Friday, July 12, 2013

Shevek and Takver

  "What's wrong with pleasure, Takver? Why don't you want it?"
  "Nothing's wrong with it. And I do want it. Only I don't need it. And if I take what I don't need, I'll never get to what I do need."
  "What is it you need?"
  She looked down at the ground, scratching the surface of a rock outcrop with her fingernail. She said nothing. She leaned forward to pick a sprig of moonthorn, but did not take it, merely touched it, felt the furred stem and fragile leaf. Shevek saw in the tension of her movements that she was trying with all her strength to contain or restrain a storm of emotion, so that she could speak. When she did, it was in a low voice and a little roughly. "I need the bond," she said. "The real one. Body and mind and all the years of life. Nothing else. Nothing less."
  She glanced up at him with defiance, it might have been hatred.
  Joy was rising mysteriously in him, like the sound and smell of the running water rising through the darkness. He had a feeling of unlimitedness, of clarity, total clarity, as if he had been set free. Behind Takver's head the sky was brightening with moonrise; the far peaks floated clear and silver. "Yes, that's it," he said, without self-consciousness, without any sense of talking to someone else; he said what came into his head, meditatively. "I never saw it."
  There was a little resentment in Takver's voice. "You never had to see it."
  "Why not?"
  "I suppose because you never saw the possibility of it."
  "What do you mean, the possibility?"
  "The person!"
  He considered this. They sat about a meter apart, hugging their knees because it was getting cold. Breath came to the throat like ice water. They could see each other's breath, faint vapor in the steadily growing moonlight.
  "The night I saw it," Takver said, "was the night before you left Northsetting Institute. There was a party, you remember. Some of us sat and talked all night. But that was four years ago. And you didn't even know my name." The rancor was gone from her voice; she seemed to want to excuse him.
  "You saw in me, then, what I've seen in you this last four days?"
  "I don't know. I can't tell. It wasn't just sexual. I'd noticed you before, that way. This was different; I saw you. But I don't know what you see now. And I didn't really know what I saw then. I didn't know you well at all. Only, when you spoke, I seemed to see clear into you, into the center. But you might have been quite different from what I thought you were. That wouldn't be your fault, after all," she added. "It's just that I knew what I saw in you was what I needed. Not just wanted!"
  "And you've been in Abbenay for two years, and didn't   "
  "Didn't what? It was all on my side, in my head, you didn't even know my name. One person can't make a bond, after all!"
  "And you were afraid that if you came to me I might not want the bond."
  "Not afraid. I knew you were a person who... wouldn't be forced... Well, yes, I was afraid. I was afraid of you. Not of making a mistake. I knew it wasn't a mistake. But you were   yourself. You aren't like most people, you know. I was afraid of you because I knew you were my equal!" Her tone as she ended was fierce, but in a moment she said very gently, with kindness, "It doesn't really matter, you know, Shevek."
  It was the first time he had heard her say his name. He turned to her and said stammering, almost choking, "Doesn't matter? First you show me   you show me what matters, what really matters, what I've needed all my life   and then you say it doesn't matter!"
  They were face to face now, but they had not touched.
  "Is it what you need, then?"
  "Yes. The bond. The chance."
  "Now   for life?"
  "Now and for life."
  Life, said the stream of quick water down on the rocks in the cold dark.

   The Dispossessed

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