Purgatory: Canto 33, Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
The choir continued to sing and he walked, silent, beside me. We came to the veil of trees separating us from the last stage of the journey, what Dante had called Paradise.
My heart was fluttering, it was possible to walk only by pretending there was nothing real about this journey and maybe there wasn’t but it felt real.
He sighed deeply and looked at me. “Here we are.” he said, “do you know how to accept happiness? I’m not sure I do.”
I nodded. “Hard.” I said, “It’s harder to say yes than it is to say no.” I swallowed, took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. I was sure, it would only take the smallest thing, one missed step, one poorly chosen word for him to turn and leave me.
We are taught that happiness is fleeting and largely undeserved. I planned, with this man to step straight into it. All the contradictions that it entailed, all the struggles and surprises — this was the one. I was ready and I had to say so.
“But it’s time, isn’t it?” I said, “If not now” as they say, “when?”
“We will only return to each other, again and again. Let’s say yes now and see what the next part is like. Returning has been good at time, I’m glad to have learned it but now, let’s say yes. Can we say yes?”
I knew there had been fanfare for Dante. Heavenly choirs sang, choirs rang out in rapture, cymbals crashed, universal truths were declared and judgement pronounced, affirmation given and then rose petals fluttered through the air. Dante’s procession was filled with perfume and cherubim, fluttering doves and stars come down to earth — every possible delight filled his vision, trumpets blared, Angels touched his brow. You can imagine all that if you like. It can be right for you at the door to your paradise.
But Dante was a man of the Baroque, I was not him and he was not me.
My love and I stepped through the green and supple trees with no fanfare at all.
We stepped into a new world.