The Fifth Lake

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Where I went to was a place where I could see the sixth lake. I could spot it from there. The iced circles in the crevices created a light that was fluid but also motionless; it was a bluish-white; it made the sixth lake visible. I never stayed long and returned before all of the travelers were full

The Fifth Lake

 

The Fifth Lake. Truth is repulsive. Almost no one can stand it. At the fifth lake it became apparent to me. The boat drifted in on the power of its wake; the people got off and it docked; it may have been that day that determined the matter. Oh: I’m supposed to speak of it. Well I’m not going to until the time is right. It was the second night there. I think the boat had been on too many trips; its motor was always coughing. That night they couldn’t get it restarted. 

#

So the third night became the fourth night. I could not settle in. I was asking many questions of my brain. But I didn’t have a choice. I really had to settle in. Because on the mainland something had broken out. It was on the afternoon that would have turned into the fifth night; well, it did: it turned into the fifth night. 

#
There were many nights after that. My fellow travelers were of an array of sorts. I’m not interested in going into any detail about them; I wasn’t paying attention to them anyway; and they don’t matter in the end. In the end there were only bulbous plates and uncertain stems to be dug up and plied forth. I could not stand that for the first week after the pall of the certainty of the stay set in.
#
Then I saw the sixth lake. Then things changed. First I saw it in my mind because the ‘I’ in me couldn’t believe that my eyes were seeing it; so I kept it in and gave my mind access to it. I got braver though and decided to believe what my sensible eyes were telling me: the sixth lake was visible; it was hidden behind and between the crevices of the iced circles but it was evident to my eyes. I told no one about it. I was developing heavy feelings about the whole matter.
#
This is when I met Maugham. Maugham had a severe stutter at the time. I assumed it to be congenital. Our conversations were long and had great breadth. If I could say nothing else about Maugham I would say that he was greatly knowledgeable. He knew the planetary orbits and the secret ties in the psyche. It was along those lines that our conversations threaded. So I divided my time between conversations with Maugham on the piers of the fifth lake and the solitary contemplation of the sixth lake when I was able to get away.
#
News of the outbreak reached us in fragments. Boats off the coast floated newspapers in plastic bottles towards our shores. Maugham was surprisingly uninterested in all of it. But so was I. I was just entering another decade in my life; my fifth, and it was nothing new to me. Just another instance of a recurring mark. I wasn’t aware of anything else in my life; I don’t think I ever had been. The sea was very placid at night. The travelers went indoors to sleep. Maugham and I occasionally spoke into the early darkness but he always retired early. This gave me time to go on my walks. At least that’s how I referred to them since it could not be helped that people saw me late at night sometimes returning, among the buildings. Where I went to was a place where I could see the sixth lake. I could spot it from there. The iced circles in the crevices created a light that was fluid but also motionless; it was a bluish-white; it made the sixth lake visible. I never stayed long and returned before all of the travelers were fully in bed; most were asleep, but small groups were still making their way out of their seats and away from their tables on the piers.
#
Maugham never sensed anything. But it was for that reason that I thought he would appreciate it the most. I took him one night. He talked the whole way; about various things; Maugham could talk forever if the subject interested him. When we arrived though, he grew still; he patiently listened to my instructions, then he saw it. Maugham started talking again but was brisk now and his stutter was ephemeral and inconsequential. He continued in that exact vein the whole way back; when we said goodnight I watched him walking towards his room in the night; he was swinging his arms back and forth and up and down; I knew he was happy about the lake. The recurring mark that this decade was my fifth seemed wholesome at that moment; more so with the plague or whatever the it was that had broken out on the mainland. I felt for the first time in my life that the emptiness of my life had some meaning in itself; I did not give a rat’s ass about it, but it struck me; an ego of sorts struck me, something denuded but able to ransom humanity with: and that was a surprise.
#
Truth is not only repulsive; I have discovered that it is also untrue. Maugham was not a good example of this. Maugham had an avid, hyper-sensitive intellect; most of the time he was simply precocious; he was like a gifted child visiting the same Exploratorium for the first day, every day; he could not help but to identify things correctly. It was the total exceptional nature of the situation that caused all of this to start up in my mind: plague or whatever the hell on the mainland; our buildings, our piers; our tables and seats and lounge chairs on the piers; the sixth lake and the iced circles cramped in the crevices unconvincing until observed; the inconsequence of the travelers; the dated newspapers floating in to our shores and the unimportance of it; the ephemerality of Maugham’s stutter; Maugham’s exceptional mind and the affluence of his non-stop mouth. I never used to question the truth of other peoples’ statements; I simply didn’t care about them; no difference to me either way. Well, now; now I suppose I have a good right to say to people, ‘Why should I listen to you?’ They’ve violated my customs: that’s I how I put it. I don’t give a rat’s ass in the end; but I can ransom them with it on the fly, according to my will.
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I saw Maugham in the morning before he could see me. He was swinging his arms; he was still happy from the night before, from the sixth lake; he had the whole thing in his mind, and he was taking it apart and checking for all combinations and possibilities.
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I was saddened when I learned of Maugham’s death. I returned to the island in the fifth lake a few years later (the plague, or the outbreak of a media hysteria, had been contained and there was a vaccine for the first, they said, not mentioning the second). The buildings hadn’t disappeared. Some of the outdoor furniture still stood as it had stood. Even the plastic bottles laid around up high and dry on the semi-alluvial turf of rocks; they looked like fossil sediments to me, geologically young, unobtrusive--but blighted by the elements since the time they had floated in. . . but then again not blighted; not blighted: in that environment. I do wonder. I wonder what ineluctability possessed Maugham, he; for he was that: an ineluctable human being. It was as though when he had existed. . . he had existed in geological time; not having to deal with human time; and I wonder; I wonder if he knew anything about it; did he have; did he have any such self-knowledge in the first place? That’s a mystery to me; believe it or not, it haunt me fearfully. For if he was young in that element, if that’s really where he was, in that element, I mean (because he was young in mind, that’s a certainty, it’s axiomatic), but if that’s really where he was, then I cannot see him very well, but then again he is distinct in outline; in shadow; and then he becomes: like a shadow; and then; when I remember him, it shivers me, it shivers me up my back. That he may have seen me as a; indicator species classified in the sentient sciences; but if he did, I will never be able to ask: “Who was he?” So I have to ask: “What was he?” But I must calm myself, I am not accustomed to having my mind so perturbed, until recently, yes, until I learned of his death.
I’m dilating now; wait; it happens often: I’m in ether. Someone is turning the screw. I hadn’t expected this to happen;-- no maybe I had;-- I wanted to record it; I wanted to tell the story.
#
I can see the parishioners though (I call them that now; it’s a habit); the fellow travelers, whom I had thought so; so . . . they had been irrelevant to me, not because of Maugham; he just made it more conclusive: more aesthetic; I mean, in the secularism of the isolation, on the piers, in the night among the buildings.

#


I can see him when we arrived at the sighting-point of the sixth lake: he had grown still; he had patiently listened to my instructions, it was the only time I had ever seen him quieted, although he was always quiet of mind. I can see him now, listening to me, as I instruct him: then he saw it: he saw; then starting talking again, but he had become brisk then and his stutter utterly ephemeral and inconsequential. And that’s all there is at the end of this. And I’m supposed to live with that? With the truth?

 

 

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