In the sunlit ruins a madman sits on a pile of rubble. His eyes are very blue; when he looks at you they flash like a kingfisher does when it dives. His eyes will spear some fish moving in the deep river of unconscious thought and bring it out, itself flashing in the sun before it dulls and dies and turns from living being to food. The man’s face is young. He has the sweet sensual smile of a lover.
You ask him his name. “Tom o’Bedlam,” he replies.
You look around the ruins. There are remains of lovely tall oriel windows and broken archways where swallows are nesting, chatting excitedly among themselves. A statue, fallen long ago, looks out with narrow Gothic face and praying hands from among golden buttercups and fiery hawkweed, where tiny cobalt blue butterflies flitter on layers of sun-warmed air.
The sunny silence is only broken by the sweet cool sound of water talking to itself in a sweet cool voice. You look more closely at the pile of broken masonry the man is sitting on. At its base is a tiny cave, and water trickles from its dark mouth, forming a little pool.
The man is watching you, and for some reason you don’t want to look back, afraid of what you’ll see. Kneeling by the spring you cup your hands and drink a little water. It is cold and sweet, but you know you wouldn’t want to drink too much of it.
Still not looking up you ask, “What is this place?”
“Don’t you know?” he asks. He waves a hand around. “Look more closely.”
There are alcoves in the ruined walls, stone chests built into them, carved with animals and people. You know suddenly what’s in them. You will find albums of photographs, lost children’s books, piano music. Memories will fly out of them and take shape in the air like amber and violet butterflies, fragrant and lethal.
You begin to understand. Finally you have no choice but to look at him. “It’s me,” you say. “The ruins are my body, right? The stone boxes are my past.”
His eyes meet yours. They are blue fire without desire. His smile is sweet and ruthless and compassionate. “Drink again,” he says.
The water is still sweet, but it leaves fire in your body and you feel it dissolving you.
“I’m old,” you cry. ‘I’m broken. I can’t be doing this.”
His eyes spear into you again, and you pass into nothingness and come out again. You are alone, seated on a pile of broken masonry. For a moment some needle-like particle of mind asks “Who am I?” It dissolves in the blue air that was once your mind, and you climb down from the pile of rubble and begin to dance.