PROBABILITY, a love story
Jay Crisostomo IV
Once there was a boy. He was short, dark skinned. His family was poor. He was not intelligent. In fact, nothing was special about the boy. He was just that: a boy. Instead of spending his time in books or sports, he chose not to excel in anything, instead he spent his time in the jungle. In the jungle, the boy was free to do what he wanted. His mom would not be present to sigh nor his teachers to shake their heads nor his friends who would tsk tsk as they ran away laughing. Beneath the endless tropical canopy, he was free. He could sleep, eat, hunt, run, scream, but most of the time he just slept and dreamt. He dreamt of faraway places and distant futures with men flying on metal birds or traveling to the moon and back. He dreamt of people talking through tiles that lit up when you touched them. He dreamt of what would be, but more importantly what could be.
And this was how he first met the princess.
The princess was, in all meanings of the word, beautiful. Her eyes held the glimmer of diamonds. Her skin was the terra cotta of imported china. Her lips were but the plumpest and reddest strawberry cut in two. But more than her looks, her beauty ran deep down to her soul. She was known in the city as the pardoner of crimes, the kisser of tears, the lover of the unloved. At least that’s what the boy heard from city gossip. He has never met the princess, his one true love, until he dreamt of her that one day in the jungle.
He met her through a cascade of falling gem stones, naked, as if bathing and feeding from lesser beautiful things. The girl’s shape aroused some passion within the boy, a gentle stirring of the heart and a monstrous heaving of the flesh. He was dumbfounded, well he was dumb to begin with, but dumb as he was, he knew he must hold her, seize her. After that he did not know what would follow. So in dreamland, he put his hand through the curtain of gems only to be cut. His skin gave way easily enough so he retracted his arm and kissed his wound. He was afraid because he knew what he must do. His soul trembled because he knew he must be cut infinitely in order to reach his destination. He was not a brave boy, as said earlier, he was nothing at all. But he steeled himself and took a step forward letting the cloth of his shirt to be ripped to nothing and then eventually his flesh and then his bones. Every step was a new suffering, a new heart break, but all effort was not enough, the image of the princess receded as he approached. In truth, nothing could have stopped him, let him be reduced to a bloody pulp, he would have never turned back. The thing with dreams though is you always wake up.
And wake up he did. He woke up to the most astonishing of miracles, a truth stranger and more wonderful than his dreamscape. The princess was in sight. She was there. She sat upon a huge palanquin held by an elephant. A retinue of guards was with her. What must he do, his mind raced. Was action only possible in dreams? No. The boy sat trembling in a din of emotion. He was elated, sure. But the feeling that grasped his heart was that of shame. He, naked, dirty, his bones showed through his skin. Gaunt, his face felt to his hands. A stench, his nose reacted to his hand palming his cheek. Oh, this is why an ant should never look up to see the eagle, the sky, the sun. He is in danger of falling in love. And in love he was, although of course, love had a different name at that time, in that place.
Slowly, cautiously, he stalked the princess, always afraid that a guard might see him and mistake him for a thief. Always afraid, that the princess will see him and mistake him for some savage beast. But fear gave way to thrill and thrill gave way to awe. She was as he imagined her, as he dreamed her. Surely, that meant something, didn’t it? Surely that showed some connection between their souls. In the boy’s head, he mused that maybe, just maybe, the princess had already seen him in a dream. But he would not let himself fall to such naivete. A princess would never fall in love with a street rat.
The entourage stopped by the lake in the center of the jungle. The elephant was freed from his burden and drank from the water.
This was the boy’s spot, the boy’s private spot. How many times had he jumped from the old willow tree in its centre? How many times had he tried and failed to keep hold on the floor beneath the water for more than a thousand and one seconds? He felt like he now truly shared something with the princess. It was an awesome thing for him to realize that such beauty would have anything in common with a vagabond.
During that internal monologue, did the guards leave the princess. The boy did not even have a chance to wonder why.
She was taking off her clothes. First the veil that hid her lips, those plump strawberry lips. Then the cloth from her torso that revealed the young swell of breasts and those chocolate tips that crowned the small hills. He tried to shy away his eyes, but being a boy, he could of course not. What came next was difficult for the boy to look at, not because he did not want to look but because he wanted to do more than looking.
Water satiates all fire. That is false. When the princess put her toes to the lake to test its temperature, the boy felt a heat in his cheeks that could melt stone. When the rest of her body followed into the water, a monster groaned from inside the boy. Reveal yourself, it said. Take her now, she is alone. Take her now. It was a feat of unprecedented self-control that held the boy back behind the bushes.
He let himself be the ripples of water. Imagined the lake to himself, embracing the whole, seeping into private corners. In his mind, he kissed her gently as the water does. Now ready to die, he let himself drown within himself. He was not just the water anymore but also the ground, the earth, the sky, he was the universe, and within him was his most precious heart, swimming within a lake.
The princess at that time went to the willow tree in the very centre of the lake. It stood on a small island, rooted in an almost impossible position. It bent down like a wise old sage looking at his reflection in the water. A leaf was slowly falling down and the princess reached up her hands to catch it. A beautiful portrait. But beauty rarely lasts. Once a rose is cut from its stem, it starts to wither and will eventually die.
A hiss passed from between the boy’s feet. It was a snake, a viper. It slithered its way to its prey, innocently standing in the middle of the lake. The boy had no time to think. He had no time to be the coward that he was. Instantly he jumped into action running to the snake when there was still space to run and finally plunging into the lake itself. He willed himself to be fast, he willed himself to be strong. He half-remembered his dream. He must be cut infinitely before he reaches his destination. It might have been luck or it might have been the strange strength love offers to its victims, but the boy caught the snake in the end. The snake bit him in the neck, seeping poison and death to the carotid artery. In a last ditch of life, he pulled at the snake and ripped it into two. It took almost no time at all for the boy to float numb on the water. The last thing he saw when finally his body gave out was the princess kissing the leaf.
In the black hold of death, he remembered. He must be cut infinite times before he reaches his destination.
The boy opened his eyes again to the world, a blinding light kept his eyes pinched to a close. He was crying but he did not know why. He was so very small, smaller than he was before but he did not know why. Once more he was a baby but he did not know why. He looked through his little fingers, surveying his surroundings, and everything was a mystery. Who are these people he mused, what are they wearing, where am I? He knew nothing but he was still alive, and that he must find her…
He has pulled himself from the karmic circle, from the swirl of fate for one sole purpose.
That target has been seared into his essence and he did not mind living and dying again and again if only to find her. The boy’s soul was not a special one, it was not a soul destined for honor or fame. The soul was just like the boy in his previous life, it was just a soul. But like the boy, his soul was frenzied by the thought of a princess bathing in gemstones. If the snake must bite him once more, then let it ravage him, let him be devoured, he will either break free from the monster’s belly or reconstitute his body from feces. He has committed himself to the one task of seizing his one and only wish. All else does not matter, the world is but a blurred background to his quest. Strange that only in his new life did he find such passion, such willingness to be something, to be more than what he was. He must find the princess, that is all that matters.
“Doctor, the baby seems to be really quiet.”
“Nurse, some infants are like that. They are born thinking. They are born with a purpose.”
“I have never taken you to be a mystic sir.”
“We can be anything we want with our free time.”
Anything we want. The child heard that, and he understood. He can become anything he wanted to be, and he wanted to be next to the princess. To own her. To possess. This new life would be a blessing, he would try with all his being to be better, to be smarter, to be a deserving partner to the woman that he loved. But it will take time, he thought, he was no more than five seconds alive. It would take a lot of re-growing up but it does not matter. He will carry any burden.
Pain then crossed his bottom, a sharp stinging sensation. He remembered the snake, his dream, and clenched his teeth. He would not cry for them. He could take pain. He would have to. The doctor slapped him again, and then again. And when the doctor was tired, the nurse took over. What idiots, the child thought, you can not make me cry, I am full of resolve. And then the commotion started.
A long piercing bleep, a terrible scream, a woeful truth. When something is born, something else must die. Doctors came rushing in and out of the room, he heard a man wail in the background, it was a voice he recognized but he was not sure. That must have been the child’s father. Blood was transfused, perspiration dropped from goggled brows, but nothing could save the woman who gave the boy a second life. Nothing.
The boy was sad for a while but it did not matter. The woman was just a vehicle for his rebirth. All souls return to the creator anyway. It took great effort but he did so anyway, he turned his tiny head to see her dead.
Oh no! Oh no! The boy still remembered how to cry after all. He could still react to real pain, to pain that stings through the very core of the human.
There was no mark, no way of telling, but the baby, the boy knew. The woman on the bed was her. It was her, the princess from the jungle, the woman that he loved. What bliss was it to have shared sustenance with her, to be inside her! What more intimate a relationship between woman and man to be mother and son! But it was again too late, no more than a minute of consciousness had passed in this new life that the princess has slipped away from from his grasp.
Now the boy would learn to suffer. To live a maudlin life, a life cursed in a world without the woman that he loved, and to know that her death was caused by his birth was the salt rubbing against fresh wound.
The boy’s life, after his birth, was uneventful. Some would have considered it wasteful. It was the boy’s decision. He just did everything in routine, even his death was pedestrian but it is too soon to go that.
First let us consider a lecture the boy attended as a student in university.
“All events in the world are probable. Even the impossible is possible.”
The bored young man took his eyes off the floor and asked. His teacher was surprised, and so was his classmates. The freak had a voice after all.
“What do you mean, sir?”
“Oh… I’m glad that you’re with us… Mister…”
“It does not matter. What did you mean sir?”
“Nothing is impossible. Imagine a vacuum where time and space have the luxury to repeat themselves. Where characters are free to live and relive life in a loop of infinite time. Why every conceivable effect would come out of a cause. Do you understand how impossible the simple presence of life is? Out of all the atoms, particles, in the vastness of space, the right mix occurred. The right circumstance. Imagine if life was born in the sun. Do you think it was luck? No. It was fate, the fate of probability.”
That was the one star in the boy’s second existence. Everything is probable. Even the
impossible. He married. He had children. He was born poor. He became rich. He became old and feeble. A lot of things happened to the boy but he only held onto that one thought. Everything is probable. And from deep within him he heard a sigh. The occurrence of the impossible is called a miracle. And all miracles come with a price.
You must be cut several times before you reach your destination.
And that was how he died, thinking a thought from a past life, holding a glass of ice tea while watching his great grand children playing in the garden.
Perhaps it would be too painful, a torture, to know what happens next to the boy or his soul but for any joy or life or truth to come to fruition we must first experience pain. The boy had lived a thousand lifetimes. Sometimes human, sometimes not. But at every junction he was just a step, a reach away from his goal.
He was in both world wars, one time an antagonist, at the other a protagonist. The First World War he stepped on a mine at the very moment when he saw a reincarnation of the princess as a handsome ally private with his guts splayed on the ground. The second, he himself had shot the princess with a stray bullet from his sub-machine gun, she was a mere child in that life time, grabbing with all desperation to her mother’s chest. Both lifetimes he lived through, he went through every agonizing second, every agonizing without her, in the hope that she might be reborn again.
He once became a lion, and he even admitted to himself that he enjoyed being on top of the food chain. He was after all still a boy. He prowled the jungle, his eyes always open for stripes that would look familiar but not. Always he would think twice before devouring prey. But once, just once, as the king of the jungle did he notice that strength and fangs was not what made a king. It was humility, humility despite strength and fangs, a humility he learned while watching a heron fly towards the sun. It sparkled. It’s wings, it’s gait; it’s eyes sparkled like gem stones.
Thrice he became inanimate: a mountain when the princess became a star. A shanty house when the princess was a sports car that zoomed by. A stone when she was a strand of grass not two inches away from him. Those were interminable existences. To see and not touch, to be but the strange boy who just watched a princess reaching for a leaf in the middle of a lake. All those times he simply wanted to hug her, hold her, whisper three simple words as a mountain, a house, a stone might.
Other lifetimes, he did not even see her. Those were the worst in the boy’s opinion. Where was she? On another continent? Deep in the sea? Outer space? The questions boggled him. Made him weep. And when his form could not shed tears, tremble. Those life times taught him a precious lesson. If beauty is not conquered, it is, at the very least, better beheld than be completely restricted from. To be unloved is a sickness but to be alone is a death.
In the end of the thread, the boy’s one thousand and first lifetime, he was tired. The zeal that had pulled him through the karmic circle, falling again and again through the rabbit hole, had almost but died away. Even the fires of hell grow cold. Even the love of god is limited.
He was a caterpillar and he had lived his entire life on the tree. It was a tremendous effort for something so small to explore a tree but he did so. He asked the roots in the language he learned as a root. He asked the soil, the worms. He asked little space he used to tunnel up and down the tree. He asked the branches and finally the leaves. They all understood him but could not provide any information about something, someone that looked as if it was showering in gemstones. No one could blame the caterpillar, it was difficult to explain anyway.
Atop the tree, the caterpillar looked down and heaved out a sigh. Enough. Enough. He wiggled on the leaf that he sat on and allowed it to fall. He was determined to drown on the lake bellow. As the leaf made its journey down he thought about all the suffering he had experienced and whispered again enough.
It was then that a hand caught the leaf. The caterpillar looked up and met the princess’s smile.
“You have travelled so far. Welcome home.”
BJCl February 2013