On the Pulling Away From Things

The white color of the clouds on the golden ambiance of the sky makes everything seem flat. In the distance, I can just make out the outline of the buildings under whose shadow I've made my life. One of those shadows seems larger and it is; it's hard to define but the wall towers over even the horizon. And yet, it's the City behind it which captures my attention, my heart, beating under a crimson not unlike the color of the blood which it pumps. I grasp the rails slightly harder as a particularly tall wave shakes me from my reverie. They tell me that this is nothing, that we're not even out at sea proper but, for me, it seems as if the sea is doing its best to buck my balance and unsettle me. Not that it needs to do much work; I am already unsettled and me admitting that is a sign of it. After all, the whole point of what I do is that I am never unsettled.

That's what people get wrong about guards or other such characters which are there to "enforce the peace". They think that, like coiled springs, we are measured when the action begins, when the tension in our tendons is released and we, excuse me, spring into action. But that's not the case at all; the action is the boring, unimportant part. Rather the containment of potential, the embodying of a possibility, is where we are most measured. By ourselves, that is. Competence among guards (and those other characters I mentioned, like painters or architects) is a ranking of restraint, a hierarchy of control. "Who are you before the water rushes from the mouth of the mountain? What is the depth of your aquifer, how deep do the waters in your bones go?" these structures ask.

This is, naturally, a result of the role we play. People have gotten this wrong as well, for centuries; guards aren't there to stop crime or to fight wars or to eject the undesirable. They're there to anticipate those things, to be there right before the spring uncoils and the mechanisms of action take over everyone. None of us high up on those lists kid ourselves; it doesn't matter how fast you get or how calm you train yourself to be, when the ideas turn into words and the words turn into bodies moving through space, all of that flies out of the window and you're left with guts and pain and grunts and willpower and just being too goddamn stubborn to die. All the stuff about uniform and tactics and commands and the rest comes before that. And that's why they're so important, the only thing that's important in this line of business; with the rest, you just throw the die and lower your shoulder and barge through and hope for the best. The stuff that comes before is the art.

Here's the problem I find myself in though, as the City slinks past beyond the horizon and the odd tricks of light which gave the Shimmering Sea its name begin to occlude my ability to scan the horizon. The problem I'm in is that the sea doesn't care about any part of that. It doesn't care about the before: ever tried to bark commands at your friend to impress the sea? Doesn't work. That in and of itself is not that big of a deal; lots of things don't care about the before and to deal with those things, we carry big swords and we train with them a lot. But the sea doesn't care about the after either, the moments that come once words are done. For what shoulder can push against the waves? What willpower is there stronger than the inexorable pressure exerted by the sea on anything in its path?

Thus, the sea stands more than just aloof, apart or distant. People have gotten this wrong as well and that's their worst mistake; the sea is not just a place to which you go but a road leading away from all places. It is what you must go through when you leave the City. It's more than the other; it is the road to all others, it is the ultimate instruments in the act of pulling away from everything. And the thing about pulling away, the thing about leaving the City, is that it un-spools your meaning. That's what the wall stands for; that's what makes the City exist. That is the one true weak point of guards and police and painters and architects and street cleaners. They don't exist without context and context doesn't exist without relationships and relationships don't exist without multiplicity and on the sea there is no multiplicity. There is only one. There is only the water.

And so, I am left with little choice but to form context. Turning away from the City and its walls, turning away from the fading brightness of the fading day, my red cloak billowing behind me in the rising wind, I walk towards the gullet, towards the stairs descending into the belly of the ship. They're waiting there for me, my new family, the only family I have here, on the monolithic water. I have no choice but to speak with them, have no choice but to secure my own meaning in relation to them so that this sea doesn't swallow me whole. Even if their language is blood, pain, violence and aggression, I must converse with them. I can already hear the whir of the bone drill warming up below. This is the art. The before. The how you deal with potential. With who you are before the pain begins. The what will you do to belong, knowing that belonging is the only hope any of us have against eternity. Knowing that, on the sea, pulling away from things is only natural but that in naturalness lies the death of all you are, the un-spooling of the ligaments which keep your identity alive.

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