|Divine Comedy Is Everywhere|
Awakening the Fool
The fool sleeps. Lost in the many covers of his slumbering lover's bed, he knows no other place he'd rather be.
It always seems like a good idea--this relationship. How could it not? So many games to be played. Such harmless foolishness. But once wrapped in her many veils, Maya's hot breath and imploring words lead him further and further along until he dances ridiculously at her slightest whim to please this temptress.
A sliver of light slides through a fortunate crevice in the heavy blinds to needle his eyelids as he lies in a bed where he is not the first nor will he be the last. The soft down has stiffened in places. The sultriness of the night before has faded into the sticky hardness and foul breath of the morning.
He coughs and gurgles the phlegm of the early hours. Its sour taste reminds him of his latest cycle of folly. He observes the fallout.
Shoes. Several pairs of shoes. Too many shoes, really. He hopes that other than the brown loafers that the rest are hers because in all honesty, he can't remember what happened last night. Pants. A bra. Shirts, one partly torn. Underwear--one pair of which hangs onto the corner of a dresser all the way across the room. Not sure how that happened. He smiles.
Somewhere in the house, a phone's ringtone sings "Bad Medicine." Even at this distance, the sound reverberates uncomfortably in his head, as a dull, deepening hangover takes the place of the evening's alcohol buzz. He wonders if he will puke.
He kicks out his legs over the side of the bed and jerks up his left foot which has found a used syringe. Swears under his breath. He checks for damage.
He shoves a reluctant leg into a pair of jeans when he hears her roll over. Heavy, smeared eye-shadow flutters away as she opens her eyes.
"Come back to bed, dear."
"Ah, I can't. Gotta go to work and all."
She pouts her lower lip at him. "That's no fun."
She reaches out one hand to tug on the crook of his waist while the other reaches up to pull the blinds completely shut. "We had fun last night, didn't we?"
"Oh yeah," he smiles, his body already falling backwards into bed. "Lots of fun."
"Don't you want to have a little more?" She croons other soft, sultry syllables that draw him away from the edge so that he forgets the work ahead and disappears back into her.
And the day melts away into blackness. His perspective darkens more and more, and even as she takes other lovers--tantalizes and torments them, he is still devoted to her. He follows her everywhere and does everything that she wants him to do. At the instant he falters, she wails tempestuously, shouting and pounding her fists on him. She can't lose his attention, but he doesn't understand any of this. He doesn't understand his power in the matter or what power is even. He simply obeys what is set before him and lets Maya lead him on.
It was just after such a tirade when lost in thought, he began to wander for many long hours. Her words and proclamations rang in his ears about being alone, an outcast, and dead in a gutter without her. Befuddled, he suddenly realizes that he does not recognize the road he is on. Swearing at his stupidity, he does his best to re-direct himself, but instead of finding his way back, he comes to a clear lake that he'd never seen before.
Gazing into the water, he sees an image of himself, but he is struck by a terrible visage. He grabs his face in disbelief. He runs his hands over it, pulling at tufts of scraggly beard and pushing around sagging folds of flesh. The pain of his reality strikes him as he rips a tuft free, and he begins to cry. He wails for a long time until he notices an old man sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons. The old man is laughing.
The fool swipes at the tears. He splashes water on his face from the lake to regain his dignity, but he only looks worse. The matted hair, unshaven beard with a patch now missing, and hollow eyes still stare back at him.
The old man continues to laugh. He gazes with eyes that are unafraid to see.
"What?" The fool asks.
The old man doesn't respond. Just laughs even more.
"What are you laughing at?"
"Why, you, of course."
It's an obvious reply, which undercuts the stupidity of the question. He suddenly realizes that he is used to asking stupid questions. He pauses for a second to think of something intelligent to say, yet nothing arises.
"You look like you're having a hard time," the old man observes.
The fool nods still racking his brains for a clever comment.
"Would you like to sit on this bench awhile?"
With nothing coming to mind, he nods again and sits down by the old man.
The sun at its zenith encases the two in the full clarity and intensity of the day.
"You seem to be a very unhappy fellow," the old man notices, still spreading his crumbs to the pigeons that peck hungrily before him.
Irritated by the question, the fool tries again. "You know feeding them will just make them dependent on you."
"Not if you use the right food," the old man responds.
One pigeon sated by the crumbs suddenly stops, swivels its head, and flies away.
"Oh come on, I'm sure he'll come back," the fool replies.
The old man shakes his head. "You must be pretty tired of living by her rules by now."
"How do you know about her?" the fool demands.
The old man leans over with a smile in his eyes, "You are not the first she's deluded, my friend." He starts to laugh again.
With that, the fool stomps off, running into a fire hydrant in his haste. The old man laughs harder. Swearing and waving his arms, the fool makes a retreat, but as night settles back in, he can still hear the laughs. The old man's words stick in him like thorns. Something numb feels like it's come to life and throbs with an acute pulse that he does not like, but strangely welcomes. Late in the evening, he finds the decrepit old house that Maya lives in. He feels like he is looking at it for the first time. Rotted, infested, and probably a violation of nineteen health codes, he wonders how he's been able to live there.
The wooden steps creak their welcome as he opens the door. He hears laughter along with the inane sounds of rock music, the clinking of glasses, and other noises from the basement. He already knows the scene, and descending once again, he sees her surrounded by partners who are all wrapped up in her chains and ropes. Some of her partners have grown massive and corpulent, gorging themselves on the experiences from those chains. Amidst thick, buttery slabs of their own fat, they are buckling under their weight. While others in their pursuit of her illusory love have gotten thinner and thinner. Their chests caved inwards, they are suffocating in Maya's binds. He sees the powdered glass, dirty wrappers, and empty bottles and cans. He sees all the things that are supposed to bring pleasure, but instead bring torment. Then he sees himself in a cracked mirror on the stairwell. Fissures run everywhere through his face. He sees the ruin that he has become and the road soon coming. Yet, one reflection is still smiling. From an angle he's never seen before, he can see a part of himself grinning a crazy grin in the center of the brokenness. He reaches a hand to this part.
Maya sees this. Others have come to this point before. So she begins her little song. The same little song that won him back that first time long ago.
He hears this. He feels her trying to wrap back around him. He hears the promises, the pleasures. But his fingers continue towards that gleeful smile amidst the many reflections of pain. He wants to touch something that he has not seen in himself before.
Her smile vanishes from the images caught in the mirror. They turn to frowns, and the many insatiable mouths open into screams. She hurls all the old ropes, knots, and ties at him.
But his reach won't be denied. The connection is made. He understands.
He turns from the fragments of the mirror to see her in her truth. A crinkle alights at the corners of his eyes. He begins to laugh.
Beet red in the face, she races after him, but he is becoming too quick for her. Up the stairs, down the hallway, and to the door, he dashes. She tells him that she's kicking him out, but he knows the truth. He knows that he's leaving. She can't kick him out. She doesn't have it in her. It's not her game. She doesn't want to let go of any of her partners that are bond to her in her big mansion of lies and illusory pleasures.
"You fool. You don't know what you're doing," Maya screams.
"You were right. But now you are wrong. I know your games. I know your tricks. I know your devilish ways with the curves of your hips." And he laughs and chortles and guffaws in new ways that he had not heard from himself before.
He pauses just at the door, knowing he's about to leave it all. And without a backward glance, he strips off all of his clothes. He strips away pretentious jeans and preposterous shirts. He pulls away all that is burdening him and then does naked cart wheels out on the front lawn. He calls to the others, the many sisters and brothers still wrapped in her games.
"Oh she is no lady. She is no saint. Maybe we should all get together and paint." Rhyming and riffing, the fool prances and twirls. Each time, he pauses she tries to ensnare him again, but he eludes it with his ridiculousness and absurd dances, shouting more riddles and jabs.
"Oh come now, come come. This is no fun. Take off your veils and let go your ropes. This world is already so full of dopes."
Before long, Maya sees that others have watched this fool and are now unwinding themselves from her. She hurries back to her lair to weave her webs and snares amidst the darkness of their collective ignorance.
Finally, he remembers the work that he's forgotten--the work that he had feared and longed to do. But instead of the discomfort he'd feared, he finds beautiful ease in it. He joyfully works his way through many tasks, singing, dancing, and leaping as he goes. Many beautiful moments pass until he finds himself back by the lake where the little old man is still sitting and still laughing.
The fool does a crazy dance and offers a quick riddle.
"What is it that is lost, but also found?"
The old man laughs and claps his hands. "Yes, yes. You see it now. At last. At last, you see the joke."
(You can read the interpretation of the allegory on this link.)