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Fear, I have discovered, lays a foundation for fear. The entire day had already been muted fear under bright sunshine. Now I was bound by command to encounter the dark father of Lily, the husband of the goddess-mother, a man of enormous reputation, being very dark—that swarthy foreigner, my father used to call him—with a powerful accent so that I could never understand what he was directing me to do when I was helping him at his business. He was convinced that I was an imbecile, I knew from the way he constantly repeated the incomprehensible phrases issuing from his mouth.
“Do you know nothing at all?” he once slowly articulated.
“That swarthy foreigner,” my father once exclaimed, “came here to steal the finest maiden of the village and the best manufacturing.” Mother was at the market at the time. “She was notorious for her beauty and honor,” he continued, “a woman who stopped the marketplace, both men and women together, to gaze at her. The men, of course, fought each other to gain her attention and the attention of her brothers and father (some even through her mother), but she would have none of us. I think, son, she was a mystery. She spoke with us, but without paying attention to us. We always felt free to converse with her, but never invited to pursue her. Oh! It was maddening. She, I mean, she was maddening this way! I worked my way into business in order to make my living as quickly as possible—your poor mother: to move next-door to the queen of the village. Ha! But never, son, have my eyes strayed. Only in my memory do I see this woman. She belongs to that swarthy foreigner, and she deserves such an authoritarian world in her home. Only in my memory, son. Only in my memory. Your mother is a spectacular woman, as you know, worthy of all the respect of a husband such as myself, and sons such as yourselves, but—only in my memory…”
And he trailed off, just like that.
After a few lengthy moments, he returned from wherever he was: “What’s the name of that daughter of hers? Lotus?”
“Lily,” I corrected rather quickly.
“Hmm, Lily, yes…” he said. “She is about to come to life isn’t she?”
“I hadn’t noticed,” I said, again, rather quickly.
“Neither have any of your worthless friends.”
Friends. Two years after that conversation, I was waiting outside the stone wall for that swarthy foreigner…