I ran to Seville once. I was following Don Samuel—my second Samuel Halevi. Didn’t get there in time to prevent his execution by a man whom he had saved from captivity a few years before. This man would later be dubbed “the Cruel,” although “Paranoid,” “Covetous,” “Waffler,” and “Vainglorious Puppet” would fit just as well. But there’s a king for you.
I ran for days, but I was too late. I crossed fields and cut through woods. I even tore through a little hamlet and raised a night alarm. All for nothing.
Chasing after Don Samuel, Judah, so many others. When I came to North America, I thought I might be done with it. I fled into the woods and planned to stay there, with no master but the elements—no master but He whose spirit lived in me.
Hashem had other plans. It appears that until man dies out, or evolves into pure light, or embarks for a planet beyond Hashem’s accounting, I’ll be chasing one of you. Of course, it’s far more likely that I’ll meet my demise before you. A comforting thought sometimes.
I waited for Kosey on Commissioner’s Street at 1 a.m. He pulled up slowly, out of character in a plain shirt and shorts. As before, the girl sat in front and I in back. She was tense, but restless. Nervous or stretching, I couldn’t say. She had been in bed for so long. Her hair was matted, her eyes ringed with black.
A few minutes into the ride Kosey asked, “What’d you do to those two men who came?”
“Made them leave,” I said. He rubbed his head. Nobody follows up on my statements lately.
We cruised along the Leslie spit for a while, then turned on an industrial side road toward the Port Lands. A gate was open for us. “You gonna stand watch,” said Kosey, looking more nervous than I’d ever seen him. Kosey drove down an incline where gravel turned to grass and stopped at a woodsy cove, a rare undeveloped stretch between two marinas. Floating in the dark was a sport boat with a Bimini top.
A man knelt on deck, watching us. Kosey marched the girl quickly towards him. I came more slowly, surveying the waterway. Security had clearly been sent home, so I guessed we were avoiding a different type of capture. Keeping watch wasn’t going to help. There were a hundred boats nearby.
The man stood up. He had very dark skin and a huge gut. Slow eyes that scanned Kosey, then the girl more closely. He swung a ramp towards the grassy bank. This done, he stopped dead and folded his arms.
I crept backwards, keeping to the shadow. The boat was a Bertram, early ’80s. Solid. Chine flat too narrow. Wooden cockpit that leaks all over the engines. A plan was coalescing.
I was hitting the pavement at unsafe speed. Stress on the hips. I realized I might need to float. The man had seen me, but not well. I hoped the girl wouldn’t turn to look at me. True to form, she ignored everything. Once she had boarded, the fat man started touching her—without malice, but not tenderly. He ran his hands up and down her legs in a frisking manner, then squeezed the parts of her arms. An examination.
Kosey spun abruptly and marched back to his car. I moved only when the man was attending to the ramp. The whole affair had taken less than 10 minutes. She was staring at the stars as we rolled out, tires tossing up gravel.
I thought of telling Kosey to stop somewhere, but I couldn’t arouse any suspicion. Luckily, he was racing from the scene. We were headed toward the Don. He kept wiping his forehead with his sleeve and muttering. Just as we passed under the train tracks on Eastern, he made a sharp left and braked. His bearings and his tires squealed in different tones.
“Good enough. I’m not going west.” He stared straight ahead, fingers white on the wheel. I waited for more. He smacked the dash and thrust his hand at the door. I got out slowly. Kosey sat for a moment, rubbing his face and breathing deeply. With an unhealthy rev, he sped away.
As soon as the car disappeared, I broke into a run.
I was hitting the pavement at unsafe speed. Stress on the hips. I realized I might need to float. The Bertram had been anchored near a bank that appeared to drop off. How deep? Running south, crossing Lakeshore, I debated veering east to the beach—potential life preservers, life jackets. No. A terrible amount of time had passed. If the boat had gone, there was no hope.
I avoided the gray buildings and approached from the junk-strewn brush. Aware that I sounded like a bulldozer, I slowed and ducked down.
The boat was still there.
I crawled backward and made a wide arc as far from the boat as I could get without being caught in the marina lights. I took one last look. No one above-deck. I pitched forward into the black water.
Cold and diesel. Bubbles escaping my crevasses. I had to be careful. My body is at its most, let’s say, elemental when I’m under water. You could literally scrape me away. A child’s voice in my head, reciting in Hebrew: If the soft can wear away hard, how much more can the iron words of the Torah carve into my heart. Slithering at a 45-degree angle, I stood up when I judged I was safely hidden. The surface was about yard over my head. I walked forward, one leg much higher than the other. A catfish flipped around them.
Again, lucky: The harbor floor fell away sharply at my end—pressure was increasing and darkness enveloping—but it rose again toward the boat. As I pushed ahead silently, I found I could balance myself on the sloping mud. Now here was the flaked hull, its draft well within my reach. I dug my feet in and crouched. I might have more than one shot, but my footing wouldn’t be nearly this secure. I brought my arms over my head and made two fists.
Shafts of light in the harbor. A single man was created; thus if any man saves alive a single soul, it is as if he has saved alive a whole world. The converse—he who causes a single soul to perish, etc.—I somehow never heard. The scholars I once venerated had no place down here in the murk. I brought the Aepyornis to mind, the inarguable cannonade of its legs.
I launched, hard.