Cinderella’s Legacy. Chapter 6

But now I must describe the most wondrous night I have ever experienced, a night perhaps unparalled anywhere. More precisely I should say we experienced, for on my own I would never have been able to perceive the phenomena I saw, heard, and sensed in other ways, were it not for Cinderella, who for a spell as it were completely engulfed some essential, sensitive core of my being, sharing with me, completely spontaneously and by sheer radiating force, her own unexpressed experiences.

This state of intermixing and harmonious undulation, which occurred one dark, quiet night, by far exceeded any other connection that I, drawn to her incessantly, could have wished for between us. I experienced my love to the full; and even though some might think it spurious I maintain that what would be a crass violation or indeed perversion in the usual experience of love familiar to people – that is, say, if a woman found herself in the arms of one man but her spirit was in the embrace of another, and if therefore she did not even take notice of her physical partner in that moment but merely passively provided him satisfaction – I maintain that in our case such perversion, even though it in fact occurred, was no abomination. For between the example I have just cited and my own experience from that night is such a fundamental difference that they cannot even be compared, just as one cannot compare the flight of a bird with the flight of a tossed stone. Both appear briefly as a flying black point, but in fact the objects are different, the movements dissimilar, and both the cause and indeed the aim of those movements are different.

Our spiritual intermingling was so complete that not only did I know her innermost inclinations (which in the case I just mentioned wouldn’t happen, and if such an unfaithful deviation were to be surmised, it would cause an immediate break) but I even shared those inclinations with the most powerful excitement of which I was capable. That was a significant achievement, for the intermixture of our innermost beings, of our two essences, was highly incongruous. Even our mutual attraction sprang from quite different sources –

Once again I will make use of a comparison in order to clarify what happened. If I mix together two piles of sand, one of lighter grains and one of heavier, and then blow with all my strength into the mixture as it lies undisturbed, then, even though the force of my breath is the same for all of the grains, the heavier ones will move only slightly while the lighter ones will blow far and perhaps will even be lifted up. So it was with us. I, of heavier grain, was agitated to the absolute limits of my capacity, yet I know I neither felt the depths of Cinderella’s shudder nor experienced her elevation, even though that wondrous phenomenon blew over us with the same force. She, lightened by longing, was lifted on that breath of air, to which I, carried along by her, strove as long as I was able to come close to her feeling and her understanding – I, of heavier grain, still weighted with the dampness of the world.

From the depths in front of the window a tree rustled into the utter silence. A feeling of bliss I had never known before poured over us. Without thinking we nestled close together. After a long time, after an obscure hour measured out in heartbeats, there was a sound of muffled thunder. Once again, twice. Then another blow, equally quiet, was so forceful that the entire house shook as in an earthquake. I was afraid, but Cinderella trembled with passion.

“Who’s speaking?” She seemed to ask the very silence that engulfed us long after that mysterious storm. But then the silence was broken by a repeated wafting, like the billowing of a cloak or like music from a quartet. Cinderella is smiling:

“A royal tryst –? I can hear his chords at my nape –“

“Aren’t those cicadas?” I ask, for I hear nothing else.

“I can distinguish clearly what is his and what isn’t,” Cinderella whispers. “Ah, the royal son has come to visit me.”

“You believe in something too strongly and then think it’s come true! You don’t even see him!”

“There’s no need to see if one can sense. You don’t know how to listen.”

And then I really heard the blaring of trumpets. Could this mean the royal procession had reached its goal? I peer curiously through the bars of the window but see only the darkness, although my expectations have been raised by such stir. Just here and there a brief spark appears, quickly extinguished, like those frightened fireflies that as a rule never shine in nights so dark to need their light. The procession lamps have probably been extinguished as a precaution. Is this not after all a tryst? (How deeply Cinderella’s sisters must have slept for them not to know what was happening here! With so many sounds and with such passionate exertions!)

As if wanting to help me get where I could not reach, she embraced me with her inner being. I felt it clearly, enveloped by a love that knows no distances except that between itself and its beloved, except for the possible distance of a soul that were to resist this kind of love. I did not resist –

From that moment on, every state that took hold of her spirit partially entered into my being as well: states caused by the greater or lesser proximity of the royal son, who was drawn by her longing, just as she was by his, to those contacts between beings who can only communicate through the most extraordinary forms of expression, otherwise unheard of and untouched. And I partook of all this, just as an ear somehow hindered from hearing sounds directly and absolutely will nonetheless perceive the trembling of a sound that is near enough. Nestled close, I waited for what else she would tell me.

If I watch her as a person positioned next to her, I see her sitting quietly and not even moving. But if I submerge myself in the connective current of that strange love I feel how she tosses in a vortex like the river out front of the house. It even causes me pain. I pull myself out – and see she’s at peace. I take hold once again and feel her tossing like a naked flame, blown by a gentle breath. And a flame rustles, it emits various sounds. I observe how within her something is rising unstoppably, rising not just relative to our positions but by an intensifying force of ascent. I clutched anxiously, almost with horror at the possibility of losing everything through the tension with my insubordinate nature. But I soon felt an irresistible release and came to a state of deep, spacious composure [solemnity?].

Connected with her, I soon heard a voice and forgot all about vortices. A voice from afar – and yet I would have sworn that the distance was somewhere in the most intimate realm of thought between us. A clear voice, commandeering at the same time; a voice that excited me enormously just by its enchanting timbre. But I didn’t understand a single word.

This sad frailty of my being, striving in vain for a perfected understanding, confirmed just how undeveloped my comprehension was. My being gropes around me uncertainly, blindly, like a newborn animal, passively familiarizing itself with the new surroundings to which it has unexpectedly been called.

At the same time I understood that Cinderella had ceased her tossing and perceived clearly. She was obviously hearing words, not just the sound of speech as I heard. And those words fed the passion that had settled inside her. What was he telling her? For it was the voice of the royal son, I recognized it! It was clearer than that time at the ball and was not disrupted by the distractions of my mind, and yet that spiritual weakness of mine, and perhaps also the mystery shared by the two of them, made the voice incomprehensible to me. Just what was he telling her? I never found out. All that that unforgettable moment – experienced down to the marrow of my bones and at the extreme limits of consciousness – ever revealed to me was that his apparent monologue was actually a dialogue between them. For while he was speaking she was responding in silent communication, and their speech intermingled unrelentingly even though it seemed that only he was active. But at that moment there could be no doubt that the speech of either of them was impossible without the other. At last the voice was quiet. There followed a silence deep as the silence of all silences, and we were suspended in its midst –

I really don’t know how long that silence lasted, for it didn’t contain time. Perhaps it lasted an instant, perhaps most of the night… Cinderella lay down straight on the bed. (We were sitting on the bed frame as the room had no chairs.) Once again sunk in the current of mutual coherence, I look at her and see that she is rising – or more precisely: is being raised. This is undoubtedly the royal son’s doing! She is suspended in an aura of grace that I myself can barely perceive; I am pressed into the blanket like a stone just as Cinderella is transformed into a beauty never before seen. Her eyelids tremble and tears stream down her cheeks. She doesn’t even know I’m there –

He held her that way for a moment. Then, unfortunately, followed the fall back down as soon as the murmuring of the music ceased. (I only realized it had been playing once it stopped.) The fall must have been terrible for her, for she lay there a moment as if dead. The connection between us was broken, the wonderment gone. As Cinderella’s unseeing eyes passed over me I was seized with horror at the thought that in a moment she would see – I buried my head in the crumpled blanket and cried bitterly.

“My friend,” Cinderella pronounced hoarsely, groping blindly about my body. “You didn’t destroy it – it passed on its own.”

I kissed her hands until my strength gave out, and with my palms gripped the back of my neck, which was injured. I would have cried out if I hadn’t been afraid to hear myself. From her choked gasps I knew that Cinderella was enduring her pain valiantly, no longer even moving her hands; she was that weakened by the grief of her abandonment. After a long while she let out:

“Such is his return!”

“Just what sort of spell held you there?” I ask quietly, distrustfully.

“And why a spell?” she said with surprise. “I felt hands holding me up.” With immense sadness she sat down and lay her feet on the floor. I now notice how remarkably shaped her feet are, as if they had been rubbed until they shone with gentleness and seemed capable even of immaterial caresses. Because I knew that Cinderella had never had time to care for her body I couldn’t avoid the thought that by birth she was capable of a type of growth or development that others couldn’t cultivate even over their entire lifetimes. She was privileged – why? It would have been impossible for her to endure some of her ordeals and still remain fresh and gentle if she hadn’t been preordained for some sort of enigmatic clemency, for the ability to engulf filth under the surface of her pure mind without becoming tainted. And who knows what sluice gates open up on the bottom so that it’s as if no evil had ever been there.

She read my thoughts and remarked:

“Yes, believe it: even without opening my mouth my entire body speaks. Only now have I understood what he told me at the ball: Be silent. Your entire being speaks but you are always shouting over it.”

I confess that I didn’t understand this at all, and even today I don’t understand it completely. I have a foolish habit: I don’t believe my feelings unless I shape them into rational thoughts, and this slows my ability to comprehend things. I have on a few occasions been able to experience a wondrous event directly with my most essential feeling, but I’m not able to clarify such moments well without resorting to concepts. I willingly admit that such events are possible and that in her case they are fully developed. Indeed she later proved publicly that her feet would easily take her where others were stopped by insurmountable anxiety.

Now we sat there, sad, disengaged, and forsaken by everything extraordinary. It seemed as if the royal son had left. It took quite some time until we regained our inner connection. Her legs were dripping wet – what’s this? Had we been outside by the river? Or were my senses tricking me with some nonsense? – It was of course the prince once again. And although Cinderella’s legs were held firmly tight, they suddenly seemed to me like two columns at the entrance to an empty house, a house honored by the most distinguished of visitors, like shut double doors through which the wind has penetrated like a shadow – his wind, which first blew through the tree and the invisible cloak. He, our king, now blew through Cinderella’s entire body; invisibly he flickered like a flame that doesn’t scorch, like a wind that isn’t frigid, like flowing water without wetness, pure movement plunged into an emptied out stiffness, just as fresh air will seep into a vacuum pump. Cinderella’s entire being (and mine, and mine –!) trembled in her spine down to her innermost essence –

This phenomenon, beyond utterance, lasted without measure and was followed by a similarly immeasurable period of abandonment. After a while, however, there rose up such a flow of feelings, images, sounds and events that it was beyond my power to remember it all, and the notes I took on it (as on everything I am now describing) are irretrievably lost. I burned them in a moment of unpardonable fear lest they fall into the wrong hands. (And now, lo! I anyway have to write about it all. Spiritual cowardice is the most unpardonable!) Cinderella most certainly experienced with the full force of consciousness everything to which I, a mere fellow wanderer shadowing her experiences, here give witness, and from that moment on she lived quite transformed in her secret inner haven.

“What did he do to you? I’m afraid!” – I said to her finally, in a daze. She covered my mouth with her hand.

“You are approaching. I have washed your feet for this meeting. You have fulfilled all your promises,” said a voice now perceptible even to me – his voice.

“But I haven’t promised anything,” responded Cinderella, hesitatingly.

“I took your promise without your wanting me to. I have used force on you.”

“Why? You will ruin me completely –”

“I wish to become engaged to you!”

“To me? I am horrified! I am not worthy!”

“My favor fell precisely on you because you came to me with longing.”

“Do you want to confine me to the most complete nothingness?”

“To release you. Into absoluteness.”

What did all this mean? I couldn’t ask. Perhaps I will find out on my own when the appropriate time comes. Throughout the excitement, indeed rapture (I have to call it that even though I resist any degradation of rationality) that I experienced with her I was like someone listening behind the door. I cannot enter. Perhaps I was only allowed to witness this so that I could write about it. Is it necessary? Apparently so, although I don’t know for whom. I don’t need to worry about that if I know deep inside that I must, that I want to write. If I wasn’t supposed to do it, to reveal the mystery, the royal son would certainly prevent me; he is after all so powerful. Cinderella was bent over meekly, but suddenly she straightened herself and almost screamed with anxiety:

“Please, no, my lord, your love is enough for me as it is! Don’t ever abandon me, my lord, but not that, not that! I could not bear such a weighty gift from you, I would collapse under the burden! My weakness might betray you – people would find out about if and would chide me for it – and you, you would leave me! I am so afraid! Not of you, not even of them – but of myself!”

We were both overcome with agonizing sorry, and pain practically echoed in the room where this was happening. Cinderella had been struck by the prince with furious force and collapsed on her side onto the bed. Another blow knocked her down from the bed and onto her knees.

“Still afraid? I will compel you!”

The prince’s voice sounded strict and very close, I heard it right in the midst of my breast. Then came a raucous fanfare, even though no trumpeters could be seen. The prince’s procession was no doubt waiting outside, although we hadn’t been aware of it. Everything with him was so strange, so inexplicable, so different from everything else that happens in this world.

The fanfare faded away and once more we sat down next to each other on the bed and were sad. I held Cinderella in my arms for a long time and thought intensely about what I had taken part in till now. Outside the splashing of water could be heard, and around us and within me everything was suddenly as ordinary as at any other time. I started to become mildly embarrassed and even to doubt my supposed experiences. What if I had been asleep? But it didn’t seem very believable to me even as a dream. I pressed a few questions on Cinderella and she became angry with me.

“Yes, that’s how it is,” she cried out. “All of you non-believers feed the fear in me, if not to say that you’re killing yourselves and me. What sort of friend are you for me? Just don’t come around here anymore!”

But when she saw my face fallen with sadness she got over her anger and wished to talk with me about the events of that day in order to prove that they had really happened. In the end I was surprised, however, for I could articulate my feelings far better than she could. Knowing that at other times her powers of expression are far richer and more subtle than mine, I concluded that these latest experiences had stricken her much more deeply and directly than they had me. She was like prey seized by a hawk before even having one last chance to look around, and having then somehow fallen from those claws, knows neither where it had been when captured nor where it was taken nor where it is now. She was a little saddened by having nothing to tell me, but more for my sake than for her own.

“I wish, my friend, that you could have taken part in all of it! Even though he has left me, I have even now lost nothing — he is still within me like a distant longing that cannot be resisted. I remain – I remain – –! I will stay!”

Where? In what? How? Again she was unable to explain. – I don’t know how long these events lasted, nor when I left or where I went. But from that evening the feeling took hold even more firmly than after the day of the ball that I was starting to become not simply a spectator but rather a direct participant in a new, previously unknown way of living. And that certainty, although more enigmatic than my previous paltry confidence, has carried me more lightly than I was ever carried before.

Translated by Peter Zusi