Road 2 Elsewhere, Excerpt #41: Lust amongst the fragrant herbs

Herman Hesse (and an attractive Dutchwoman) tried to teach me about love. Naturally, I wasn’t listening.

ALAS, I FAILED TO RECORD ANY DETAILS of my birthday encounter with Diamant, in Paris, though I did find plenty of occasions to transcribe passages from Narziss and Goldmund, the fetching Dutchwoman’s birthday gift to me.

“The riddle was still unsolved, the hidden magic unrevealed,” Hesse wrote, and I did too, in my journal. “In the end, people grew old, and looked comic, like old Father Anselm, or wise old Abbot Daniel, though really perhaps they still knew nothing, still waited, pricking up their ears.”

Aphrodite is the Greek god of sex, love, and procreation. Why don’t we develop a religion around her, I wonder? She’s kind of the anti-celibate, which is a good thing for our species.

Ears were the only thing I was pricking, at that point.

Also germane, from Hesse: “What a fool he had been not to keep his mouth shut. Words are not needed in love.”

Diamant is not around now to ask, now, so I will: What did her gift mean, if anything?

In his novel, Hesse tells the story of a teacher Narziss (more familiarly, Narcissus) and his student Goldmund (more familiarly, me) who befriend one another in an abbey school. Goldmund thinks he’s going to become a monk and devote himself to the life of the mind.

But what to do with this penis?

Ooops. I forgot to pain his shoes. See how difficult this cartooning business is?

Hesse’s hero found out what his phantom limb was all about, during a providential herb-gathering mission in a field near his school.

“Goldmund opened his eyes, returning from a forest of dreams,” Hesse wrote, awakening his young quester from a nap. (I wonder if he could dream-write Dickens, like me?) “His head was bedded softly; it was lying in a woman’s lap. Strangely close, two warm brown eyes were looking into his, which were sleepy and astonished. He felt no fear; no danger shone in those warm brown stars; they looked friendly. The woman smiled at his astonishment, a very friendly smile, and slowly he, too, began to smile. Her mouth came down on his smiling lips…the woman’s mouth lingered, began to play, teased and tempted, and finally seized his lips with greed and violence, set fire to his blood, made it throb in his veins; in slow, patient play the brown woman gave herself to the boy, teaching him gently, letting him seek and find, setting him afire and stilling the flames. The exalted, brief joy of love vaulted above him, burned with a golden glow, sank down and died. He lay with eyes closed, his face against the woman’s breast. Not a word had been said. The woman didn’t move, softly she stroked his hair, gave him time to come to himself. Finally he opened his eyes.

There are more possible outcomes, thank goodness.

’You!’ he said. ‘You! But who are you?’

’I’m Lise,’ she said.”

And I’m Peter. Hope to see you around.

After all this rapturous herb crushing, Goldmund decides to spend his life wandering the globe in search of other laps to occupy.

Perhaps Diamant understood what I needed, better than I understood myself? Not much of an accomplishment, actually.

What was with all of those cheek kisses, and our “discussions” of love that the two of us shared, as we jabbered our way around Paris? I hate to think what I might have said to her — probably a lot of pretentious nonsense about how sacred it was, how elevated, and all that. Plenty of time for exalted feelings later in life, lad. But not just then, when your body is pulsating with hormones and there is a blonde Dutchwoman flashing her availability lights. A finger in the dike, at least?

I can only imagine (and that’s all I did) what her milky skin might have looked like in candlelight, back at her pension, if I’d only known how to ask.

Instead, she gave me a book, and I read it.

Destined for the bestseller list.

What a waste.

First comes love, then comes editing.

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