The Pulse (B.C): In the Dark Water 2
My Own Personal Rheinmaiden
After dinner I watched The Lord of the Rings. Then I read The Völuspá again, while listening to Wagner and Gorgoroth. It seemed they were connected somehow.
I called Sylvia to see if she saw the connection, but she was in a bad mood. She said that there was an obvious link between the Norse gods and Wagner, but her voice got all high-pitched and scratchy when I suggested that Norwegian black metal had anything to do with it. She refused to admit that Vikings were just Orcs in nautical attire, and that Odin was in fact the deceitful wizard, Saruman. All she said was, “Matthew, get back to studying!”
If Sylvia couldn’t see the connection, was Old Rex likely to? Dispirited, I put aside my theory and began, at precisely the eleventh hour, to study like an Icelandic demon.
The exam starts at eight in the morning. I’d like to say tomorrow morning, but it’s already this morning. It’s now 3:23 AM and I’ve been studying for eight and a half hours straight. In less than six hours I need to be sharp as a pin.
My late-night taper winking, I feel like Macbeth on a bad day —
It’s already a full-scale tragedy in the eco-system of my brain. How can I know which question the old warlock is going to ask? Only Odin can read minds!
It’s too late to feel guilty about what I didn’t read over the term. If only Sylvia hadn't got in the way, with her eco-feminism and her short black hair. And her pixy mouth.
It’s too late to think of the plays I should’ve read. Instead, I spent my days on Wreck Beach, Clothing Optional, lying oh-so-nonchalantly next to the naked bodies, the bronze limbs, the fleeting beauty. I honestly tried to open the pages of my Arden Shakespeare, to see if Macbeth had killed the Scottish king, or if he had scotched the serpent (Rex's favourite phrase), or if Birnam Wood to Dunsinane had come. Yet what did it matter, among the hippies selling martinis and Jamaican paddies? Among the Japanese tourists, too shy to use their cameras?
Underwear was lifting and falling all around me. Sylvia at last took off her white cotton undershirt, her brown summer torso slipping into the sun. She was waif-like and lean, with perfectly round nipples: dark brown circles against the golden-brown half-circles of her breasts.
With all of that happening around me, who really cared whether the Scottish king had scotched the serpent or was lying in a pool of his own blood? Why worry about old men in Scotland when the rheinmaidens were beckoning from the waters?
Sylvia, who is a rheinmaiden if ever there was a rheinmaiden, is aware of the power she has. With the sweep of her hair she harnesses the deep blue and brown forces of the water and earth.
Sylvia, the rheinmaiden, is also aware of the danger we're in. She’s been studying environmental science for three years now. In fact, I met her two years ago in Environmental Science 200. She went on to study Global Climate Change and things like the Ecohydrology of Watersheds.
She has no qualms about sharing her knowledge freely. All the time. For instance, a week ago we were sitting in The Lark, a coffee shop in the Student Union Building. I was mesmerized by her bleu de France eyes, her golden-blonde hair, and her flawless skin. I lifted my hand with the intention of curling my fingers around her ear when she started talking about the effect of livestock farming, how it was more harmful than the carbon dioxide that’s slowly heating the ice caps. The fine desire that moved my hand toward her smooth chin dissipated. I curled my hands around my coffee cup instead.
The shimmering beach lies in darkness now. The naked hippies are raising molotov cocktails to the moon, dancing drunken in the waves.
Looking now at my Shakespeare, I see that Macbeth is making some very bad decisions. First, he knocks off the good old king. Regicide in an absolute monarchy, what could be worse? And then he consults the three weird sisters, who counsel him to kill his best friend Banquo. So Macbeth goes ahead and does it! And then they tell him to massacre Banquo’s family — and he does that too, the idiot!
The tragedy’s much deeper than I suspected. I should've been reading about regicide and catharsis instead of lounging on Wreck Beach and making passes at Sylvia.
I couldn’t help it, she was lying next to me, tiny beads of sweat among the fine stubble under her arms, which were holding up her head so that she could look out over the waves. When my finger made its first contact, just beneath her lowest rib, she didn’t flinch or look at me sideways. She just kept staring at the sea. Slowly, I ran my index finger from the bottom of her rib cage, up along the side of her breasts, and into the fine stubble.
She called me later that night and said that one of these days she was going to come over and kick my ass. She also told me to stop watching The Lord of the Rings and start studying.
All I can say for sure is that she was right. I'm starting to look more and more like Macbeth: