Prelude to a Confession
Oh – the light’s gone out! She must be off to bed alone! It’s wise, I think, to knock at once before the moment’s lost. I’ll go on three, as is the custom before a task like this – one, two, and-
And yet, let’s give it some more thought before we make ourselves a fool. Why, now, does my hand shake, which was so ready to strike just moments ago?
Perhaps it’s hopeless to deny this cowardice of mine and make it off like virtue. Although the cause is still unclear, the case is clearly one that’s not communicable. Never had I a coward to make me a coward – I’d kept away from those as if they’d borne a plague. And neither had family a part in my condition, for I was born of noble stock. My father, they say, was bold and cared for neither time nor decorum. They say he’d stumbled to my mother’s home at some strange hour and demanded, with a breath that reeked of courage, to see her at once – and they did comply after an hour’s discourse. Where is the cowardice in that?
Why, then, if neither exposure nor heredity are to be held accountable, do I suffer so? Was it fate, perhaps, or else a wrath of God incurred by some unknowable sin? Having never had a love for politics or fiction, I’ve always turned away from faith – so who now do I look to God? Superstition! Oh, but if what they say is true – that it was God who made the Earth and men, who ruled wisely – and clemently – over all, and who to men on Earth would give their blessing or their banes – or repeal them – then who better to address? I know no rituals of faith, but here I have a bottle which I had meant to offer – I’ll offer it then!
O heavenly father, lord on high and ruler of all below, measurer of worth and dealer of perils, pray listen! Here I open the bottle – hear it pop and fizzle! And here I take it by the lips and drink to you – praise be to you, as they say! And here I drink, secondly, to your sons who walk the Earth or lay infirm, as you ordain – mercy to them! And here I drink, thirdly, to the holy spirit which to faithful men does courage and warmth endow – glory to him! And all the rest I drink now too, in one breath, for good taste – it’s good to finish what you’ve started!
And now for the solution to take effect – one minute slips by and a second’s even quicker, a third and now I feel it already! I feel within a welling warmth and wildly does my mind race. I feel lightness about me, as though a single draft could lift me on high and send me straight to heaven! And further does the feeling climb and cling to my throat – and now it pours out through my lips – oh, it spews!
Quickly are the gifts of God given and taken. The night is ruined and the bottle is drained, its contents and mine lay spoiled atop the porch. Oh, what a disgrace – spirits gone, overcome by spirits, ails made worse for ale, no gall left, and the porch was pristine just a moment ago! Waiting here at a lover’s door, coward as I am and always will be, leaves a foul taste in the mouth, although they say that love is sweet. No one else have I to blame – of course, all along I’ve had myself. No pestilence ever hung over me, but that I called for it myself. The sin for which I suffer might not be so nameless after all – stagnation I’ll call it, knowing no better. All my years I kept and spoiled myself. Never did I mingle with my peers – I’d met each one with indifference. Never did I care to share a drink to revel in their joys, and never did I shed a tear in sympathy for their sorrows. My welling heart would thus lay stagnant for years upon years, and sometime along the way a brooding curse had settled there. Within stagnant waters there it festered and gave way to rot, and thus a foul miasma rose out from within its depths. A love too pure would wilt at once, were I to simply breathe upon it. Too late is it that I confess my blighted heart to be the cause of my affliction – and neither have I the courage or the will to cure it. I’ve tried enough medicine of my own for tonight, and that left me retching. A coward and a fool I am, for a wise man would have left long ago.
I feel my limbs are by a deathly stupor loosed – the spirit which guided them has long since gone, and no firm sense of mind have they to cling to. The circumstances now are bleak – it is an odd hour of the night, my wavering consciousness has me stumbling to and fro, and I reek of wine and blackened bile. What ought a fool to do? A fool, I mean, who’s got nothing left to lose, no pride or courage or honor or faith or family or even a lover – what ought he to do? Why, in my case a fool would raise a fist – like so – as if to strike the air. In throes of rage he’d flail – like so – and ah, I’ve struck the door! The sound was weak, and a fool ought always to outdo himself. A second time I’ll strike – like so – and better! And now a third time, as common practice would have it, to knock thrice at a door before which a beggar stands. Oh, and what a loud knock that was! Do you suppose it rang out within her chambers? She must have woken to hear it. Although a wise man really ought to flee, having woken a woman this late at night without having anything very appropriate to show her, I’ve decided that wisdom is really something I lack. I have, therefore, resolved to stay and – ah, a flash like heaven and the porchlight’s newly lit! The door – a voice calls from within!