As you know, young Harold, the dirt did cover everything after the windstorm of three days, those three unholy days of dust and soot at seventy-five kilometers per hour whirling around in torrential fervor, ignoring walls and pushing through the pores of the fabric of my tent and shawl and surely your uniform as well! My soft skin, a most becoming and unusual alabaster tinted with a wee touch of sienna, was only days ago burnt umber being, how you say, caked with the filth of the dry empty fields of this dead summer. You can see where I have cleaned that I am still fair, that I retain a fairness that perhaps contained more radiance when I was, how you say, a woman of a youthful state being?
But I ask you is there left of the hideous soil any grain that has not traveled from one side of the county to the other and settled on myself and my things of great value and of extraordinary properties not of this plane? A week it has been, and I taste still the fine dust of brittle potato crops crushed by the force of hateful wind and hurled upon me from all sides! I smell still the atoms of asphalt demolished by heat and lifted into the air and forced into my burning nostrils! I feel still the crust of the earth like cut gemstones, like the diamonds of this ring and of this bracelet and of this bracelet on this wrist, and of this ring and the one next to that, and--look closely--the peculiar and intricately cut diamonds of this pendant, the grains of sand like diamonds they are, cutting the surface of my eyes when I blink!
I see you contemplating behind those deep and quiet eyes, hidden though they are behind your thick glasses. I see you believing that I have told you an exaggeration, yes, but it is, I assure you, how it seems to me, a poor and lonely woman who has so little that matters in her life. The fierce locomotive of the scorching sun pulled behind it three hundred cars of dust and then, with a whistle that screamed like a woman torn from her love, a grandiose caboose of cruel, cruel rain, and everything then became like mud! And of all my toppled and strewn belongings do I find the one dearest to my aged heart? No!
I tell you, painful enough life is, you know it, I can see you know, but why these horrible fits of nature that hurl all hope to the far-reaches of the unclad universe? Can you tell me, please, why do the gods and their understudies pleasure take in throwing tantrums like a child? Is it like the instinct of a spoiled ten-year-old boy? Would you explain it if you could?
Ah-ha, you see, there is no explanation! You cannot answer, nor would you if you could, for that would make you an immortal or at least the fancy of an immortal's fitful dreams. Do not think that Fortune Florence hasn't noticed that you are kind, and that she is not thankful for that kindness. I clearly see within you goodness; you are of the same and sorrowful state as I, and you have witnessed much of pain. It is true, is it not? Perhaps not you yourself pain have felt, but witnessed, yes? See! I told you! Fortune Florence senses these things. You do know the pain I have endured, and maybe you will help me. I am digging now for six days; with this rag I have washed what I can and with this metal bucket that I fill with the hose by the merry-go-round, but I am digging and still it is lost, and I must find it, do you not see? I sense that you can see, but can you help me, will you help me, young and good-looking man that you are?
No, please do not feel concern--for your fault it is not. You remind my heart of the distant past, and I am sorry that I weep before you. What...what to do? If only as I sense people, objects I could sense! But this world, this material plane, the one of metal and fire and water, is a cloud to me, as these dirty tears to my vision! Look about us, Harold, at this infernal dust forming as it is from the mud, as if a corpse coming back to life! It has been dry now too long again, and things are breaking apart, returning to that state, and when the wind passes through once more like cars on a speeding train, I may lose forever what I seek now, what I must have returned!
But maybe we will this hour luck be having, if we work quickly and I maintain, and I maintain... I apologize, I do, for the condition of myself I am presenting, and I thank you for this handkerchief. You are a warm and kind-hearted young man of such humble grace that I, if your age, maybe, would welcome an advancement of a passionate sort?
Forgive me, please, for I am weary from my lengthy search, and I only talk, I do not mean. Compose I must myself and continue, you are wise to suggest, of course, in your deep and somewhat plain-spoken manner. As I earlier said, it is not an earring or a trinket or a valueless globe of glass. To me it is the most important of the finest things I own, of value more than all these jewels combined. It is a small box, golden with jade inlaid and an ebony interior as smooth as the skin of a lover. I do not wish to tell you the contents, for they cannot have made their way out, and they are not important to you. But if we find the box, if you can help me find it, I will grateful be to you and to your parents, the gods bless them for having created you, perhaps for this purpose, perhaps not.
Ah, but this is one purpose for which I think you were created, and again I am grateful, so grateful just to have a young man here, one who reminds my sorrowful bones of the past so long ago. To see you looking so intently you recall to me such memories, such pleasant recollections of those years long ago.
It is a box bedecked, I said, of gold with jade in spheroid shapes, and it is small, the size of a heart that is human. On a chain I wear the key to this box around my ample bosom, which changed has not as the years have come and gone. I could let you see it if you so demanded, as I am not a woman who challenges the given strength of man over her, and if confronted with...Oh, no, Harold, I think you do misunderstand what I suggest! Not my bosom, you foolish but most worthy young man and certainly strong young man. I was meaning the key that I would show you, demanded if you did, as proof that in vain is not this position I have placed us, within proximity on our knees, so that we share the air we breathe together--incidentally--and can feel, if we dare, the heat of our mortal bodies so near. But, yes, alas, refer only I did to this key. It is a struggle, but I think I can pull it from between my...no? Then I shall not show you, but accept your trust in my statement with gratefulness of the sincerest character.
In my home country, from which I regretfully fled under duress and with many tears, I was trusted, also, by a young man who wore a uniform of authority, and who, I must admit, fancied the place where I hide my key. I do not mean to arouse in you the curiosity he maintained even as I sailed away on that evil ship into the dark waters toward this land! Even as I traveled across the bellies of plains and the legs of rivers and along the spines of mountains, I could feel for me his desire so far away! And then, when I arrived here at the carnevale, and my practice I set up for only one week, I felt a sudden hollowness where before, where before I knew fire! I knew, I knew...
Forgive me, for I shed tears again, and your handkerchief is wet, and apologize again I must for my womanly weakness. I must rest and sit up for a second, or I will...How I wish I remembered not the past so clearly as if it were imprinted in the substance of the present day! It is like a picture that will not fade because of some charm I have administered by calling forth the spirits of the dead!
Oh, Harold, I remember! Can you understand? Do you understand what I have gone through so long now, the horror I have felt in knowing that return I cannot, and that could I return, nothing, nothing would remain? He is gone from me so long now, and yet I feel him, I feel his touch upon my skin, his lips upon my forehead as cried I did and goodbye I said. It is--I am sorry--so real to me, Harold, so real, and you have made me remember. Blame you I would never, for the creator of your own vigorous temperament you are not. Yes, perhaps, believe I do that you are sent by the gods to torment me, but your fault it is most assuredly not. Do you control the actions of this play? Do you, a character in a dream, your destiny control? Fortune Florence knows better! Let me tell you, Harold, I know better!
Ah, what is that? Harold! You have found it! Give it to me! It is true! You have found it, my young and strong and wonderful man! In your expertise and brilliance as an officer, you have accomplished your duty! Oh, I must--forgive me, as it is a slow procedure. In front of you kneel I must and bow, and your feet kiss! Please, please, accept my gratitude and thank you, thank you, sir, for your most courageous kindness. I know I am of a strange quality to you, a man so polite and modest and only doing your duty, but I know that strange indeed I am, and I...
No, you must not leave me with your handkerchief. Yes? Then I shall treasure it, I shall keep it here with me for all my living days and by the grace of the gods beyond. Allow me your badge to clean with it, here, before you go, and thank you, my son-- not my son, but one who resembles him so closely, if I had been so blessed as to have a son. Thank you, thank you! Come back when you can, and repay you I will with a reading of a special nature that will cause the forces of the other universe to reach deeply into your life and bring you great wealth and pleasures that you cannot in your mere mortal mind imagine! Thank you!
Now, you, you--now that the fine officer is gone--I will thank you not for hiding and for troubling me so that I cried in front of him! To think I would compare him--though he is of some masculine resemblance, I must admit--to you? It would be more than I could bear at this late hour of my life, my love, my poor yearning love, to lose you to the earth, to have you buried in the dirt while I am still alive!
Where is the key? Is it lost among my... No, here--here it is! I shall unlock the box and look upon you, at the only thing I have left of you, the vial of your blood that to me, so young and pretty once, you gave. Do you still have the blood of my heart that I to you provided so long ago? I cannot sense it, for I know death has come to you. Wars both great and small have crashed upon the shores of where together we were children once, but do you, my darling, do you still keep me with you where you sleep?