His home was on the water.
The water was a noisy neighbor. Constantly thrashing, gurgling and slamming as it hurried along toward the sea. It was rude and pushy because it had to be. Sometimes his neighbor would break into his house in a drunken stupor and tear his furniture apart. Chairs would be flung. Paintings ripped and torn. The walls would be stained.
And then the apology would come. The sun would come out and the birds would sing songs of riveting remorse. She would sing, too. She would sing in a voice sweeter than Orpheus.
His body would shake. He was bitter and distraught. Despondent. And then he would give in. He would forgive. Goodbye to the bygones.
He loved his neighbor. She was confident, maybe even gallant. Beautiful, yet quietly powerful. She had a way of being. Simply. The bottom of her dress flowed forever, despite the incessant whispering of a jealous breeze. Always confident, but not swollen with pride.
On warm days the aging man would spend all day patiently sitting with her. He would hear the river shout, and he would understand. This, he thought, is knowledge. He heard wisdom in her rapids. The fish spoke of the infinite knowledge of their landlord. Their landlord had seen the world. From the West to the East, North and south. She had met the Earth in its’ infancy. She and the Earth were childhood friends!
Among the water the old man felt connected. It was as if being among such wise company made himself wiser. He was wise. There is so much – too much – to learn among a channel of cool blue.
The old man asked about the waves in the ocean. He felt the answer slide past his submerged ankles. And what about the grass? A bead of water rolled down his hair and dropped onto his leathery, sun-bleached back. He senses the answer. His questions about the stars and the moon. All answered. He implores about the wind and the glowing ambers after a fire has long since fled. And the answer comes.
He bathed in the river, and she bathed in him. He drank from the river while she drank him in. She was nurtured by him and he was nurtured in return.
Sometimes he would just watch Sibyl (she needed a name) as she carried on her timeless task. She was Sisyphus, but more graceful, and much more content.
Sibyl spent much of her life as a mirror. The sun looked down on her so the sun could see its’ own reflection. The old man would look down at Sibyl to see himself in all his imperfection. He watched as his youthful skin, once pulled so tightly over his cheeks began to sag. His muscles, once so defined and promenant began to wither. He watched himself decay like a flower before winter.A corpse in the ground, but his heart was still puttering along.
Sibyl never gazed at herself. She had no worry. She was perfection. She had curves in all the right places. And her clothes were always turquoise. The old man told Sibyl often that she looked best in that color. So she wore it. Everyday.
And one day as he lowered himself into the lazy current, he was startled. Something was wrong. He looked down toward the water and saw his bellybutton above the current. The old man looked up from the water and shifted his gaze in the direction of the bank. There was water-beaten dirt exposed. He told himself it was normal. Natural. The diagnosis was promising. It was nothing more than a common cold.
He awoke early the next day to visit his gaunt-faced lover. She was doing worse than the day before. And he cried. Not because he knew it was over, but because he knew the ending was near. There was so much left to do. So much left to see. Journeys to make. Villains to slay. And as he cried he prayed that his tears could fill Sibyl’s thinning frame. He cried until he had no tears. And then he just sat, convulsing and heaving like a worm cut in half.
Eventually sleep came.
In the morning, he woke to gloomy morning light. He was curled up next to Sibyl, hoping he could comfort her with his presence. When he looked into her bony eyes, there was almost nothing left. A powerless stream of water, no more than an inch wide trickled past. Sibyl is the ghost of her former self. The old man rubbed his eyes, half expecting the mirage to dissipate. His hopes were left out to dry.
As the sun spiraled down toward the horizon, and reds, oranges and yellows splashed across the sky, the old man went into his house and grabbed a worn brass cup. He walked, like a patient walking for the first time after a coma, toward Sibyl. As darkness began to wash over the world, he dipped the brass cup into Sibyl’s withering body. The cup, now partly filled, was raised to his lips with trembling hands. His body was shaking.
The cup was cold on his dry, cracked lips. It felt surprisingly pleasant. He tilted the cup back and felt Sibyl within him. She felt beautiful on his tongue. And as he took her in, he felt himself growing dizzy. And then he was tired.
So the old man lay down on top of Sibyl, in the bottom of the riverbed. He heard her whisper her final words in his ear as Sibyl went dry. And then he blew out his last breath.
And he died, atop his deceased lover. He died as Sibyl flowed through his veins. Temporary is life, forever is death. Forever one.