And How Should I Begin?

Characters: Dunstan Kordieh

In a small but pleasant bedroom on the fourth floor of the Brakiri Embassy in Yedor, Dunstan Kordieh was studying a poem. He had just decided to try reading it aloud — he’d learned that Karvos was right, and this was often a good way to find new insights.

 Let us go then, you and I,
 When the evening is spread out against the sky
 Like a patient etherized upon a table;

He’d already read through “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” almost a dozen times, and it resonated in such an intense way that he’d almost forgotten why he was here at all.

 Streets that follow like a tedious argument
 Of insidious intent
 To lead you to an overwhelming question ...

It was hard for him to believe, no matter how earnest Karvos had been about it, that on this night, someone would come back from the dead to visit him. Most of the dead he could think of would hardly have anything complimentary to say about him anyway, he reflected. Then he sighed gently. Bitterness and self-pity weren’t going to do him any good.

The poem, however, spoke to something that was very real. He could see himself in the body of Eliot’s Prufrock all too well.

 Time for you and time for me, 
 And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
 And for a hundred visions and revisions,
 Before the taking of a toast and tea.

He remembered now, a tiny fragment of a life long gone, sitting over breakfast with Katia. Almost a year ago it must have been; he had just come aboard the Phoenix and she was briefing him on his duties.

He’d barely noticed her then, of course; he’d had no eyes for the soft sweep of raven hair against her neck, the gentle curve of waist into hip, or the intensity of her haunted violet eyes.

But now, in memory, he did, and it brought him to the edge of terror. He’d never had any real friends, let alone woman friends.

Let alone lovers.

And the pain that had driven her to his arms, shattered by failure and loss which at that moment seemed eternal, would pass in time. And when it did, would she really care about him? What could he possibly say, or do, to appeal to her then?

 Would it have been worthwhile
 If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
 And turning toward the window, should say:
 	"That is not it at all,
 	That is not what I meant, at all."

Dunstan bit his lip. He could almost hear her voice as he read the words. He loved her, he knew that. And he had seen a vision of their future together. But the future is nothing but a vision, and anything — the flap of a butterfly’s wing, the breakdown of a particular atom at a particular moment, a random thought — anything, could change it.

 Shall I part my hair behind?  Do I dare to eat a peach?
 I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
 I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
 I do not think they will sing to me.

He sighed again, looking out the window. Darkness had fallen completely now, but the lights of the city seemed milky, their usual crystalline brightness filtered through some sort of haze. He wondered what that could be.

He looked back down to the page, but suddenly another voice was speaking the words. A voice that was an echo of his own.

 We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
 By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
 Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

“I didn’t know you’d ever gone in for Eliot, Dunstan.”

Gasping, searching for a thought in a mind that had none except that madness had returned, Dunstan Kordieh stared into the face of his twin.

Copyright (c) 2000 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.


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