At the Bank of the Lethe

At the bank of the Lethe I remembered the longago day when we went our separate ways. We divided into four groups in the vast valley and drew lots for which compass direction we each would follow. I was grateful that my people didn’t get “north.” I was never one for cold. The valley, as I said, was vast—we had sight of each other for two days—but not endless—and finally one group melted into the distant mountains and the others into the horizons, and we were alone. Life, in all its folly and futility, happened, with nevermore a trace of news from the others, who of course eventually decayed into myth. Many among the young came to doubt there had ever been others.

Standing there with my patient but adamant attendants, looking into the dark creeping current, I remembered that day, and many others, as unreal now as dreams. I tried to think of what marks I had left upon the earth, but found it hard to concentrate, and knew it didn’t matter.

Everything I was, had been—even “I” itself—would be wiped away and irretrievable, leaving perhaps phantom traces of deja vu or odd disturbances around my favorite haunts perceptible to the hypersensitive. It seemed very sad but could be no other way.

If these vague hauntings of reminiscence were real and I had stood here before, maybe many times, if the erasure of memory erased everything but the erasure itself, if I were destined to start anew, I wouldn’t know it. And what difference would it make if I had regrets?

I shared these thoughts with an attendant (hence the words before you), and now kneel to drink—

November 5, 2018

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