers- the wound was barely perceptible.

Cold, and starving, and betrayed I tried to stand, but slipped and fell back, landing across a frozen hump in the snow. Rolling over I struggled to my knees, feeling fur under my bare hands. Uncomprehending I swept aside the snow to reveal… Katka? She was on her back, but her head was twisted, her neck quite emphatically broken, shock frozen on her face. In my state I was unable to appreciate the irony of it all. I began tearing at her clothing, stripping the furs from her frozen body, wrapping myself in a desperate attempt to shelter myself from the biting cold. And through it all the gnawing ache in my belly grew stronger, more insistent, a scent touching my nostrils through the dry, frosty air: tantalizing, intoxicating. Raw meat.

“I don’t think so!” I shrieked in to the coming darkness. Not that cannibalism was new to me: it happened, on occasion. But Katka, and uncooked? No.

Forcing myself to my feet I sought my bearings and set out west… but stopped after only three steps. I could not think, could not force my feet to move, my body trembling violently as the hunger became like fire within me, warming me even as it sapped my strength further. I felt under my garments for the knife I had secreted there what felt like an age ago. I drew it out and turned- Katka’s body lay stretched out in the snow.

After all, what difference did it make? He had left us to be food for beasts. I sank down beside the body- once the decision was made I wasted no time. The knife bit in to the frozen meat of the thigh, cutting, tearing at the tough flesh until a strip came free. The first mouthful was the hardest. The meat was grainy and tough, and so cold it was tasteless, at least at first. After that it did not matter what it tasted like: I fed like a starved animal…

I had a small cave in mind- easy to seal off from the wind, if not terribly roomy, and far enough from the village to avoid being detected. I dragged Katka’s carcass behind me, my mind fixed solely upon my destination and reaching it before dark. The sky cleared offering bright moonlight to make the last leg of the trek possible, but the temperature plummeted as well. The cave was south facing, really just a depression in the hillside, but I had spied it years before and any time I had a chance I had done my best to prepare it against need: there was wood and flint and soon there was a fire.

Katka’s frozen, colorless eyes regarded me from the edge of the circle of firelight.

“You don’t know how lucky you are, old woman. And how did you wind up dead, anyhow? Did you put him up to killing me? You always hated me, so I guess that’s probably what happened. I’ll bet you just laughed a little too loud, and now there you are, and here I am. You know, if I could give you back your life and take your place out there, I’d do it. But since I can’t… if it’s any consolation, you taste terrible.”

The fire snapped and muttered at me, only just blunting the bitterness of the winter night. I was alone in a way I had never truly allowed myself to understand before. When he produced that knife I was so certain that finally, finally this would end. Instead here I was, with only flames and the dead for company.