Friday, December 03, 2010

What Is Love? 7—“Beyond Apollo”

“It’s true,” I say, “it’s been verified.”

“Oh, I know they tell us it’s true,” Leneh says with a small laugh, “but how do we really know? It’s hard to be a scientific wife and have all your illusions taken from you. That’s the real thing I couldn’t forgive you, you know. The other reasons were just made-up bullshit. I couldn’t stand all that factuality. Is there anything alive down there?”

“I don’t know,” I say, peering with her through the gases; seeing small gray shapes whisking in and out of the line of vision. We are very close to Venus now, some five hundred miles or less above the planet and the thin, high scent of the atmosphere causes our ears to ring, although we seem otherwise to be doing very well without breathing apparatus or shielding of any sort. Perhaps we could have withstood space travel all the time; it was only our innate sense of caution which made things so difficult. “Do you care for me, Leneh Venas?” I ask her, putting an affectionate arm around her shoulders, letting my fingers ease down to her breast as the two of us, five hundred miles high, look at the green and gaseous planet. “Do you?”

“Well,” she says, “you took me on this interesting trip and have shown a lot of concern for me. I think that’s nice.”

“But do you love me? That’s the question which I asked you.”

“Well,” she says with a laugh, her fingers catching mine and drawing them subtly toward an arched nipple. “Love is very hard to decide. This is just our first date, you know. You have to give these things time.”

“But could you love me?”

“Maybe,” she says with a giggle, “and maybe not, but probably maybe,” and detaches herself from me, makes a little girl’s twist of her body, and smiling, sinks toward the planet. I make swimming gestures and find that I can follow her easily, the ozone supporting me; a strange and invigorating feeling of buoyancy working itself through various levels of the body. Interplanetary travel in this fashion is excellent; when the solar system is invented again they will have to try that alternative. “I have to tell you something, Leneh Venas,” I say, catching up with her near a cloud formation, the cloud orange and shaped somewhat like a child’s stuffed animal, “I hope that something can develop between us because I’ve been very hurt. I was married once, you know.”

“I heard something about that,” she says, vaguely, extending an arm so that I can float against her, then gathering me in and running her fingers down a forearm. “You don’t have to talk about that. Isn’t this pretty? It’s hard to believe that Venus is something made up when you see it like this.”

“It isn’t made up.”

“Well, if it isn’t, it could be,” she says. “Let’s not talk of that.”

“I was once married,” I say. “That’s what I was talking about. It was very unhappy. It was terrible. She understood nothing and it came apart in pity and terror. She left me, and in doing so, denied everything.”

“I’m sorry,” she says. “It’s very common nowadays, isn’t it? People not understanding each other. Let’s not talk about it. Let’s just enjoy the day and let what will happen happen.”

“But we can’t,” I say, recalling something, remembering the conditions under which we have been permitted to make this voyage. “We can only go for a little while and then we have to come back. And we have to reach some kind of a resolution, Leneh. We have to decide between ourselves today what will become of us. It’s a decision.”

“That’s so tiring,” she says, shaking her head. “I can’t make any decisions. I just want to look at Venus and dream that it’s real. Can’t we do that?”

“No,” I say and exert pressure on her: it pains me to do so but I dig my fingers into her ribs, make her eyes widen with an oh! of surprise, draw her into me, see comprehension beginning to filter through her cheekbones as if poured from a vial somewhere above. “We can’t do that: we have to reach a decision today. Right now, in fact.”

“I don’t even know you.”

“You have to know me. You have to take risks, make judgments. That’s what they wanted—”

“No,” she says, shaking her head, not withdrawing her eyes from me. “I can’t do that. If that’s what they want, they’ll have to find you someone else because I can’t be rushed like that. I don’t know—”

“You’ve got to know,” I say. The cloud dissolves convulsively under us; I find myself suddenly in an uncomfortable position. Pinned against her, arms and legs now awkwardly intertwined, we are falling rapidly toward Venus. “You’ve got to make a decision,” I say as thick, foul currents of atmosphere in the lower regions begin to sicken me, giving my head a stuffed sensation. “You can’t live this way all your life. You have got to come to the point. Do you—”

“No,” she says, crying. “I don’t understand you; I don’t understand any of you, you’re all the same, all that you want are immediate decisions, easy answers, and there are none: you have to let some things develop, take their time, get away from me,” shrieking out all of this in sudden bubbles of sound as we fall and fall. Now we are approaching the land; it appears to be a thick, gaseous, vile swamp, not at all like the Venus of which I have dreamed and without signs of intelligent life as well, although strange convulsions and twitches of the mud beneath indicate that there may be large beasts in hiding. “Nothing, nothing; it can’t be that way,” Leneh Venas says, and falls away from me; her body detaches fully and bones seem to break; she is coming apart, head flying from the neck, shoulders from joints, joints from trunk; and I am falling toward Venus, completely out of control and surrounded by a constellation of human anatomy, all broken and spattered with blood. “You can’t do this to me!” I cry, just before I hit the swamp, “you cannot possibly do this to me; it’s not allowed, it isn’t fair!” but then the dismembered body of Leneh Venas and I, the two of us—both of us, that is to say—come to land with an unseemly roar and topple; smiling, the beasts pad from their groves to devour us, and therefore it is difficult to say if we were able to make much out of our relationship or whether, in the long run, we were able to work out some kind of meaningful emotional interconnection.

I know a cool woman who went to France
and when some Parisian guy asked her out
she took a picture—he sat with a pout—
with her phone of the first course contrivance

their waiter built of sugar like a dance
of dark and light chocolate. She didn’t shout
for joy, just blogged the pic, leaving no doubt
with   OMG!   and a happyface glance:   :-D

This woman’s watch is like the Moon rockets
astronauts in the Apollo program
rode into space so matter-of-factly.

Her cool watch doesn’t care if you mock its
analog face—gold, onyx, diamond glam.
Her cool watch knows the real time exactly.

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