I give Ruth another two minutes. She knows I’m watching her prance up and down the beach, pretending to enjoy the 50 kilometer-per-hour winds and rain that lets up at least twice a day. She’s gazing at the horizon, which is a feat, because the sky is the exact color of the lake, which is the color of concrete.
“We can’t stay in. We never get to enjoy nature like this,” she said. So I spent the morning outside on a boat launch that looks like it would glide away with any boat tied to it. Not sure if she’s more annoyed because I called her bluff or that the weather didn’t affect me. I only came inside to write in my notebook.
It’s been four days since we arrived on Georgian Bay, on Lake Huron. Nothing forced us here, exactly. The man I hurt never jumped from a hedge, dripping wet, ready to impale me with a piece of his vessel. The police haven’t knocked on the door asking me to look at some puzzling footage.
But I haven’t seen Kosey around town. Neither has Jesus. Kosey comes and goes, but this time his absence puts me off. I watch the cars, and they all seem to be slowing for me. Too many people staring. Kosey knew (past tense already?) where I live.
I told Ruth to call her friend Henry. His family owns a cottage on Georgian Bay, which is as specific as I’ll get. I borrowed Jesus’ car—he seems to have one at the disposal of his friends, filled with detritus from all of their car trips. Ruth had fun analyzing the strata until she found a condom.
On the drive up, we avoided talking about how long we would stay. Instead, Ruth talked about the random zoo plunked down along the highway. Ruth was sure she saw a rhino. It was something large, far back from the road, in a vast enclosure.
“Huh,” said Ruth. “Usually a person knows in advance when they’re going see a rhino.”
First emails in quite a while:
Reader “_simmons_” writes cryptically, “Don’t you love Chilean miners?”
As a rule, no, I don’t. I was glad enough to see specific Chilean miners emerging from underneath Chile, if that’s what is meant. (Ruth says this may be spam, with the topical “Chilean miners” replacing “larger penis,” but it doesn’t tell me to click anywhere.) I have done my share of mining on this continent—name the metal, I have unearthed it—and I have seen these things end wretchedly. But I swore off mining. Tunneling into the dark, scouring hidden metals, destroying mountains, releasing a planet’s worth of elements into the air.
I have also spent time in underground holes that had nothing to do with mines.
Moving on: reader “HugeDixie1” writes: “show hot pix of yr stripper gf (o Y o)”
Ruth wants me to ask you whether your name means you are an obese woman named Dixie, or an obese person of either gender from the southern U.S., or if it’s a play on the word “dick”, in which case you should know that using the diminutive “dixie” implies smallness.
Ruth and I have played Risk all day. She had played it in her youth, so she taught me the rules. I like games that rely on chance. But she forgot that once you occupy a territory, you can move more than one army into it. This lead to a defensive game in which we were massing piles and piles of armies until we could barely see our territories. We abandoned the world.
The birches are bright white against the lake, even through the wall of rain.
I’m still a bit damp. I took the opportunity to smooth myself over. It’s good clay, up here. I have a new finger.
Screams came first, then the jolt, the ground. The crawlers scuttling away. The faint light of flame. Rock, soil. Alive. Tentative footsteps
A loud voice: “It’s a man, you babies.” The words were Qatalanit. A grimy face appeared upside down in front of mine.
“How long have you been here?” No answer. He tried new phrases, a few dialects. “Are you a miner? Where do you live? By Christ, are you mute?”
A long sigh, then movement. A clumsy lift and a hard drop. Then I was being dragged, on and on, until the air started to cool. Intense light. Not sunny, but daylight.
“I can always count on my loyal crew, can’t I? Look how far they scattered. What if it had been a real cave-in?” He dropped my arms and sat huffing. He switched to Arabic. “You don’t feel like a demon from Hell. But maybe you were hiding, yes? A thief?” He ran his hands over me. Wisps of clothing rolled up in his hands. “Christ, how old are these rags?”
Picks, shovels, sacks. Mounds of dirt. An echoing, whistling wind. So much air, a world of air.
“So? Who do I take you to?”
A man. Long face, hangdog. There was another man—his son? It wasn’t time to remember him yet. But the first man. The name blazed in black spots. I touched my head, still barely covered.
“Samuel Halevi,” I said, the one name I knew, my first words in nearly 200 years.
Well, that’s late-night spillage for you.
When reader “Rapa_Noogie” asks, “Shouldn’t you know everything about history? Shouldn’t you be the smartest person ever? And shouldn’t you be donating your knowledge to a museum?”, I can answer that I have, in fact, missed chunks of history. After Judah was gone and I had made my slow way back to Al Andalus, I didn’t want to know any more. There was a limitless future, and I wanted no part of it. So I wandered until I found a hole stripped of iron. And I stayed. After a time, people found the hole again.
I did it two more times. Each one felt like it might be the end.
I feel an impatient call from the Earth now and then, not the usual welcoming of like to like, but a meaner, more final tug. No man or beast lives forever. Our atoms are needed elsewhere in the universe. Everything knows this. We weren’t designed for permanence, me especially. But when I lay down, it’s never for long. Hashem allows me to shore up my missing pieces, yet denies the earth its own missing piece. Until the aleph is scraped away, this head remains aboveground.
The past loses its meaning the older you get. There were ancient cities and deeds when I was young; there are simply more of them now. Hang in long enough, and all ages achieve equilibrium. As Marcus Aurelius said, the sole thing that any man can lose is the present. Old ones aren’t keepers of the past. There are no keepers of the past. It belongs to no one. I don’t believe museums are history’s mausoleums, but they don’t legitimize what already exists, either.
So why can’t I stop talking about the old days?
I desperately need to get back to work.