The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Category: Letter

In a Deep Well

Dan DaminghaAutumn succeeds to the late Berlin summer: gold streaks appear through the foliage of the Tiergarten, and along the canal. Step by step life resumes: Sarah – Melissa – Helga, and Julian. In his searching mind, it is a pentagram, and one vertex is still missing. Does he expect Gabrielle, the historian? Or, perhaps, the older Melissa? He cannot tell, but he knows, that someone would soon be there, completing the magical polygon.

The three women often go out in Neukölln, or Kreuzberg, walking, cycling, shopping, or to exercise in an exclusive women-only gym Melissa had discovered in Schöneberg. He does not feel excluded, rather the opposite. He has started relishing a kind of daylight solitude, in the full knowledge that later in the day, or the evening, they would be four again. On the banks of the Landwehr canal the chestnut trees are wearing their cloak of mystery, as he runs, tireless, breathing in the essence of the city, all the way to the Spree, and back to their place.

Now at the apex of her modelling career, his sister has written to him from far away places, attentive, caring, even flirting. She joins them for one long weekend, at once blending with the other three ladies as if she has just left yesterday. They talk of fashion, of the approach of winter, of Jane’s new assignment in Russia, and of books. Sometimes Julian surprises himself, as he imagines being at the bottom of a deep dry well, as Toru Okada once was, listening and seeing a small sector of the sky from far down, awaiting the special ray of the sun.

In the evening they invade Italo, and he recalls the many times he has been there, alone with Sarah, with his wife and Melissa, and as they are tonight, the completed pentagram. The Berlin night sky is clear, and the air chillier that it has been in recent days. The candles light plays on the faces of his friends, Melissa smiles at him, blows him a kiss.

On Monday morning Sarah and Melissa take Jane to Schönefeld, to catch her flight to Saint Petersburg. Julian stays at home with Helga, talking about the East, and what could happen next, as they sip coffee. Mahler floats in the fresh air of the lounge, teasing the morning sunlight. Helga is pessimistic about peace, and talks about “their” findings on the years that preceded the first world war: how the slide to war had happened, despite, or maybe because, of the fear that very prospect inspired to most people. She explains that war has its logic, and that beyond some threshold, that logic takes over human destinies, whatever governments and people attempt to do: then the future is no longer controllable by human will. It is not merely the interplay of alliances, promises and prejudices, the consequences of fear, it is the work of the Devil himself. Julian looks at his friend, incredulous. Helga is evoking evil, a weird, anachronistic, unscientific concept, for her exceptional mind. He has surprised her using clichés before, and wondered if it was her way to tell him she had abandoned all pretence of superior knowledge. She smiles, acknowledging she has been caught.

Julian sees that Helga has changed, in subtle ways. In the middle of their conversation they stop, looking at each other in silence: she holds his gaze, and, at the end, he is the one who surrenders. He is much in love with her face and expressions, remembering how cold and icy she used to be, once upon a time. He can no longer pretend ignoring her sensual lips. Sarah calls to say that Jane’s flight is delayed and they are keeping her company as she waits. She gives instructions to Julian for lunch. Helga and him decide to go out shopping. The other two will meet them later at the little coffee shop in Bergmannstraße.

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An enchanted circle

Bene Tleilax My sister’s letter precipitated events. Through Sarah – evidently my only way to her – I contacted Melissa. Finally we met, not in the old house, not in a dream, not on Andromeda: more practically at the coffee shop at Foyle’s bookshop on Charing Cross Road.

Jane is right: my friend is perfect, not a blemish, all sober clothes and a smile which is still troubling, and incredibly seductive. What a beautiful woman Melissa is. Jane’s confession has left me in a state of jealousy: the women in my life are all good buddies, and more, and I feel bypassed. I told Melissa how I felt. We drank delicious coffee, looked at each other, and I remembered our first contact, her page, her meeting with Jane: was this reality? Nothing could be more real than us, talking, looking at the passersby in the street, here in London. She smiled and suddenly I wondered, and I asked her, since I could no longer hide my doubts. “Are you real? Or are you an artefact they – whoever they are – have created to confuse us?”

There was a pause. She was observing me, then took my hand: hers was warm, and I felt the contact of her hand as it was before, in the little town: a strong woman’s hand, the hand of a lover. “No, she said,” her smile now a sad reflection of what it had been a minute ago, “there is no artefact, I have just been lucky to meet Gabrielle”. And she added: “and I thought you were too…” I felt ashamed, and took her other hand, and replied: “Please pardon me, it has all been a lot to absorb. Since we met Elga I have felt overwhelmed. Then Jane told me about the two of you, and I felt encircled. The three of you, Sarah, Jane and you, Melissa, get on well, and I should be happy to have you as my friend.” Slowly Melissa came closer and kissed me, a light kiss on the forehead. “I know Julian. You should stop worrying. I am not here to intrude on your family. And I am no alien object. I am of flesh and blood. Your sister and me are very close, and we both adore you.” I thought of this enchanted circle: the beautiful wife, the loving sister, and the long-lost friend. The subject of a love story. I smiled to Melissa: “Thank you: I used to be a troubled young man, and now I am a just as troubled old one!” We laughed – the green eyes were probing me. Through Melissa’s gaze I felt many eyes were on me. I remembered the story – in Dune – of the Tleilaxu magicians who replaced Duncan Idaho’s lost eyes.

Then Melissa asked: “Did Jane tell you that Elga would be visiting us soon?” I replied she had. And I was wondering if Elga would appear to us as she did when we met on her planet. “Yes, said Melissa, Elga is as you met her: a beautiful woman, and an academic.”

I could hear the sound of waves rolling on the thin grey sand under a violet sky and three moons.

Dear, so dear brother… (sisterly #love)

Jane I am ever so pleased to see you Julian: you look well, you have left behind the worried eyebrows you wore for some time. I know Melissa and you are reconciled. I can tell from your look and hers. And I know what you think: she’s perfect isn’t she? She’s no ghost from the past that young woman, but someone who cares for you, who admires your work, who follows your progress. She reads what you write, she’s made comments on her page: have you visited her page Julian? She’d follow you everywhere if you were alone. I’m smiling as I say this. She cannot and would not compete with Sarah: they also love each other very much… But I know you know that too.

I now think that the past matters very little. Yes of course you have your memories: but you live in the present, don’t you? At best those images – for that is what they are – are a mere backdrop, perhaps material for your writing, an inspiration for some short story, or maybe even your next novel… Your life is now. Sarah says what you learnt from Gabrielle and Elga has made you think again. I am glad. Hopefully this will find its way in your writing too: not a remembrance of things past, but our futures, our future, yours, Sarah’s, Melissa’s and mine. I feel that we are now inseparable. You know that Melissa and I are lovers. Looking back at our first meeting on Chi, it was inevitable. She cannot love you as she no doubt wanted, so there is me, your sister (I sense your puzzlement). This way she won’t trouble you. And I must say, I don’t regret anything: she’s a wonderful companion, she loves Sarah, and, yes, she still think of you as the unattainable young man she, or whoever preceded her, knew long ago.

But let’s not stir the nostalgia: we enjoy our relationship, Melissa and me, and we love you deeply, brother. Melissa says that Elga was impressed by Sarah and you, the way you listened. I understand that she – Melissa – and Elga are often corresponding. She also said that to understand the science the coven has at their disposal, you need to think of nanotechnology, the art of molecule-level engineering. They are working at the pico level, a millionth time smaller in scale, making engines from particles, building new assemblies with those electrons and pions our physicists are still struggling with. You know the recent asteroid, the one that crashed in the Urals breaking a lot of glass? Melissa said that, while she could not be sure, she thought the coven uses asteroids to spread planets with small “observers”, tiny recording devices that feed back all sorts of measurements, not only in the visible light spectrum, to their labs… Amazing isn’t it? I can see that Melissa admires them, with reason. By the way, Elga will pay a visit here soon. Mel will let us know when and where. I love you.

Your sister, Jane.

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