Far from the madding crowd, a whisper called to me, its soft tiny tenterhooks tugging—this way, this way. I followed its invisible trail.
Where would it lead? To whom did the whisper, the voice belong?
I walked until I saw him, expectantly poised at the edge of a craggy cliff, his left heel arching off the ground, essentially qualifying that foot as a dancer’s foot, lithe, nimble, prepped for sudden vigorous motion.
It was The Fool. Not a Fool, THE Fool. Satchel tied haphazardly to the wooden stick, a bindle I believe it was called, which was resting slantwise against the length of his arm, angled toward the sun. His little white dog, yipping and hopping, ready, it seemed, to jump over the moon once she arrived. That was the sort of dog The Fool had, the breed was irrelevant, it was a moon-jumping dog, one that reared its hind legs and jubilantly pissed on stars.
If the whisper had come from The Fool, now, nothing, silence. He didn’t even turn to look at me. The Fool, I suspected, was never one to look back, not even a little ways just to see who was standing behind him.
Fool, I screamed aloud in my head, why did you summon me?
The Fool stared straight ahead, his gaze anchored to a tomorrowless unknown. Rooted in the present while looking out toward the future, The Fool straddled paradox with ease and grace, a numberless mystic with a zest for airing and trespass, for lost worlds. I envied The Fool.
I watched his hand, the free one, slide along his waist, fingers wriggling, a signal for me to move forward. Hesitantly, I took a few steps, and immediately my legs were seized by trembling. That, and knots began boiling in my stomach.
I looked at The Fool, standing poised, serene, regal, despite his intimate proximity to the cliff’s edge, which made me feel even more ashamed of my nails that were digging like troubled refugees into my palms.
The little dog, yelped shriller and louder and hopped higher, and now looked like it was grinning.
I had a powerful urge to kick the taunting maniacal dog off the cliff, but held myself in check. After all, it wasn’t the dog’s fault that I was terrified.
Don’t worry, came The Fool’s voice crisp and steady, the fear is natural.
It is? my voice cracked.
Yes. It is natural and it is also nothing. Ignore it.
I wanted to, but the trembling in my legs and boiled knots in my stomach were not so easily dismissed.
Somehow, almost involuntarily, I managed to move forward a few more steps.
You are now at the cliff’s edge, with me, exactly where you are meant to be.
This is where I am meant to be?
Yes, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.
But you called me!
Yes, you . . . didn’t you?
Though I couldn’t see The Fool’s smile, as he still hadn’t turned to look at me, I could feel the magnificent force of its light spelling wonder across his face. It was as if the glowing phenomena of his smile had been reflected into the wind, which had blown its brightness back to me as a fortuitous omen and generous ally.
Are you ready? The Fool asked.
The Fool, without looking back, reached out his hand to mine, and found it in one swift, rhythmically assured motion. The little dog had settled down, a fuzzball Buddha sidled against The Fool’s stockinged foot.
To make the leap.
To make the leap? You mean—
To take the plunge, yes.
Off the cliff?
It’s the only way.
The only way for what? Can’t I just turn around and go back.?
There is no more back.
What do you mean there’s no more….
I turned around and saw that The Fool was right. There was nothing behind him. Just a whole lot of groundless nothing, as if the reality from which I had come, and its accompanying geography, had been erased.
You have two options now, The Fool said, grinning much in the same way his dog had been earlier. You can, A) Stay exactly where you are, for as long as you’d like. There is no law against that. Or, B) You can jump. What will it be?
Can I … Can I think about it?
Thinking is the absolute worst thing you can do at this moment, and will be of no help to you whatsoever. None.
I was nearly parallel with The Fool and could see his face in profile. His cheek seemed to radiate goldenness, as if a slab of pure etheric light had been planted there.
The little dog had shifted from its position of repose to one of panting expectation, his blubbery tongue dangling in vibrato from the side of his mouth.
Are you ready, The Fool asked again.
No, I said.
Good. Let’s go.
The Fool released my hand and lurched forward, his chest a flock of fugitive birds leading the way, as his feet left their stony perch, and he became a full-bodied prayer, impossible in its flight and arc.
The little dog went next, a four-pawed broad-jump off the cliff’s edge.
I stood there, a trembling witness, and suddenly recalling that Now or Never was the ultimate paradox, I took the plunge, and in falling The Fool and I merged, like a rush of liquid molecules, as we moved, directionless, toward a liminal unknown.