Told Between Puffs, October 2016
In which our hero broods in the park
by Verily Veritas
Elevated by the spirits of juniper trees and the coming dawn, V.V. slipped into his light coat and stepped out into gray fog. Blowing in from the Hudson, autumn had eclipsed the glorious stone grounds, and struck terror into scantily clad Greeks, who stumble forth from their inebriated stupor of late night copulation and indulgence just as Bacchus descends from fawn-infested Mount Cithaeron, drunk off the cackling cries of the chorus and the swirling saunters of the satyrs.
Padding westward on hallowed brick, he trudged toward the grand Hudson. Here, in these dawn-drenched hours, he turned his shallow collar against the chill of Paris’ hubris. If only he were not as foolish as the doltish lover of Achilles, he would have remained in the bosom of his own domicile to mourn his ill-fated love affair. Instead he ventured forward, furrowing brow and clenching fist, tempt- ing malady for to envisage sweet noesis. Why must beauty turn against sagacity, allowing itself to wilt in the dim light of lesser intellects?
Why must he tremor, lonesome in the cold, while his fair inamorata warms herself against the pallid flame of another? Stealing down the steps of Riverside Park, he braced his juddering fin against the frigid bar. Ah ῥοδοδακτυλος Ἡως—Rosy-fingered dawn! Shielding himself from Hades’ rumbling updrafts, he approached the darkling waters separating his beloved isle from the unspeakable terror beyond. He adumbrated her svelte figure in the shadowy edifice of memory, disporting himself through spurious recollection of her gentle caress. As he trudged, our hero soothed himself with the Paean of the lesser bard: “A belt of straw and Ivy buds,/With Coral clasps and Amber studs:/And if these pleasure thee may move,/ Then live with me, and be my love.” But! Alas! These pleasures do not move his love!
So, arriving at the bouldered shore, hunkered against the wind, he watched light on rippled water as it coursed away from him, stranded, like those at Aulis, awaiting good portent in the pursuit of love.
Rolling a cigarette between thumb and forefingers, he noted a young dyad and their infant passing along the walkway. Bright plumes of blood rush to their cheeks as the child chortled in its perambulator. Oh! How he wished to be so innocent and plebeian, to loll in the joys of blind, naïve adoration!
He lit his cubeb and dashed back towards the blessed chapel of erudite reverie. How the doctrinaire has fallen; how, in our great and prime volition for enlightenment, we have deprived ourselves of the common pleasures. He swore to abdicate such indecorous strivings.
“To home,” he said to his charioteer as he ascended the sloped precipice. “Dear providence, I can bear no more of this bourgeois suffering.”
Yet, even as he entered his exalted domicile, shedding his outerwear and pouring himself a flute of tonic and spirits, he could not help but lament for the loss of his dear Helen. Though she could not perceive his longing, his pained and vain advances, she loomed, a specter in his immortal soul.
Who then devised the torment? Night fell again but this time, V.V.’s heart felt different. He dropped his half-finished cigarette into the Hudson and walked out of the exhibit, out of the museum, into the real world. He met the Sun’s sempiternal gaze with relief.