Raskolnikov and Sonia

July 23, 2017: Harmonize

The following is an abridged excerpt from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Constance Garnett translation, Part 4 Chapter 5).

A conversation is taking place between Raskolnikov and Sonia. Raskolnikov is trying to understand how Sonia has maintained both sanity and goodness despite having committed great sin.

“But you are a great sinner, that’s true,” he added almost solemnly…

“Tell me,” he went on almost in a frenzy, “how this shame and degradation can exist in you side by side with other, opposite, holy feelings? It would be better, a thousand times better and wiser to leap into the water and end it all!”

“But what would become of them?” Sonia asked faintly, gazing at him with eyes of anguish, but not seeming surprised at his suggestion.

Raskolnikov looked strangely at her. He read it all in her face; so she must have had that thought already, perhaps many times…

He was still confronted by the question, how could she have remained so long in that position without going out of her mind, since she could not bring herself to jump into the water?…

He began looking more intently at her.

“So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” he asked her.

Sonia did not speak, he stood beside her waiting for an answer.

“What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcible, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.

“Ah, so that is it!” he thought.

“And what does God do for you?” he asked, probing her further.

Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.

“Be silent! Don’t ask! You don’t deserve!” she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.

“That’s it, that’s it,” he repeated to himself.

 

Shortcuts

July 21, 2017: Gate

“Open Sesame” … “Open Sesame!” … “Open Sesame, Please??” Little Talia stood at the big gate, longing to get to the other side. She looked at the gate up and down, peeped through the slits inbetween the massive logs of redwood that made up the gate, and banged on the door. Her “Aha!” moment came when she suddenly remembered the tale her teacher read to her at school yesterday. She stood confidently in front of the gate to command her Open Sesame’s, but to no avail. Talia realized there was no shortcut and no magic formula to cross to the other side. She had to go the long way. She had to get to work.

 

Heads and Tales

July 19, 2017: Disastrous

I took the risk, certain that the outcome would change my life. Heads would bring fame and fortune, tales would bring sorrow and suffering. The maestro tossed the coin. It was in the air for an eternal 5 seconds before it landed — heads. Little did I know, my life took a disastrous turn. Fame and fortune brought with it all the sorrow and suffering I was fearful of. That turn led me into a dark tunnel, yet there was light on the other side. In the end, I looked back on my tortuous journey, grateful for every turn.

 

Redemption

July 16, 2017: Savor

On a beautiful summer afternoon, Liam slept in a dark cell underground. The air was stale and humid. The only audible sounds, besides the slow dripping of water from the top of the cave onto the muddy floor, were footsteps overhead from above ground. Liam was alone underground, only accompanied once every other day by a dreadful guard who would check in on Liam to hurl insults at him, throw at least a blow or kick, and toss him his rations of stale bread and moldy cheese. It had been three years. Liam knew it was summer now by the temperature of the underground cave and by the cadence of the footsteps above. He pictured young children playing tag, young men wrestling with one another and young women strolling around the lake where he learned how to swim.

Liam had to do what he did that led him to this jail cell, he had no other choice, he thought. He also had to be punished. He knew that. He knew that he had to suffer because he could no longer enjoy the world. Down there, trapped in the worst condition, Liam knew he had to savor his suffering. It was his only path to redemption.

 

 

Red, Green and Yellow

July 15, 2017: Moxie

Red had the moxie. You can feel it all around. Look into Red’s eyes, and you get some kind of shiver. Green had the mojo. One look at green and your limbic system is sure to overdrive. Yellow, though, was able to slip right through the facade. She looked back at Red and Green, who were fading away from times gone by.

 

Mr. Miago the Tailor

July 14, 2017: Tailor

“It’s a head spinner alright, but it doesn’t fit you,” Mr. Miago blurted out as he read that morning’s The Local Daily. I was standing on the opposite end of the small room, close by the front entrance and right in front of the three-fold mirror. Measuring tape was hanging from the panel edges, long ones, wide ones and narrow ones. Tape that had sized up strangers, travelers, young children, bachelors and bachelorettes, family, friends, and neighbors. I turned towards Mr. Miago while turning my head to the mirror to check out my side view. Then I spun around to check out my opposite side view. It fit so well! I thought. She would be so impressed, I just knew it. Swept off her feet, I tell you! “But Mr. Miago, it fits like a glove!” Mr. Miago’s head was still buried in his paper. “She definitely won’t say no, this time,” I said. Mr. Miago finally looked up from his morning reading, set the paper down, slowly got up and started walking towards me. “Come, take another look. Your head’s been buried in the Daily all morning, you haven’t even checked me out!”

Mr. Miago stood just a few inches from me and looked right into my eyes as he said, “Kiddo, I know the dimensions, but that doesn’t mean it fits you. I see it in your eyes. She doesn’t care about a dashing sear-sucker suit if the body in it is a sucker! Show her the good man that you really are, and nothing could fit better.”

 

Tunnel Vision

July 13, 2017: Bumble

It was 8:00pm in October when Seya walked out of her SoHo home. Her mind was stuck on what happened an hour ago. It was not easy to make sense of what had transpired. For the first time in too long, Seya sensed that her dream was within reach, but for what reason? She didn’t know. She worked hard, but not hard enough, she thought. Seya began to take longer and faster slides. She was in no hurry to get anywhere in particular, but she was in a hurry. Step by step her heart beat faster. The light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter in Seya’s mind, yet she turned her attention left, right, up and down to meet the darkness of the tunnel walls. Her long strides lost their rhythm and she bumbled down the block. By that time it was 8:20pm and the dark night began to supplant the setting sun.

 

Thanks, John Lennon

July 7, 2017: Quill

My seatbelt was fastened and, this time, my nausea under control. Something about the pressure of the cabin and the stale smell of the air blasting from the fans to mimic a natural environment usually makes my head spin and stomach churn. This time, I was spared. It doesn’t have much to do with any fear of flying. Quite the opposite, I love flying. It’s one of the greatest miracles of humanity, if you ask me. But what do I know, I’m a dreamer. But hey, I’m not the only one. Thanks, John Lennon. Anyway, I had a window seat this time on the row right above the airplane’s wings. I stared out the window, at the wings, for the whole flight (it’s only 45 minutes between Washington DC and New York). I started dreaming again, this time of a bird and its wings, how being suspended in the air, among the clouds — where most people think their dreams come from — is what they know better anyone or anything. Quills, not steel. Natural winds, not stale, nauseating cabin pressure. I wonder if they dream too, the birds. If so, they’re not the only ones.

 

Unfinished Business

July 5, 2017: Pluck

All corners were closing in faster than a blink of an eye. Ironically, it is in those moments that life slows down, like watching a mosquito buzz right into your eye. I screamed upon what I thought was the moment of impact, but my senses caught up to reality when nothing happened. I looked around me in a horrified yet relieved state. I could see doctors with their mouths covered looking down on me, studying my face. I could hear a rhythmic beeping sound coming from a machine nearby. Nurses were rushing in and out in a flurry of activity. Balloons hovered near the ceiling. My left hand was held tight, embraced in hers. Tears flowed. I looked back up at the doctors, who were still studying my face. I was on the edge of the precipice, and they plucked me back to my unfinished business.

 

My Uncle

July 4, 2017: Sail

The years faded the colors almost entirely away. I noticed spots of rust around the edges, sparking memories of the humid, salty shores. I closed my eyes and took a deep breathe as I pictured myself back on my uncle’s small boat, trying to make myself useful by staying out of his way, watching him raise the sail. “Watch and learn, kiddo. The sail is our best friend. If it weren’t for the sail, we’d have no way to escape and no way to return.” Once ready to do its work, the sail would expand with the wind and carry us away. It was a colorful sail, adding a bit of noise to the desolate sea.

It’s been years, now. Just a few, probably, but it feels like too many. I have the sail stored in a big box in the attic, next to old photos of my uncle and I out in the open sea. Maybe one day I’ll use it to escape again, but it would be hard to return without him. A tear escaped as I spread my hand along the once colorful sail.