Eternity’s Evening

By Eric Le Roy

Content 16+ This morning, leaving lazy Poppy in bed, my Rhodesian Ridgeback Casper (Mr. Sipples) and I went down to our woodsy retreat close to our apartment. Wending our way through the brief greenery to our little path (for rainless summer will soon degrade the wild grass into brittle straw) and following it to the end, I sat in one of the plastic chairs somebody put there last year. Meanwhile, Cass played in the still unflowered but glowing green natural garden, which now in the heart of spring has swirled up into a jungle (a little like a Henri Rousseau painting except not so austere and spiky in its sensuous lushness). Wildflowers will come soon, but July and August will put them to death. The +35 Celsius Summer massacre.

Closeby, the builders are already up atop the third floor of the latest in the relentless string of buildings that have gone up since our arrival here three New Years ago. (We moved in on NewYears Eve, 2022.) They are Bulgarian nationals, and almost all these laboring builders are strong, dark, tattooed young men who shout with seeming joy to each other all day long. The very picture of the Happy Workmen. Nikolai Lenin, who never did a stroke in his mostly vile life, would have called in the portrait painters, hammer and sickle in hand. “Bring On the Revolution!”

This kind of Bulgarian guy puts a great emphasis on being macho, as I suppose young men all over the world do. Not being young anymore, I notice this. They are annoying in their mindless vociferousness and self-aware masculinity, yet I admire them. Frankly, I envy them. Today is Friday. After work, I envision them partying the night away and fucking the hell out of their young dark female equivalents just before dawn. The willing women of Life’s morning.

It is the way of nature, and it was once my way too. Those gifts are gone now from me, but I will rise for work at 5am tomorrow anyway. Old people need little sleep. We must keep working, and that’s a fact. Takes our minds off the other goal of nature’s way: to exterminate us so that our replacements can sign up and grab our souvenirs. And recycle them. The process, as I have alluded, is called Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn. I am Winter sitting like a frozen old coyote, watching from a scraggy cliff as Springtime’s sensual Yeatsian harmony unfolds: (“The young in one another’s arms/Those dying generations at their song.”) Like the ancient dog, my primordial needs are now mostly just dulled instinct; human plans remain, and go dryly forward in the elsewheres of the streets..

It is a bit too much at times, and if I could remember how to cry, I might. I – Winter — do not belong in the same green and sweaty and lusty room with those who are the Spring. We both know it. I can tell by the way the young warriors look at me: without challenge, intensity or the wish to do harm: a waste of their violent potential.

I call to the dog. “Look at the sea, Mr. Sipples! Look at the blue sea!” And I ask him if he knows why they call it the Black Sea. (though on overcast days, it does turn black.) Cass just blinks at me and dreams on. He knows perfectly well that I am a philosopher of sorts, and he takes it with a grain of salt.

Part of my job is to keep track of what’s going on in the world, yet I also do it out of curiosity, though not in the way of finding solutions; no, it’s more like being in a room with people gossiping wickedly about whoever gets up and goes to the toilet. Then they come back and say hateful things about the next one for whom ‘nature calls’, and everyone joins in again. I honestly find myself – no kidding – just waiting for the next dark comedy punchline. (“He did w-h-a-t???” “She said t-h-a-t ???”). The more outrageous and ridiculous it all is, the more I enjoy it.

I also like it when 30 foot long anacondas and pythons turn up in residential Florida neighborhoods. I get a kick out of reading about some newlywed pushing his/her spouse off the edge of a cliff during the honeymoon. News of drive-bys in Philly and Chicago make my day. If a bull gores a holiday-maker in the ass in Pamplona, I put an extra burger on the grill. I like to watch WCW reruns where Vince McMahon and Rick Flair get in the ring and take turns insulting each other until one of them beats the living hell out of the other. I rejoice in the idiot crowd imitating Flair and going “Wooooooooooooooo!”

A side of me wants to live on and on until I see how bad it’s really going to get, and then die in my sleep just before that strange green acid mushroom cloud starts moving toward my house. This is why I laugh inappropriately at times.:

The problem is that I have stopped caring about a lot of stuff I used to worry myself sick over. You know, it’s like the perverse sense of liberation you feel when something you once loved or needed so much that it seemed a matter of life and death– something worth putting heart and soul on the line for – turned out to be a complete travesty. A guffaw from infinity. A cosmic smirk.

To use a banal example – it’s like you wait a lifetime to see your favorite football team finally reach the championship game. You are throbbing with anticipation, and before the game you weigh all the possibilities of how they might pull it out. The TITLE! The RING ! You imagine yourself getting drunk afterwards and singing Freddy Mercury’s ‘WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!’ with your equally ecstatic buddies. And while you desperately want the team to win, you swear you will still love them if they lose a close one after putting up an epic fight.

So then they go out and get stomped 60-0. They get the living piss beat out of them. Now what do you feel? Embarrassment?. Rage? Disgust? You feel like you’ve been had, like you have wasted all that emotion. Maybe you’re not being fair to them; maybe it makes you a bandwagon jumper and disloyal prick – but that’s how you feel. Not 24-23. But 60-0. Why did I fucking bother, you wonder? You throw the team emblems and paraphernalia in the garbage and toss the Bible out the goddamn window. 60-0.

Or how about if your beloved sweetheart leaves you and takes up with your best friend? You are crushed. Walled in by heartbreak and grief and self-loathing. “What did I do wrong?” “How could they betray me like this?” Your heart is in tatters. And indeed if it ends that way, something in you may be broken for life.

But if you walk in after a business trip and find every swinging dick in the neighborhood having a spunk-orgy with your sweetie pie, your ‘rose without a thorn’, what then? Well, after a flash of wanting to murder them all, wouldn’t you just have to bust out laughing? I would. I might contemplate suicide if my ‘heart’s treasure’, my ‘one-and-only’, rejected me on enigmatic grounds. But if I came home to find the Armenian National Weightlifting Squad turning my Princess every which way but loose as she begged for more, I think I’d shit myself with laughter: maniacal mirth and ungovernable dark joy.

The absurdity of the universe made manifest again. I mean, how can you be sad? 60-0 in your own ballpark. The gangbang of the century on your own sofa.

Still, a good side to all this exists.

Often I have narrative dreams at night. I can even get up and pee and go back to the dream. Amazingly, these dreams can include women I knew a long time ago. But these are not ‘wet’ dreams. We are always somewhere, like on a holiday or at a party or, yes, maybe lying together in bed – but sex is not the dominant theme. It’s more like we are gently and humorously solving our problems together, and there is a warmth to it. Of course, the wrinkles never get ironed out because, disappointingly, I wake up. Probably, I could dream forever without closure.

But the point is that those women live again in me, and, unlike in the world of roaring daylight, in the dreamhouse of my soul, there is always sanctuary. And feelings of love. Divorced from doomed possibilities, we like each other so much better now.

One of my favorite poems has always been “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. I suppose Eliot is out of fashion now, but when I was at university as an undergraduate many years ago, he was still hot. Eliot is often seen now as an arid, erudite, somewhat intimidating man who ended up embracing Christianity and working in Lloyd’s Bank in London. Academics never seem to fully appreciate the underlying, if guarded or thwarted, sensuality of certain moments in his work. When he concludes ‘Prufrock” with “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/with sea girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown/till human voices wake us, and we drown” – I understand him in a way that all the scholarship in the world never will. I understand, not because I am intelligent, but because he is talking directly to me.

Nor does this lifelong escapade of rude awakenings apply specifically to women. If only that were the case !! No, it is the subtlety of moral grief when you finally understand that complaining will do no good, that your vision of justice will never be consummated; it is the mortal grief of knowing you will die that way. Indeed, it is when you reach that point when something jumps out of you and cries “Surrender”. Or maybe it says it softly, the way leaves turn, or the pages in a book by half-awake fingers.

Sometimes when I sit out here in the grass in deep thought, I think I hear English girls in the morning, coming with their melodic voices, though sharp with the diction of educated breeding. Briefly, I see them through a drizzle that only faintly moistens them, for their skin is already translucent. They chortle and playfully snap ‘insults’ at each other, and their laughter is the richest articulation of cold bright apples swaying on tree limbs you could ever imagine.. They will travel far in life. Theirs is an unsentimental vision.

They go then, perhaps glancing at me with eyes blank and glittering – the first hint that they are beyond the calling of my daydream.

Or they melt into the grass, no longer human girls but ribbons of green fecundity. Ah, how the green arms wave! How well the grass transforms !! They become gentle, if still wild. And to the grass I surrender, like a lost monk or holy man who has lost his way to church and now gives himself up to a frenzy of voices: the One God from His unfathomable distance, the pantheistic pagan gods all around him – around me, spilling their grapes, anointing my body as they squeeze the Wine of May across my limbs.

This is the rack of heaven to which the atheist succumbs in his swansong.

When I used to work in the nursing homes back in Florida, I would make my rounds at night, replacing soiled diapers on the incontinent ‘residents’ with clean ones, and somehow, even in those sterile, antiseptic (but always urine-fragrant rooms), I saw that night was a velvet womb, even in stark institutional rooms, and people therefore usually slept. I would look at those scabby old faces and wonder if springtime was blossoming in their minds, and if they too were in bed with old lovers or sitting in cafes with ancient friends.

Now I know that they were. It’s exactly what they were doing. Sleep has been described as “death’s twilight kingdom” – and I agree. It is a mostly pleasant place, not often beset by storms and nightmares. Only sometimes. Those old people were just fine until they woke up.

It used to be that I slept deeply, but now almost with one eye open. The dogs have taught me well. I slide in and out of dreams as if through a revolving door. Indeed, I wish they would become one world. I am tired of goodbyes. I need more hellos.

The agreement to surrender comes this way. After the news headlines have blackened your heart, you sit quietly, in painless disintegration, as I do now with my trusting dog who, I assume, must believe that life is life forever. Maybe he knows something I don’t. But now the dog is butler to my salvation in the way I always wanted God to be – and the reason for this is that my dog gives me peace of mind.

This peace of mind, this serenity, hints at what is beyond my understanding. Can it be true that there is something ‘out there’ which is designed – and was so from the very first – to take care of me? The world’s religions – and their billions of adherents – have conducted life’s business on precisely this premise for centuries. I have always rejected it.

But, when I am away from people long enough, I suddenly find the possibility of God reviving in me. Or the gods. I sense them stirring in the grass, I see the faces of gods in the birds, the will of God even in ants and beetles – and I hear God singing to the other gods in the wind if wind decides to come that day, And for a while I am OK. But without the ego-driven engines of the human world.

In the not too far distance, I smell humanity, so tempting at times, but so unlike the flowers and grass. People make these comparisons – they call it ‘personification’ in literature. I doubt the flowers would welcome such affinities if they could speak like people.

Everywhere I look, even in this retreating little Eden, I see food wrappers from the builders blowing in the wind, coming my way like a welcoming committee from Hell. “Thought we’d leave you alone, didn’t you?” they say. “Think again.”

This too, in a dark manner, is vaguely reassuring, and I recall the caresses brought by people once, the women of the wine. Humanity, you see, is an addiction.