After decades of wandering, after life itself had turned me down, I retraced my steps back to the octagon altar. Vines had overgrown the stones that I had once known and a coldness hung in that space beneath the trees.

In my mind, I shambled and dragged by broken body down the path, into that remembered place. In reality, I probably walked quite normally. My body still held together; it was my spirit that had been savaged.

I set my bones and wrinkled flesh on the stone bench where I had dreamed so many times. I had gone so far from that place but still I knew it as if it were my own corpse. Stones do not lie to bones.

Through the trees I observed the house, the place where I was gestated and formed. Its balustrades and terraces still pleased my eye, but unlike the stones, they did not resonate in me any more. I no longer believed them. I had grown wary of such obvious beauty.

In the desert, they had told me that this house and its gardens were a mirage. Seeing it there before me, able now to reach out and caress it, I knew them to be right.

All these days, I had built my life as an echo to this place but what I had seen – what I still saw – was what I had needed to see. I had lived all these years based on a figment.

And life is not about what you want to see but about facing cold, hard truths, isn’t it?

*****

Many afternoons, alone in the house, I would go into my father’s study and read his books. Medical books. Coffee-table art books I could barely lift. Books on opera and ballet and cocktails. Books on woodworking. And Japanese painting. And anatomy books where people’s bodies were delicately revealed by skeletons acting as Masters of Ceremony.

I spent a lot of time with those books. My parents had gone away, they were off somewhere. They had left me to fend for myself.

And fend I did.

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