A Very Old Place



Ken Taub

IT WAS LIGHT AND IT WAS DARK, AND THERE WERE SO MANY CORRIDORS TO WALK DOWN YOU DIDN’T KNOW IF YOU WERE GETTING CLOSE TO AN EXIT OR JUST RETRACING YOUR STEPS. The atmosphere was more vague than stuffy, although it was slightly warm. That I remember. There were hushed voices at various corners, at either end of a given corridor, although I couldn’t see who was speaking. Perhaps as many as 15, 20 people coming and going, but I only remember the blond woman, the one who looked like a combination of Claire Danes and a woman I knew from Hawaii, half a lifetime back. Both were pretty women, so the combination was appealing. It worked.

What wasn’t working so well were my legs. They were weighted and slow, as if one were walking in thick mud up to your ankles. Think of soft ground, and a slow, steady rain – without the raindrops.

So there was no rain, no mud, only shadow people and stuffy corridors crowded with these spirits and faint voices. I tried getting through to the blond woman, but we couldn’t quite connect. Either she didn’t understand me, or there was too much static. For reasons that made little sense, these corridors were not conducive to sound waves. Something was impeding their transmission.

That’s when I lay down.

I couldn’t keep walking, and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I don’t even remember curling up on a small section of floor, I just remember finding myself prone. And that I couldn’t open my eyes. No deep slumber, just torpor, and eyes glued shut. No fluttering, no REM, no twitching. None of that. But I remained immobile. I couldn’t get up.

The voices that had been inaccessible only minutes before coalesced and surrounded me. Eyes shut, I still couldn’t see these corridor people, but I could hear them. There were discussing my condition. Then one suggested a doctor.

Get up, get up, get up.

There was no getting up. There were only imaginings that had no distinct color or kindness. There were recollections that arose as nothing more than fleeting sensations. And these voices of course. The next-table-over,-bread-in-the-mouth chattering had not ceased.

Of course, it all goes as it goes. There was, quite suddenly, the fetching blond, hand on my left shoulder, introducing me to Dr. Lambaccus. Very tall, immediately elegant, European elegant and slim, he bent over slightly to study my face before either of us said a word.

“Come, let’s walk,” he said. That’s when he introduced himself, telling me he was from someplace I likely had not visited – a place even less well known than Latvia or Lichtenstein – and that his specialties were two, obstetrics and osteopathy. Then he smiled, and while his teeth were bright white I could see the dark woodland there. He had a smile like the thick alpine forests of Lupeni or Brezoi, in central Romania.

Then I introduced myself, but I forgot which name I gave him; which was okay because while I knew he wasn’t from here, I wasn’t able to ascertain precisely where he was from. All I knew was that it was a very old place, and that he spoke well, dressed nattily, and took care of wombs and bones. So we walked on together, chatting amicably, with the doctor perhaps knowing my true name, perhaps not, while I had only the vaguest sense of where he had come from.

The corridors receded. We walked on crushed white stone walkways, and mossy hilltops. We talked about the changes in the world, and then what was unchangeable. We moved at a good clip – not too slow, not too fast – and proceeded on through sparse virgin forest and shoreline, farmland and steppe. My legs were now nearly weightless, while the world had gotten much smaller, and far more manageable.

I remember thinking, ‘What a fine physician this man is.’

While it seemed like we had known one another for many a year, he took no liberties with me. None that is, until he asked the question that most doctors eventually get around to.

“So, what’s ailing you, Alexander?”

My first reaction was surprise that I had given him the name of an old czar. I had never introduced myself that way to anyone else, not ever, and I was, in fact, no more than one-quarter Russian.

At this point I felt fine, but I didn’t want to lose the moment, nor waste my intimate journey with such an esteemed physician, so I told him I was highly acidic. I said something like, “There’s a fire inside me, under my lungs and sometimes as far down as my lower bowels, that has burned for a very long time.” And then I went farther, telling him that nothing has yet put it out; not cold water, or yogurt or lust, satisfied.

Dr. Lambaccus looked at me with something like concern, maybe amusement, but he retained an air of the scientific, so detached. “Well, one can see it hasn’t consumed you, this fire.”

“No, not yet, doctor. Not yet.”

He seemed pleased. We kept walking.

I felt like I was 25 again, certain that if we happened upon a clear pond and I could catch myself on its surface, that is exactly what I’d see. Me — all of me, with all my imaginings and all my names — at 25. Smooth-faced, and still tender.

After passing through a clearing, a field cut down to weed, scattered hay and clippings, he pointed ahead, to the West. “I have something for you,” he said to me.

“What is it?”

“Just come.”

“Okay, but why?

“It will put the fire out.”

I don’t know how I didn’t see it from only 50 yards away, or even how we came upon it, but there, on a stretch of blacktop road that meandered down a hill and then over the far edge of our vista, was a very long, very polished old roadster. It was bright white, and perfect.

“That is?”

“That is a 1931 Bugatti. A Royale Kellner to be precise.” The doctor informed me. “It is also your chariot.”

I said nothing. There was nothing I could say.

The wind picked up. It got immediately cooler. The space about us was crisp, decisive. There were no more questions. Not really. One could come up with anything, ask whatever one wished to ask. But things had become uniquely self-evident. Any questions would have been trivial..

I looked up at the purple gray sky and then at the elegant physician, who smiled. He smiled in a way that was not unlike the crook of a sharp pointing finger, curling back, indicating… come.

We got into the vehicle. The doctor asked me how I was, and when I told him “Fine, I think,” he then asked me if I wanted to drive.

“No,” I said. “You take the wheel. You drive.”

© 21013 Ken Taub

Ken Taub is a New York-based independent advertising and marketing consultant, copywriter and freelance writer, and co-owner of a yoga studio, with a background in philosophy and a degree in Chinese Studies.. Contact: kenja@optonline.net or go to www.kentaub.com.

Ken Taub, Associate Editor

Ken Taub

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