The Sea and the Old Man

“Did you know that, in large enough quantities, water is poisonous?” he asked as he filled his pipe. Little curled threads of tobacco spilled onto the table, and I resisted the urge to sweep them away.

“I’d imagine that’s the same for a lot of things,” I said.

“True enough. Though I like that, in this example, with something rather unobvious. I mean, come now. Tell me truly, did you know this about water?”

“No,” I admitted.

“There you go. And there is, of course, a reason I bring it up. Water is one of the most abundant things we can consume with absolute freedom. Air is perhaps the first most. But water? In this developed world of ours it pools clean and fresh in every cistern in the villa. It splashes with wild abandon in the fountains of the city. Aqueducts carry it in man-made rivers over miles and miles of ground. It falls in great sheets from the sky, for God’s sake. You have only to open your parched mouth and it shall be filled. So too with love.”


He smiled and lit a taper from the candle, which he then applied to the pipe’s bowl. A few deep pulls and he exhaled a cloud of smoke in a deep sigh. “Yes. If you are receptive to it, as with a dry throat for water, it springs forth from every crack around you. You have but to seek it, and it is there. I would call love the second most abundant thing in the world.”

“Even rivaling the seas?” I asked.

“Even so. You’ve been in love, yes? So, you know what it’s like to drown in the eyes and embraces of your lover. As readily as any shipwrecked sailor, you might find yourself adrift in bliss, your heart’s chambers filled to bursting with the passions of another. Who can measure that vastness? Can you say with certainty that it is less than the endless blue expanse of any ocean? I’d challenge you.”

I shrugged. “Fair enough.”

“And so, should you accept this metaphor, then love can be just as toxic as water. Be careful of how much you drink!”

2015.02.28 – 2023.09.24

Next: Birthmonth (266)
Previous: Breaking Up (264)