The Dissolution of a Crystal
If Only (?)
They say there are flowers that bloom only once in a hundred years. Why not suppose the existence of flowers that bloom only once in a thousand years? We may have known nothing about them until now only because today is the “once in a thousand years.”
Happy and dizzy, I walked downstairs to the controller on duty, and quickly under my gaze, all around me and silently, the thousand-year-old buds burst, and everything was blooming: armchairs, shoes, golden badges, electric bulbs, someone’s dark heavy eyes, the polished columns of the banisters, the handkerchief which someone had lost on the stairs, the small, ink-blotted desk of the controller, and the tender, brown, somewhat freckled cheeks of U-, Everything seemed not ordinary, but new, tender, rosy, moist. U- took the pink stub from me while the blue, aromatic moon, hanging from an unseen branch, shone through the glass of the wall and over the head of U-. With a solemn gesture I pointed my ﬁnger and said:
“The moon. You see?”
U- glanced at me, then at the number of the stub, and again made that familiar, charmingly innocent movement with which she ﬁxes the fold of the unif between her knees. .
“You look abnormal and ill, dear. Abnormality and illness are the same thing. You are killing yourself. And no one would tell you that, no one!”
That “No one” was certainly equivalent to the number on the stub, I-330. This thought was confirmed by an ink blot which fell close to the ﬁgure 330. Dear, wonderful U-! You are right, of course. I am not reasonable. I am sick. I have a soul. I am a microbe. But is blooming not a sickness? Is it not painful when the buds are bursting? And don’t you think that spermatozoa are the most terrible of all microbes?
Back upstairs to my room. In the widely open cup of the armchair was I-330. I, on the ﬂoor, embracing her limbs, my head on her lap. We were silent. Everything was silent. Only the pulse was audible. Like a crystal I was dissolving in her, in I-330. I felt most distinctly how the polished facets which limited me in space were slowly thawing, melting away. I was dissolving in her lap, in her, and I became at once smaller and larger, and larger, unembraceable. For she was not she but the whole universe. For a second I and that armchair near the bed, transﬁxed with joy, we were one. And the wonderfully smiling old woman at the gate of the Ancient House, and the wild debris beyond the Green Wall, and some strange silver wreckage on a black background, dozing like the old woman, and the slam of a door in the distance — all this was within me, was listening to my pulse and soaring through the happiest of seconds.
In absurd, confused, overﬂowing words I attempted to tell her that I was a crystal and that there was a door in me, and that I felt how happy the armchair was. But something nonsensical came out of the attempt and I stopped. I was ashamed. And suddenly:
“Dear I-! Forgive me! I understand nothing. I talk so foolishly!”
“And why should you think that foolishness is not ﬁne? If we had taken pains to educate human foolishness through centuries, as we have done with our intelligence, it might perhaps have been transformed into something very precious.”
And I think she is right! How could she be wrong at that moment?
“. . . And for this foolishness of yours and for what you did yesterday during the walk, I love you the more, much more.”
“Then why did you torture me? Why would you not come? Why did you send me the pink check and make me —?”
“Perhaps I wanted to test you. Perhaps I must be sure that you will do anything I wish, that you are completely mine.
She took my face, my whole self, between her palms, lifted my head.
“And how about, ‘It is the duty of every honest Number’? Eh?”
Sweet, sharp white teeth — a smile. In the open cup of the armchair she was like a bee, sting and honey combined.
Yes, duty. . . . I turned Over in my mind the pages of my records; indeed there is not a thought about the fact that strictly speaking I should . . .
I was silent. Exaltedly, and probably stupidly, I smiled, looking into the pupils of her eyes. I followed ﬁrst one eye and then the other, and in each of them I saw myself, “a millimetric self imprisoned in those tiny rainbow cells. Then again the lips and the sweet pain of blooming.
In each Number of the United State there is an unseen metronome that tick-tocks silently; without looking at the clock we know exactly the time of day within ﬁve minutes. But now my metronome had stopped, and I did not know how much time had passed. In fright I grasped my badge with its clock from under the pillow. Glory be to the Well-Doer! I had twenty minutes more! But those minutes were such tiny, short ones! They ran! And I wanted to tell her so many things. I wanted to tell her all about myself; about the letter from O- and about that terrible evening when I gave her a child; and for some reason also about my childhood, about our mathematician Plappa, and about the square root of minus one; and how, when I attended the gloriﬁcation on the Day of Unanimity for the ﬁrst time in my life, I wept bitterly because there was an inkstain on my unif — on such a holy day!
l-330 lifted her head. She leaned on her elbow. In the corners of her lips two long, sharp lines and the dark angle of lifted eyebrows — a cross.
“Perhaps on that day . . .” her brow grew darker; she took my hand and pressed it hard. “Tell me, will you ever forget me? Will you always remember me?”
“But why such talk? What is it, I-, dear?” ‘
She was silent. And her eyes were already sliding past me, through me, away into the distance. I suddenly heard the wind beating the glass with its enormous wings. Of course it had been blowing all the while, but I had not noticed it until then. And for some reason those cawing birds over the Green Wall came to my mind.
I-330 shook her head with a gesture of throwing something off. Once more she touched me for a second with her whole body, as an aero before landing touches the ground for a second with all the tension of a recoiling spring.
“Well, give me my stockings, quick!”
The stockings were on the desk, on the open manuscript, on page 124. Being in haste, I caught some of the pages and they were scattered over the ﬂoor, so that it was hard to put them back in the proper order. Moreover, even if I put them in that order there will be no real order; there are obstacles to that anyway, some undiscoverable unknowns.
‘ “I can’t bear it,” I said. “You are here, near me, yet you seem to be behind an opaque ancient wall; through that wall I hear a rustle and voices; I cannot make out the words, I don’t know what is there. I cannot bear it. You seem always to withhold something from me; you have never told me what kind of place it was where I found myself that day beneath the Ancient House. Where did those corridors lead? Why was the doctor there — or perhaps all that never happened?”
I-330 put her hands on my shoulders and slowly entered deeply into my eyes.
“You want to know all?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And you would not be afraid to follow me anywhere? Wherever I should lead you?”
“All right then. I promise you, after the holiday, if only . . . Oh, yes, there is your Integral. I always forget to ask; will it soon be completed?”
“No. ‘If only’ what? Again! ‘If only’ what?”
She, already at the door: “You shall see.”
I was alone again. All that she left behind her was a barely perceptible scent, similar to that of a sweet, dry, yellow dust of flowers from behind the Green Wall; also, sunk deeply within me, question marks like small hooks similar to those the ancients used for ﬁshing (vide the Prehistoric Museum).
. . . Why did she suddenly ask about the Integral?