Chapter 34: Crossing Lines
Twenty years ago, in Borderfirma
When Gabriel travelled from Waldmeer to the Borderfirma Lowlands, twenty years ago, he was ready to give his relationship with Faith-Amira his best. For the first few years, he was somewhat dependent because he didn’t know how to live in the interdimensional world on his own. Gradually, he became accustomed to it. He made friends and found opportunities to follow his own leanings; including the ones that weren’t particularly aligned with Faith’s. After all, he was a different person to her. He always had been. He always would be.
Faith and Gabriel stayed at Floating Cave Monastery for seven years until Aristotle and Indra turned twenty, married, and took over the management of the Lowlands as predicted by Nina’s crystal ball. Faith and Gabriel then went to live at the palace in the Borderfirma Mountains. They did not live in the palace, itself, although they were asked many times. They lived in one of the cottages on the grounds. Faith wouldn’t even let the palace staff into their home as she preferred to cook and clean herself. So, they let her be. And Gabriel and Faith tried to let each other be. They had learned from experience that to do otherwise ended badly. They both came and went. They came and went to different places. When they were home together, they tried to be together. That was how it had to be. It was enough to keep them going, that is, until Gabriel’s fiftieth birthday.
Gabriel’s fortieth birthday, back in Waldmeer, had not been good either. At the time of that birthday, Gabriel had moved from Amira’s house in Waldmeer to Darnall. The Boys of Darnall decided to throw him a party at the local nightclub. Although it didn’t seem a particularly good idea, Gabriel messaged Amira to invite her as he felt he couldn’t not invite her to his fortieth. As one would expect, it was a disaster. Amira thought that the drinking, noise, packed bodies, meaningless conversations, and blatant craving for human connection were the antithesis of who she was (and who anyone really was). Nothing could be lonelier than that club, she thought on the dark but reassuring road back to Waldmeer. She told herself that if she and Gabriel were to be in each other’s lives then it would have to be in neutral territory. She would not ask him to be more than he could or wanted to be but nor would she be less than she was.
Ten years later, in the Borderfirma Mountains, Gabriel’s fiftieth was worse. Worse because it mattered more. In the months before his birthday, his behaviour towards Faith had badly deteriorated. Faith knew he was struggling but she didn’t know that he was planning a big party with his friends in the Lowlands that she was neither invited to nor would she be informed of. Friends is used loosely here. It would be more accurate to say, drinking buddies. Drinking buddies are not friends. They are either entertainment while one drinks or, at least, they are complicit drinkers who affirm the persons choice to do likewise. For Faith, the whole thing had crossed the line.
Chapter 35: Drawing Circles
Ten years ago, in the Borderfirma Lowlands
One day, months after the fiftieth party, Gabriel was near Floating Cave and decided to swim in the silent, salty pond. He always enjoyed being there. It was so relaxing. The old monk who lived in the Monastery was nowhere to be seen. As Gabriel floated, he heard the monk enter the cave.
After some friendly chit-chat, the monk said, “I hear you have hit a milestone birthday.”
“Yeah,” said Gabriel flatly. He felt depressed. The inner dialogue that had been on repeat-play started up again, I didn’t invite Amira because she hates drinking. And I didn’t tell her because I have a right to do what I want. No matter how many times it replayed, its compulsion to do so didn’t lessen.
The monk drew two circles in the wet earth with a long stick. He then took a few steps further into the cave and drew two half-circles next to each other. He then drew two interlocking circles.
“Which do you prefer?” asked the monk.
As Gabriel wasn’t sure what they were, he didn’t answer.
“I don’t like any of them,” said the monk. He pointed to the two single circles and said, “We are not meant to be alone.” He then pointed to the two half-circles and asked, “Do you want to give half of yourself to another person in order to make a whole unit?”
“God no,” said Gabriel.
The monk pointed to the two interlocking circles and said, “People try and make this work. They keep what they can of their own identity and merge as much of themselves with the other as they think is feasible or necessary.” After a pause, the monk said, “It’s tolerable, I guess, but is tolerable good enough?”
Gabriel thought that it didn’t feel enough for him.
The monk then drew two more single circles and a larger one enclosing both. “This is happier,” he said. “Neither person has to give any of themselves away. They are entirely themselves.”
“I get it,” said Gabriel. “Both circles are themselves.” Suddenly feeling much lighter, he added, “In the way that circles are themselves. And together they live in something bigger than themselves which is the circle enclosing both. They make the big circle together!” He was proud of himself for sounding so mature and brilliant.
“That is correct,” said the monk, “but I prefer to see the large circle not as something that the two are making but as something that is already made; something the two belong to; something that they both merge with without losing anything. That is much less work and more pleasant, don’t you think?”
When Gabriel left Floating Cave, he noticed that he no longer felt depressed. He felt quite hopeful and restored. That saltwater does wonders, he thought. Instead of returning on the road back into the Lowlands, he took the opposite road to the Borderfirma Mountains. He was ready to try again.