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death

(My apologies to Plato, with whom I do not agree, and to the ghost of Edgar, who might have something to do with this.)

After the sumptuous dinner, Thanatos, that dreaded brother of Morpheus, brought out his coup de grace. Nectar and ambrosia were all very well, thought Eros, but some things at least, those wretched humans knew how to get absolutely right. He swirled a stupendous 1990 Vosne RomanĂ©e Cros Parentoux around in his glass. It glowed in the low light like a satin promise or a liquid velvet threat, he wasn’t sure which. Who cared? It was incredible. A bit young for a Cote d’Or Burgundy, but again, who cared when perfection was this sublime? Fuck Zeus and his fucking nectar. Fuck Ganymede, who poured it out every night. Wait a minute. Hadn’t he? He couldn’t remember, not after his fourth sip.

Logos, a three-dimensional triangle who pulsed with a pearly white glow a few inches above the marble floor, was by now turning a slight shade of pink. He dipped one apex of the triangle into his glass, and grew a deeper shade of pink.

Thanatos, their host, was reclining in all his black-clad glory, spread all over his end of the sofa like several large bottles of very expensive olive oil, extra virgin.

“So then, gentlemen,” he began. “I brought you both here for several reasons, but the main one was…” he paused as he thought.

“Boredom!” cried Eros. “*Fess up! You need a vacation!”

“No kidding. What with all that’s happening down there…” Logos pointed with another apex toward the floor, where the endless diorama called Planet Earth flowed and ebbed, ebbed and flowed, turning on its axis from day to night, night to day. Here and there were small pinpoints of light, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran, and in many unnamed places that never made the nightly news on TV.

“Well, that too. But no, you know, sometimes it can be a good thing, to sit around with your friends and just – talk.”

“I do hope you have a good few more bottles of this stuff if that’s your plan.” Eros interrupted. “So you’ve got the night off? No one’s going to die tonight?”

“I don’t know.” Thanatos laughed. “Morpheus is standing in for me tonight. I had other plans. A symposium. With, of course, my two close friends, Eros and Logos, love – and logic.” He laughed again. “A contradiction in terms. Yes, I have more wine.”

“A symposium! Oh, goodie. I’ve been reading up on that idiot, Plato.” Logos pulsed again.

Eros rolled his beautiful eyes. “Gods! I can’t for the life of me understand why. He was, wasn’t he? All head, no heart, no place for me!” He sighed. “No wonder he died of old age. So, Thanatos, what’s the topic for tonight?”

Thanatos settled himself back on his sofa, took another slow sip of wine and thought a moment. “Well, we could call it – self-perception, and how we define it, and that, dear friends, sounds precisely like something that boring old fart Plato would say. Or, I could turn the topic another way and say – sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll – or, who knows? But really, it was because that according to some definitions, the three of us are embodiments, let’s call it, of the three main ingredients? principles? aspects? of that one human emotion that defines them more than any other – l-o-v-e. Love. Love and creativity make them human, they say, and I rather believe they have a valid point there. It’s all in the blend, the – ” he swirled the ruby contents of his glass around and dipped his long, aquiline nose into it and inhaled deeply – “the terroir, if you will. This wine, for instance, grows only on a small patch of soil, on a small strip of land in the French district of Bourgogne. If you took those grapes and planted them in California, say, it would be an entirely different product we’d be drinking.”

Eros couldn’t resist a joke. “It would get plastic surgery up the wazoo, spend a lifetime on a macrobiotic diet and a bitching personal trainer, platinum blonde hair extensions, collagen lips, a ton of makeup and call itself Pamela Anderson.”

Logos spluttered burgundy down his front surface. “Too true!” he gasped, once he could breathe again.

“Well, would you call that erotic?” asked Thanatos.

Eros didn’t even have to think about it. “No. It’s too obvious and too cookie-cutter, too defined according to some insane standard of erotic, and erotic is not a word that can be contained in a standard of any kind. That’s not what I’m about. I’m the whatever makes you want to rip off your clothes in a dark courtyard at 3 AM personification.”

“Lust, in other words” sneered Logos. “That’s a cheap shot. You can do better than that.”

“I would, too” retorted Eros, “if that fucking Dionysos hadn’t hijacked me and given us all sex, drugs and rock’n’roll!”

“But is that love?” asked Thanatos. “The whole ‘I want you and I want you right this nanosecond’ urge? And here I thought it was just a justification for procreating.”

“Love,” pontificated Logos, “is a meeting of the minds that precludes Eros, that in fact could not happen without me, since it all starts in the head anyway.”

“Rrright,” drawled Eros, “like all the bs and lies people spout just to get laid. Come on!”

“Are you denying that intellectual compatibility is a bad thing? People can stay together for years because of it! And that’s what really bugs you – that eventually, any relationship has to get out of bed, sooner if not later, and that’s when the problems start, if they have nothing to talk about to begin with!” Logos was turning a distinctive shade of puce and pulsing harder.

“Now, now.” Thanatos waved his hands. “Calm down, guys. We’re not here to discuss who’s the better of the two of you, or even all three of us. We’re here to discuss love.”

Logos throbbed slightly slower. “All right. Love. We will all agree, will we not, that love can consist, at different times, of each of the three of us in different proportions at different times of human lives. When humans are young and hotheaded, you “- an apex reached out towards Eros, sulking in his corner of the sofa, “predominate, because they’re young, because they’re in the grip of some strange compulsion they hardly understand themselves. It’s only later, when they’re a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, they go on to other, wider priorities – someone else to talk to on those endless Sunday afternoons of the soul. If all goes well, those two humans will sail into the sunset of their last days of life, and then, you – ” he reached out to Thanatos, who was listening with rapt attention – “perch on their shoulders, reminding them to let go, and to go on.”

“A good theory, so far as it goes,” conceded Thanatos, “but in actual fact, I would have been there for years. You can’t go through your life without experiencing the loss of someone you loved, since that makes you aware of your own mortality and your own limited time.”

“Ah!” Eros was onto his third glass of Burgundy. Wine this good was nearly as good as a five-star orgasm, and lasted much longer in the mouth. “Both of you are forgetting something – that I am the one who makes them – ” he pointed towards the Earth below – “forget. I am the one who can make a woman lose her underwear, make a man lose his head – either one, you pick. I can make them forget anything at all – limits and limitations, tabus and prohibitions – all for the sake of one perfect, flawless moment of eternity and starlight, one exquisite plugging in to the Cosmic Grid, one moment, in other words, when humans completely forget what and who and where they are. I’m the promise, the assignation, and the anticipation of that one particular moment.”

Logos was gobsmacked by that dazzling display of eloquence. “Well, I’m the one who gives the words to define it. And you did – quite well, I say.”

“I,” said Thanatos so quietly they both had to lean closer to hear his words, “am the dark face of both of you.”

For the space of three or four human heartbeats, both Eros and Logos were silent. Logos was so still, he nearly lost a dimension. Eros downed another glass. He poured out another, and lifted it to his host. His shining, rosy face was bright with both laughter and paradox, regret and relief.

“In which case, I propose a toast to our gracious host, Thanatos.”

Logos lifted his own glass, the fifth. It was, even he knew, ambrosial stuff. He looked over at Eros and, insofar as he was able, he winked.

“To Thanatos!” he said. “To Thanatos, who rules the world, and rules us all.”

“To Thanatos!” cried Eros. “The master of us all, and the dark face of us both!”

They all drank, long and deep.

“Thanatos, my friend,” Eros cleared his throat. “I love you dearly, but sometimes, man, you really know how to kill a party!”

“Well,” drawled Thanatos, “look at my name.”

“We know!” exclaimed both Logos and Eros in unison.

“Death, and one of us hopes to transcend it by defining it, while the other seeks to forget about it” Logos blurted out.

Eros winked at Thanatos. “Some immoveable obstacle you are!”

They all burst out laughing. “Even I will drink to that!” Thanatos reached for the wine bottle. “More burgundy?”

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Image: “Eros and Thanatos” (detail) copyright Kako Ueda 2008

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