"Mika's not in his room; he's out in the greenhouse. We have a greenhouse on the far end of the
grounds. He'll be sitting in there. He seems to like it there because it is quiet." Inside, behind the
orchids, Mika sat on a block of cement.
"They told me you were coming but I didn't know when "
"Do you feel alright?"
"I have headaches and I vomit frequently. When I'm nervous, I start shaking. Loud noises frighten
me. Sometimes I am quite sure someone has been sent to hurt me. The fear passes, the conviction
They sat near the fence on two blocks of cement. Mika laid his head on
my lap and closed his eyes
against the sun. A blue vein could be traced from behind the ear to the top of the forehead. I put my
finger over it to hide it. The blueness of vein was somehow obscene.
"Mika, are they good to you here? Do they treat you well?"
"They leave me alone most of the time."
"You can always come to my place."
"What do you mean?"
"This is a pound."
"Mika, you can live with me."
" I don't like your wife. I prefer to stay here."
"I've asked you to come--I want you to. You'll have your own room--I have bookcases for your
books, a mattress--"
"It doesn't matter "
"Well, look, " I said, snapping a leaf in two.
"This leaf--now tell me what yellow is, without referring to any other thing in this world."
"Stop baiting me. I'm not ill."
"I'm not baiting you--just give me an answer."
"It's a color, a vibrational frequency--what are you trying to prove?"
"So it is something you comprehend---yes?"
"Yes. Of course."
"But it is something you cannot express except by reference, that is, a frame--am I right?"
"So that is why you are alive."
"No." said Mika, slowly. He wrapped his raincoat around himself more securely. "Not at all."
"It's true--you are alive simply because you sense this brilliant shade--that taste--this sight--the wind
hitting our faces--it's not a matter that one can discuss or refute--"
"That's not enough" said Mika. "It never was. I thought we already discussed this."
"What more do you want ?"
"Something more--a reason--" said Mika, "because living is not justified by the intake of the senses-
-yellow can't make me go on living."
" I don't mean I stand before any tribunal. Living is just difficult nowadays, not worth the effort."
"Effort--you mean breathing, hard labor?"
"Because even here I need to feed and clothe myself. I have to listen to other patients. The doctors,
the nurse--they wake me up each morning, force me to eat. The medication, the talks and the
sunlight in my space. I must interact in order to live. Because of this, my peace ceases to exist. I
have no strength or desire to think anymore. I want to stay asleep. I wish my life would cease."
" But you--you were always telling me how I had to learn compassion. How I couldn't die because
of you, how I couldn't leave you. How did you change so much?"
" When I read--it is as though I have someone, standing above me. But when I try to speak to them,
they walk out. They say what they have to say but they cannot listen to you or answer your
questions. I am left with only one definition of yellow when the book is shut. Only one shade of
yellow buzzing with the insistency of a doorbell."
"What do you want?"
"Our existence is rich--- rich like a tapestry. Is it compassion? I don't know. A painter is senses
twice as many shades as the nonpainter. There is a richness and a subtlety absent from my life
because I cannot see these shades of the mind. I want all things to resonate with their substance--I
want to stretch the senses. A word becomes more than a syllable if it is heard at a certain place at a
certain time--it begins to create worlds within itself, to store memories for the winter time, the
smooth flat surface of a stone turned over and over in a stream. I want the buildings to ring with
some hidden memory, muted meaning--the entire city should be cutting out a symphony from the
air. It has seen so many fires, so many people have walked within its blood stream. It must have
something to say. The steel mills on the northbank must have something to say to me. Most the
windows are broken. What are they trying to say? All I can see is one shade of yellow. I'm deaf. "
"So you want to see--to sense it."
"I know can't have that so what I want is the ability to live without wishing for it. To be content. A
complex happiness." He sat up and looked at me. " I want to desire a complex happiness. After
childhood, when one has passed the stage of seeking simple happiness and thrives instead on
difficulties, obstacles--there exists the complex happiness. But I am still wanting that primitive
happiness, effectively building a rampart against what I should be searching for--not seeing, you
see, the complex happiness that awaits me. I can't see it, I can only tell you what someone has told
"It sounds suspiciously like resignation."
" No--I believe that it requires the strength of religious faith--to live on, believing, you know, in complex happiness--drawing out the impossibility like honey in a fine gold thread, musing as to the reasons why primitive happiness is so unsuited to this climate. The pursuit of this is so difficult that I would build a monastery to it--to complex happiness--to the study and preservation of it--since it is, so much of the time, very reminiscent of abstinence, you know, waking up at one o'clock and praying until four, then working until dusk in the fields--though it isn't really at all similar since the focus of this lies in the gaining of pleasure--how, in short, to obtain it thoroughly and forever--whereas, abstinence, you know, is merely the denial of a known form of pleasure-- undeniably the more mediocre occupation of the two. Complex happiness, you realize, is concerned with the analysis of ecstacy, striking moments rather than attitudes, distilling the purity and concentration of the mixture rather than being controlled by its brief power. Viewing the stars instead of being consumed in the reaction."
"I've lost you."
" Can I use the metaphor of lovers to illustrate this? It is easy to fall in love--to believe that it is not an illusion but a tangible, permananent entity. It is much more difficult to stand by and watch the one you love sitting with someone else--without the usual pain or hate, but with a mindtowards understanding who they really are. Observing them with an unbiased eye. Meanwhile, this patience, this delay, clears the mind until delay forms its own memories and stands as a pleasure in its own right. This patience is the clearer observation of an individual; so when we talk, it is already taken that we are speaking the same language---unobscured by partiality or bitterness--it forms like an undertone, the gesso underbase of a painting---it is what holds my surface taut."
"And what about the lovers themselves----they mean nothing?"
" They are our attempt to capture simple happiness."
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