What O’clock Is It at the Sands of Time? Or the Dream No. 7
by Elena Vassilieva
The place was unfamiliar, and it was very crowded there. The sound of the constantly opening and closing doors and the murmuring waves of the crowd didn’t seem to spoil my good humour at all. I was in another room searching for the day in the old book that was dusty and smelled like dried roses. In that nearly empty room, there was a small window, through which I could watch the crowd on the other side. Out of the blue, I saw you there and I waved to you. You noticed me nearly right away and smiled, moving towards me. Two Louis XV antique chairs were standing next to each other in that room. “Please, have a seat.” I said and pointed at the larger chair. “Are you trying to delight the crowd? Or are you trying to get lost in it? What have you been doing there?” I asked, smiling my surprise.
“I’ve been on the lookout for some good oranges for my father. I barely made it through the crowd. Look!” And you were about to take out an orange from your netlike bag when, suddenly, the bag got loose, and all the oranges fell down and rolled all over on the floor.
“Oh, oh!” I cried, “I’m so sorry. Luckily, there is no one else here, just you and me. Nous ne sommes pas ici pour enfiler des perles, mais des oranges,” I laughed when we began to pick the oranges from the floor.
“Why are you speaking French to me? I’m not French.” You said.
“Neither am I,” I said. “Are you jealous of him?”
“Jealous? Me?” You blushed, as if I were reading your thoughts.
“Yes, you. Or someone in you.”
“Why should I be jealous?” You finally uttered, looking at the oranges in your hands.
“Why not? You like him, and he likes me. Don’t you know he adored you, he may still do? And that would’ve been a great honour for you. Δ was written for you, or with you in mind. Haven’t you looked for yourself there lately? He did it gloriously, without stealing a note from you. Why didn’t you meet him when he went to your land to find out what your Sound is like, and what it is made of? Maybe you weren’t there already? But had you been there, would you have met him? I wonder if you really would? You found excuses not to join me to see the Carthaginian ruins and Chanel dresses that spring at the NGV, as if I were to bury you alive in those sands and winds of the ancient Egypt. I was hoping Nefertiti’s touch would lure you there. But you pretended you didn’t hear (from) me. I could certainly sense that Chanel dresses might evoke nostalgia in you for your beloved impostorous primroses: yesterday’s Anna Karenina and today’s wannabe Chanel innocent flower, ‘una persona honesta y tranquila’, for whom you were dancing your head and heart off and who was shamelessly stealing my breezes when she began to put on airs for you and was desperately trying to convince you that I was as mad as the Mad Hatter and she was your only sound ‘Sound’. And you seemed to be so fine with it and so fond of it. You pretended you weren’t there at all. Not for me… He looked up to you, you know that yourself, now it’s your turn to look up to him, want it or not. The Muses are with him, in any case. You can learn from him how to be brave and sincere, at least occasionally. Does the hypocrisy code of your circles would agree with the system of values your father taught you? I very much doubt it.
My dearest Knights warned me to be careful and not to get hurt by you, although they have regard for you. ‘It’s a double-edged sword you are about to touch. I hope you know how to handle it,’ the Knight of Luxsolis kept saying. I didn’t listen to them then, heading again and again, like he, to your beautiful land to grasp your Sound that has been washed by the Sun and the Ocean and caressed by the stars. I remember how the Knight de Bérénice reminded us wisely that it’s in crows’ nature to steal: they would do it even when clad in Chanel dresses. They would watch every single footstep of yours, flying into a rage every time you do a wrong move. ‘Why would one want to be chained and be kept in a cage? This is certainly hard to comprehend. Absurdity, though as old as the world,’ the Knight de Bérénice would ask over and over again. ‘One must derive pleasure from it,’ he would say, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Please forgive me for putting it down like this.'” I finally said, taking the last oranges from the floor and suddenly realising that you were also in the room and I wasn’t just talking to myself, and that I was in the middle of the monotonous and nasty soliloquy.
“Thanks for the cold water! I still must learn how to be with a woman like you.”
“Water and fire are opposites.” I said. “A woman like me?”
“Like absinthe. As for him, I admire him a great deal. You, too?” You gazed at me intently and then hastily answered your own question, as if afraid of my reply. “Oh, I shouldn’t have asked that at all. It’s plain as a pikestaff: you are head over heels in love with him. Of course, you would rather say, ‘madly in love’, wouldn’t you?” You studied my face again, then threw your hands in the air, then put them on your chest, shut your eyes, and repeated in a thin, childish voice, “Oh, I’m madly in love, madly in love!”
“Ce sont lettres closes,” I said. “The odd thing is that you would allow yourself to be so acidic. And I would never share my thoughts on this matter with you, never, but I would happily do it with Lord Gellaitry, if I needed a shoulder to cry on.”
There was silence for an instant. Then you said, eager to change the subject, “Is he in the crowd or above it?”
“Isn’t it obvious that he’s above the crowd, but with love and care for them in his own heartfelt way, without losing his Self and sacrificing it for the sake of being loved by them? He would lose his Self with the Muses only, sacrifier aux Muses. But then his Self would emerge in whatever he would create with the Muses. It might be a true indulgence, self-indulgence, too, like it or not. He believes in l’art pour l’art, and that there is huge happiness in it. After that, if the crowd loves it, you’d better keep your hubris under control. You can’t possibly be in the crowd if you want to please them. It won’t do. You’ll get scattered the very same way your oranges just did. The crowd won’t listen to you if they see you among them, especially if they sense you are trying-too-hard to delight them no matter what.”
“How does it work then? And how would you know about his Muses?” You asked.
“I wouldn’t. It’s a guessing game. Ask him and the Knights what they think. And the Muses aren’t only his, they are mine and yours, too, if you know how to seduce them. Seduce the Muses, not the crowd. I suppose it’s smart to fly above the crowd, after you have pleased and satisfied your own Self with the Muses, without having despised the crowd. You need to touch them in a very simple, but honest way. You are giving yourself to the crowd, or at least, part of yourself.”
“You need to take your ego out of the box and set it free, for the sake of the Muses then?” You continued.
“Perhaps. But the people who manage your affairs, should be madly in love with what you are doing. Otherwise, why would you rely on someone who hasn’t the slightest idea of what you are doing and of what you really want to do? This way you rely on their wishes, not yours, suppressing yourself. And that can’t be good for your soul, just can’t.”
“How would you know it can’t be? You sing scales all the same. But it’s more than just scales or keys, definitely more,” said you, slightly irritated.
“No doubt, it is. Why pretend trusting someone who pretends to be your dear friend, but doesn’t really care about your most sincere worries and concerns?” said I. You didn’t say a word, but seemed to be brooding over it.
“Oh, I may know what you don’t want,” I continued, ignoring the sudden change of mood, “and these two things, at least the way you are imagining them, may be the worst for you, for anyone, come to think of.”
“And what would they be?” asked you.
“I can give you a hint: it’s all about excesses, boundaries, and presence or lack of self-control.” I said.
“Oh, how so?” you smiled.
“Because they are another box where rarely a man is capable to find the way out without being harmed. You’d better not wish for them.” I said and kissed you on the cheek. You seemed to be pleasantly surprised. After that you asked:
“Are you going to see him?”
“Are you going to see him?” I repeated. We were silent for a moment. You looked at your oranges, and I looked at my book.
“Would you care for an orange?” You said. I just shook my head.
“Don’t tell me we need Lord Gellaitry this very moment,” remarked you in a gentle voice with a smile on your face. I leaned towards the window and said “Don’t tease.”
“May I take a look at that book of yours, Alisa?” You ventured to ask, after a pause. You startled me, saying my childhood nickname aloud.
“Yes, please, by all means,” said I, showing you to the table. You randomly opened the book and read it aloud:
“‘You’re holding it upside down!’ Alice interrupted.
‘To be sure I was! Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. ‘I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right – though I haven’t time to look it over thoroughly just now – and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents – ‘
‘Certainly,’ said Alice.
‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there is a knock-down argument for you!’”
We looked at each other and started laughing. I was about to give you another kiss on the cheek, but you said, “No, please, don’t!”, then you closed the book and left. The oranges for your father were lying on the table. I took one of them and smelled it.
P.S. That was just a dream.
(The dream took place on a very warm and humid night of July 9, 2018 in good old Stonington, CT, recorded on the next morning and edited for clarity on January 26, 2021 in the Sky Control Room on Cape Cod. “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll was cited here. To D.D.)
Copyright © Elena Vassilieva All Rights Reserved 2021