I had doubts.
You don’t disturb a smooth-running bureaucracy with impunity. There are reasons for all those regulations.
What is more, I was not unhappy down here. I was not happy, either — such words don’t mean anything here, except as memory. To be roused by his request from the grayness was too much like being awakened on a chilly morning when you just want to stay in bed under the covers.
But there it was. He had come down here, asking to take me back.
It wasn’t that I really wanted to go. But he wanted it so much, how could I refuse him. I never could refuse him.
I remember that. Memory here is so precise, so exact, so complete.
I remember him, too, with that same clarity that no one topside can even imagine. We have the talent for memory here, but we never use it. There is no need. It is a steady state. Neither happy nor unhappy, neither awake nor aware. You can pass eons without ever knowing it, not that it would matter if you did.
But I remember his wide shoulders, the twin sinews behind each knee. I could never refuse him.
So, I was awakened. We did not speak. He was not allowed to look at me. Never mind: It suited the way he loved me. He never really looked at me, even when we were both able to breathe. He is thought a demigod, but he was really just a man. And like all men, he stared, but he never really looked. I know now what I didn’t know then: I know what he saw when he stared at me with such soft eyes. If you think age brings wisdom, wait till you discover death.
I looked at him, though, when we were above ground, the first time — alive. I looked at him often. He didn’t know when I watched him sleep, or watched him stringing his lyre, or feeding the horse. I could see him like he was an X-ray, all the bones and joints, but also the fevers and melodies.
You think it was the music that devoured me? No. The music was beautiful, but I could have heard the music without loving him. Anyone could have. The music was played for everyone.
No, it was that he wanted me. How many women have fallen in love because they were simply asked? And now, he wanted me again.
There is a difference between Orpheus and the rest of us. We love the living people, the fickle, feckless people we share life with. One to one. That is what our love is.
Orpheus had the double vision of a four-eyed fish, half above, half below the surface, and everything he saw came in two images: the one he saw above the water, and the second he saw in his imagination. Always, the things he knew came as real and image, and the two were, for him, the same thing.
You overlook a lot in a man. You have to. It’s not forgiveness so much; it is more like learning to ignore that your clock is always running fast. You make allowances.
So, he came back for me. We walked up the rocky path. I saw his back, the nape of his neck under his curls. The circles of fleshfold around his elbow points. His head was haloed by the bright light at the cave entrance. When we got near the light, he reached one arm back for me to hold as we picked our way up past the boulders.
These memories are in focus sharper than any lens can provide, but I don’t remember them anymore.
He turned to look at me.
I could see in his eyes that double vision for the second before he disappeared, or I disappeared. It’s all the same thing.
When he had me, flesh and blood, he saw only an image of me. Now that I no longer breathed, and exist only as image, he wanted the flesh and blood. Perhaps you never really want it until you know you are losing it.
In those eyes I could see genuine pain for losing me a second time. But I also saw a glint that told me he knew he now had a good story to tell, a new song to sing.