The City of Magic - Chapter 13
had taken Inno to a small food corner and bought for her a piece of sweet bread with the money that Piety had given me. We sat there she ate the bread holding it in her little fingers. There were a few stout men sitting on a table thrown a bit far from us. They were eating too much and seemed too disgustfully voracious.
“You guys from Gula make our stalls grow fatter!” a waitress remarked as she dropped a tray of meat on their table. They didn’t respond to her, but just jumped on the meat and began tearing chunks of bites off it.
“Why are they eating like that?” Inno asked.
“They might be very hungry,” I said.
“But, why do they eat like that even if they’re so hungry?”
“Because their hunger is of a different kind.”
“Like a pig.”
I pondered at my own misery and wondered the meaning of it all. Or, was the desire for meaning itself a misery of delusion, I wondered. I felt lone, disillusioned, and pointless, except for the fact of Inno. Perhaps, if not for her, I would have lost purpose. Immediately, my mind began engaging in thoughts of how to reach Piety and Faith, perhaps also deliver Religare, and then someway find a way out of this vortex of darkness. “What should I do next?” I wondered as everything ahead looked bleak and impossible. I thought about the map. “If there is a “where” to go, there will be a road to it; it would only be meaningless to build a road in the darkness to just nowhere… I know where I need to go now; I only need to discover the route…. There will be many routes; many of which, of course, not even mentioned in the maps of this City, for these are not explicit. I must discover one of those…” It seemed to me to be a plausible idea. “Once I get there, and the mission is done, then…., then” I wondered. I had reached to the end of myself and at a new cycle of frustration.
“You seem to be in grave consternation!”
I turned to my right a saw a lean middle-aged man sitting on a chair close by, smiling at me. He wore a simple and neat white shirt tucked into his brown trousers and had a certain curly waves of hair on his head that evidently couldn’t be groomed. His face looked casual and carefree. He wore a gold ring on his left finger, and a brown thread on his right.
“I saw you arrive with Clever. He has a particular dislike for me, you know… Well, these businessmen, they look at me as some kind of an omen. But, I do surprise them with my unwits sometimes.”
“Who are you, Sir?” I asked.
“Shouldn’t I have asked you the same? But, it doesn’t matter what or who you are to me or to anyone, isn’t it so? Of course or perhaps or may be not; whatever…” he drew his chair close to me and spoke in whispers with a crystal spark in his eyes, “The truth is that truth is a catchword; reality is a myth; existence is a game of accommodative meanings that we create in order to be who we are and find our own identity. That’s where frustration strikes hard. Instead, why don’t just let go, then you’ll see magic in every shade of hue, in every breeze of the wind, in every blade of grass, and every twist of the atom. Let things be what they are and let things be known as they let themselves appear. Suffering results from overstraining of the brain to accommodate the world to an attribute that doesn’t belong to it, namely meaning.... Isn’t that strange?”
“I don’t get what you say,” I replied feeling even more strained by what he said.
“You don’t get it because you strain to link things together into a meaningful story. You don’t realize that a story is only beautiful because it happens, because it is let to happen so.”
“What has happened to me is not so meaningful after all!”
“But, isn’t it beautiful?”
“How can something be beautiful without being meaningful?”
“If you just experience it without any demand whatsoever.”
“That’s passive subjection, enslavement.”
“What is not?”
“The butterfly dances to the rhythm of the wind flapping wings with colors from the rainbow, the peacock prances with the air of a king spreading feathers in a fanlike show; the mortals covet their beauty and sigh and moan casting their faces low, not realizing that it’s their covetous ambition that turns them into the world below. But, just let it go, let it go. Let be what the rhythm of this dice-play calls for. Be the dance, be the prance, then you’ll be beauty without straining to see the beautiful.”
“Are you a dance teacher?”
“Yes, perhaps… but, perhaps, more a dance maker?”
“Who are you?”
“I am Chance…”
“And, I am his sister Fate,” a young lady came by him and said, sitting on another chair. She was a tall and elegant looking lady, with chiseled and determined features, except for those dark rings around her eyes. “You got a lovely kid there!” She smiled pointing at Inno. Inno didn’t smile; she turned just to munching again.
“Yes, thanks!” I said, “I’m delighted to meet you both.”
“Delight is a word foreordained,” Fate smiled and replied. I noticed that her smiles were mingled with some sort of rigidity composed of indifference; quite difficult to distinguish one from the other.
“It is a matter of coincidence,” Chance objected.
“Aha, brother, there again, how often would you flip the dime; for can you see through the rigors of Time that the flip and the dime are both altogether the play of Fate?”
“Or the dance of Chance?” he gave a mischievous smile.
“Fate plays the dice and the dice dances by Chance,” she replied, raising an intelligent brow.
“What dice?” I asked.
“Let’s ask the child,” Fate proposed. Then turning to Inno, “What is your name, child?”
“Innocence!” Inno stopped munching and replied.
“Good! Do you like to dance or do you like to play?”
She didn’t say anything but, only looked at her as she would at a stranger. Then, I saw her eyes moist and tears roll her cheek. I immediately left my chair, and picked her up in my arms, trying to console, saying “No worries baby, it’s alright, it’s alright.” Then, turning to Fate and Chance, I apologized, “I’m sorry, she might be a bit afraid of strangers!”
“So, she doesn’t happen to be your child, then?” Chance remarked. Then watching my dismay, “Well, you used the word might.”
“Oh, yea. She’s my niece. I met them after long, and I thought to show her the Fair.”
“Yes, go on, you should. Hope she’ll forget all this embarrassment and soon find some laughter in store with dance or play,” Chance turned to Fate and to us and smilingly said.
“Thank you! And, enjoy the Fair,” I greeted them as I left.
“The same with you!” they conjoined.
There was a merry-go-round on one corner and a few benches strewn around it. I asked Inno, “Would you like to go in it?”
“No!” she replied, “Can we sit on the benches there instead!” she pointed at them and asked. “Yes,” I replied. The kids were all jolly on the merry-go-round, the parents and elders standing by with merriment in their eyes and gestures; some screaming, some laughing, and some playfully dancing in the prodigal lightings of this night city’s Fair. One round of the merry-go-round had slowed to an end. A few alighted and a few others boarded it. I turned to Inno and saw that she was smiling, looking at the children. “Would you like to go in it?” I asked again. “Na!” she replied without turning towards me, still looking at the kids and smiling.
“The dance of Chance or the play of Fate…” I thought, as my eyes followed the direction where I had left Fate and Chance. They had disappeared. “Or both?” I asked myself. I wondered what all of this meant. “Where might have they disappeared?” I thought. “Wow, doesn’t it all look like a big dream and my own thoughts and acts… are they still my own or the outworking of a dream that I take as real… Can one change the direction of a dream? If someone could tell me; but that someone would also first have to enter my dream, and be part of the dream? Then, how could I trust him?” My consternation increased. Inno looked at me and at that moment I relaxed down and smiled.
“Can I have a look at your scroll, Sir?” she asked interrupting all my thoughts. I didn’t ask why. Perhaps, she had seen something that got her curious about this. Whatever, I at least felt relieved that she was in a playful disposition. I took out the scroll and rolled it open before her. The image of a cat playing with a ball was in it. Inno laughed. Then, I noticed that the ball once looked like a mouse and once like a ball. When it looked like a mouse, the cat pounced upon it; when it looked like a ball, she played with it. Whenever the cat pounced on the mouse, it turned to a ball. Inno laughed. “It’s neither this nor that!” I thought to myself. The thought struck me and I asked myself, “Why do I always only look at everything as either/or…Do I know all the options, yet? Isn’t there something greater than this all?”
A siren rolled, and then a voice called: “Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lady Avaritia addresses in a while! Citizens are requested to gather at the Center to witness the wrapping up of the Fair.”
Immediately, I saw stalls closing down, the gamers finishing with the last rounds, and people hurrying in the direction of the Center. I arose with Inno in my arms and proceeded in the same direction, when I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned back.