Respite: Taking a Moment

Originally published April 9, 2007.

There’s a moment in-between moments where all the moments rest.

She lifts her pen from the page, and watches a drop of ink grow on her pen and drip onto her paper, and considers that she just made a mess of a perfectly good thought. It used moment too much (using the same word too much is too wordy), but she liked it.

She sets her pen point-first in a little stand for just that purpose, next to her inkstand, and stretches, rolling first one shoulder, then the other, then twisting, first to the right, then to the left. Then her neck, to the right, to the left.

Back to center. She considers getting up and making tea or cakes, feeding the cat or watering the plants, and then she doesn’t. She’s in her quiet place, and all those important things fade away into her conciousness and get lost in the ripples.

It doesn’t matter who she is or what she was doing or why she was writing. It doesn’t matter where she is, what she thinks of her cat, or what sorts of plants she grows.

What matters is the moment she was writing about, the one in-between. She isn’t doing anything but staring into space and thinking to herself that she should dust, because of all the cobwebs.

It isn’t a very exciting story. Oh, there are ninjas out there, but she’s indoors. They can’t reach her here. There are pirates, but she’s on dry land. Their cannon-fire is a distant echo, easily ignored. Her calligraphy is done for the moment, ruined, so that doesn’t matter either.

There are robots in this story too. She’s writing her letter to the robot emperor, explaining why she doesn’t want to marry as he wishes her to. It’s a very polite letter, but she doesn’t feel like finishing it.

She’s wearing a plum-colored kimono with plum blossoms patterned in black. Her hair has sharp hairsticks in it, perfect for a woman who doesn’t want to wear visible weapons, and her fan has a sharp edge.

She stands. She turns. She kneels before an altar, prays, lights incense.

Perhaps it matters a little, the world outside this room and this moment. A little. But not enough to phase her, to let her expression change.

She claps her hands once, and is surrounded in a flurry of handmaidens.

“We shall fly our kites today,” she informs them, and they scatter to certain posts that are their jobs on kite-flying days.

Two stay with her, her attendants and fellow kite enthusiasts.

“Princess,” one says, “We must take the long route. There is a mess in the garden.”

“How tiresome,” says the princess, but she does not feel like walking in the blood of enemy ninja today.

She and her attendants take the long route. They travel through many rooms kept apart by paper screens that slide, each decorated in its own beautiful, unique way. In some rooms, such as the room filled with the sound of water and wind, she chooses to sit. The kites will wait. In fact, if she never reacts the kite meadow, it would not matter. Sitting here is an equally good use of her time. She stays there, in the room with the small stream running over elegant pebbles down the middle of the floor, an indoor canal, and listens to the players playing the sounds of wind and birds on their instruments, and she is content.

She imagines flying a kite, how she would slice through the strings of her opponents kites and send them fluttering to earth, claiming them as her own. One of her handmaidens has a green kite decorated in an exotic pattern of leaves that she wants badly, which is why that handmaiden must always fly her kite against the princess when the princess feels like playing kites.

The princess has lost five kites to that handmaiden this season. She finds it tiresome, and likes her imagination more than the actual competition. Today she would have lost her peach kite, and still not been given the green one as a token of her mastery.

It was better to dream. In her dreams, the leaf kite was hers and her handmaiden knelt before her, foolish arrogance forgotten.

It was a good dream. It was a good way to spend a day.