The seventh form of love is sunshine..when the dawn is bright, and cold..when the frozen ground is stunned at the first touch of frost.
“The sixth form of love is a reckoning between drunken friends, after a wake…an intimate gathering at dusk, in a dirty walk-up where a great iron bridge leaps between hearts, islands with the black sea churning between, a vortex left by him who has died. And now, fortunes tied together, an affinity that was only an inkling before is galavanized by the need of hearts to love someone who has come unhinged for the same reason.
“The sixth form of love is a need for healing, a need to hold on, a not-wanting-to-let-go. It is the faintest glimmer of the future….or the fading bitterness that comes with accepting a friendship that cannot possibly replace one that was lost.
“Its inverse is nostalgia, and isolation, and rage.”
“The fifth form of love is a child reaching out, tenderly, slowly, unconsciously..for the hand of another child, fingertips floating, while talking excitedly, naming a sunlit, magical place hidden by a thicket, her heart bubbling over as she speaks.
“The fifth form of love is a treehouse, or a rave..or the speaking of made-up, secret languages. It is innocence, and sanctuary.
“Its inverse is the upsetting of a chessboard, or a trojan horse, or a spy who poses as a devout liaison.”
Sailor softly sighed.
“The fourth form of love is touch: holding a newborn baby, or cradling an old woman in death.
“And yet this example may come to pass in sickening reverse…so that we must cradle a newborn in death. Thus, this fourth form is the form of love through which we can begin, perhaps, to take the pain that is unfathomable, through which we may come to accept the deepest form of suffering.
“The highest reach of touch is erotic surrender. It is the tenderest, most flowing, most embodied form of love. It can exist in the flesh, or in the imagination. Through dreams, and visions, it can become a form of contact, even communication, across great distances in time and space.
“Touch can also encompass other forms. Touch can be prayer, or heartbreak, or play.
“Its inverse is fear, and lust. When knit together, hallucination, and terror.”
“The third form of love is music. Whether it’s the sound of a boys’ choir..like a shaft of silver light shooting into the stratosphere..or the gritty sub bass of an underground club in some secret corner of Berlin..a bass throb that shakes the ground, and ripples the mud and oil in the gutter. It’s a song that is a prayer.
“These vibrations subtly alter the body…and that subtle alteration is love.
“The third form of love is the private crush you feel while walking the city streets, surrounded by the multitudes, listening to music only you can hear.
“The inverse of this subtle form of pleasure, and the transformation it brings, is judgement, and austerity.”
By now we were nested in the dried grasses of the hollow. The wooden door still stood open, revealing the underground corridor marked by the lights glowing from their cage-like sconces. We sat facing each other. Sailor payed attention to me as the words simply flowed forth, as if from someplace outside of my body.
“The second form occurs through the body of a small child experiencing starvation, and thirst. Eyes wide, she reaches out her slender, naked arm for a drink of water. But in the moment she begins to grasp it, it is snatched away from her, so that her fingers close on air. It is not the experience of the child, but of the witness, that tells the story. It is the feeling in the pit of her stomach, a feeling more powerful than compassion, more devastating than pity.
“The inverse of the second form is poisoned perception, and jadedness, and contempt.”
“Wait,” Sailor said, putting her hand to my wrist. “What about the seven forms of love? I want to know them before we…”
But Epson was gone: notes, cricket, and all.
Inexplicably, it was then that I spoke the seven forms of love. I only knew them as I said them…as if by saying them I was learning them for the first time myself, as if I had become some sort of conduit. I could just as well have been speaking in tongues. My speech was simultaneously mysterious and crystal clear, the way the words flowed forth, as if from the ether…
“This first form,” I said matter-of-factly, “is prayer.”
“I’m not talking about piety, or even devotion. I’m talking about a feeling. Sometimes it just crashes over you, a warm, cresting wave that washes over the interior body. It’s a need to surrender to the sensation, to fall forward onto your knees. It’s a feeling of awe for the fact that you are even alive to breathe or to walk…a feeling that your being alive in that instant is only for the mercy of the universe.
“It’s the feeling of lying on the floor in the dark, with you arms open; it’s the feeling that you are so wide…and so fragile…that when all the weight of the world presses you down like beautiful, leaden blanket…you cannot do anything but cry, with tears running down the sides of your cheeks, down into the carpet.
“It’s the feeling of walking down a city street at the dawn of some accidental escapade, when light breaks onto the raindrenched asphalt and you know for an instant you’re the richest person on earth.
“That’s prayer, in fact. That moment, that wave of sensation is a prayer.
“Some say it’s self love, which is, in its highest form, love of the universe, which again is prayer.
“Its inverse, its closest relative, is addiction, and oblivion, and the absorption of one’s self into experiences, emotional rides, waves of sensation. Its inverse is suicide.”
(Inspired by the writings of Sean Lynch.)
“I was right,” Sailor said slowly, softly, “He did follow us out. And he knew what was happening with Harlin, and he got jealous.” She turned to Epson, who was busy jamming some notepapers deeper into his trouser pocket.
“Where’s Upi now?”
“He went on with his life….desolate as it was. Went home to his garret at the top of a shabby apartment house on the edge of the city, made himself a simple supper, smoked a cigarette, said his prayers, and went to bed. He got up a couple of hours later and showered, cleaned his apartment, drove down to the water. He tossed his rifle into the choppy black waters of Lake Union and went to work. They’ll never catch him. The police don’t know who either of these men are; no one’s looking for them. Besides…Upi has no criminal record; he’s fastidious. It will be as if it never happened.”
Sailor and I held each other.
“He could have taken a pistol and been gone…click-click…crack! And he meditated on suicide with the hard muzzle of a Glock to his temple. He imagined it vividly, over three hours of exquisite stillness, leaning his naked, hulking mass forward onto the plastic lip of his tub, his elbows resting there, one hand to his head, the other hand with a gun. He internalized it, reflected on every minute detail…from the blood spray and Ajax on the shower wall to the distant, unemployed cousin whose reading of household circulars would be momentarily interrupted when he learned, by phone call, of Upi’s death. But he never pulled the trigger.
“He will do nothing, now, but work, pray, meditate….and live in humble simplicity. He will become no one. He may move to an industrial city, and work in a coffee shop there…without pretense, without romance. And, ultimately, he will vanish. He will vanish into oblivion.”
Sailor moved even closer, so that our bodies were touching. We knew that perhaps our lives had been saved by an act of murder. There was an emotion that came with this piece of knowledge; it was small, and hard, and bitter, like a cold smooth stone lodged somewhere in the body.
Sailor spoke. “So he’s stopped looking for us, Upi..?”
“Yes,” said Epson brightly, matter-of-factly. “He satisfied himself.” Then he turned his head, crawled to the far end of the hollow, and opened the small wooden door there. Light spilling out from the hollow revealed a tunnel marked by cage-like sconces containing darkened bulbs. The distant sound of a roaring crowd poured softly forth from the dark hole of the tunnel.
“Come along now!” said Epson, “They’re waiting for you.” He clicked on the lights by way of a switch obscured by shadows, and scuttled into the hole.
“It can be done.” A voice came from the moss and earth behind the cricket. The cricket popped away from its place on the knot of a root, then dangled on a wire. Its eyes flashed and went dark, like small lenses lit up from behind. Earth and bits of moss began to fall away from the hole where the wire came through beside the root. Pink, living fingers poked through, stunningly large and soft next to the dangling electronic cricket.
A tuxedoed arm plunged through the earthen ceiling. Rocks and soil and bits of debris rained down into the dry grass. Sailor and I scuffled quickly out of the way. A whole man came through the ceiling, dropped onto the floor. He landed lightly on his feet and stood still for a moment, facing us. Earth and loam covered his tuxedo. A sheaf of heavily inked, rough-edged notebook papers protruded from one of his trouser pockets. One hand gripped some sort of remote control, wired to the cricket. With a soft click, the wire popped off the cricket’s body and whipped back into the box of the remote. A little electronic door snapped shut behind the wire. The remote had a handle and a screen packed with incredibly detailed visual information.
“I love this thing,” said Epson, smiling slightly, jamming the remote into the inside pocket of his tuxedo, where it created an ungainly bulge. He stooped down, pinched the robot cricket between his thumb and forefinger, and motioned for me to put my hand out. I did. He placed the insect, a tiny, elaborately engineered robot, at the center of my outstretched palm. I heard a tick. The cricket hopped once and then tipped over onto one side and was motionless. I handed it back to him.
“Some toy,” Sailor said sarcastically, covering her shock.
Epson ignored her with some effort. He pulled a fountain pen from another inside jacket pocket, and a piece of paper from one of his sleeves. A cuff link fell off and disappeared into the soft floor of the hollow. He muttered something about blasted cuff links and cultural decay. Then he looked up quickly. While his eyes had heavy bags and his face four days or so of stubble, his movements were bright, energized. He scratched at his tousled hair with his pen, licked its tip, and began scrawling notes, still standing on the pile of earth and debris he’d created when he’d plunged through the ceiling.
“Somewhat off script,” he said, still scrawling, “but well-played. The erotic sex scene was marvelous…my Bob-Martin nearly shot its cream…although I wouldn’t have written it in when you did it.” Then, a bit more quietly, he said, “That’s a beastly looking cock you have there, N. Err, no offense, all very erotic, but my goodness…the poor fellow’s ugly as sin. We could’ve given him a screen-test, you know, gotten a good wax penis to stand in for him.”
“It’s about sensation, not looks.”
“Err, right.” Epson went back to his notes. “Anyway, the drama between you, and all of that…again, the wishes were about getting out of the labyrinth, not about your relationship…which was a bit of a tangent…but, like I said, well-played, well-played.”
He finished up with his notes and stuffed them into his pocket with others. He capped his pen, put it behind his ear, and slowly took a seat in the dried grass. He blinked at us for a moment, sizing us up emotionally, then spoke again.
“Oh! And you did know that fellow Upi took a machine gun to Harlin Coke, did you not? Totally off-script as well, shot him in his Buick while he was standing at a red light up in Seattle, somewhere off Denny Way, dead of night, horrible scene, Bonny-and-Clyde sort of stuff, body jumping from the gunshots, whole car riddled with holes, shattered glass everywhere, blood dripping from under the car door, godawful stuff…though I suppose that’s child’s play to you Americans…” Epson trailed off, then cleared his throat and looked at us from under arched eyebrows.
“Anyway…you’re wearing condoms for the sex scenes, no? I mean, we don’t have hazard pay for that…if one of you catches the clap from all that ejaculating that’s going on? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, it’s just, well, you know…safety first!”
Sailor and I sat stock still and stared.
(Back Door: Enter Harlin Coke into the search bar.)
Sailor talked quickly, nervously. “I want to heal him,” she said quietly, almost swallowing her words, “I want us to get better. I want to heal him, heal us. I want us to be healed.”