What does it mean that you love me, anyways? To this, everyone around the man who spoke gathered up in a cold cave tucked high in a hill somewhere in their country, as though to look for warmth but with warmth to be found, everyone was silent; nor did any one of them understand why exactly the man who loosed these words from his lips spoke in the manner he did to the man beside him, kneeling on the coarse and merciless stone of the cave, in a posture if not of worship than at least of awe. Dorothy, the sister of the man knelt down on the floor, came close to her brother and placed her hands gently on his shoulders, so as to console him, or protect him from some perdition that was closing in on him. Still, with all of the emotion of the scene, and so many things and gestures fitting together as though all of an impossible piece, the crowd gathered around was still confused and not sure what to make of the episode. One man, far enough away from the speaker, the man kneeling on the floor, and his sister, far enough in the corner of the room of the cave, even with all the power of the caves to echo back every word, so as not to be heard, he said: As I recall it was this man here (his interlocutors presumed this man, Kellan, was speaking of the man on the floor in the front) who has loved our friend more than any other. And yet–he paused, and motioned to the crowd with a half-circle wave of his arm–and yet, our friend, this friend of ours–he condemns him!
He condemns himself! This was Samantha who shouted this, Samantha who before had always stayed so taciturn, never putting herself out there even in the midst of private company, let alone among strangers and throngs. She had thick hair like a wild roaming beast, hair which made men and women from all of the villages she passed through with her fellows envious of her, or at least that part of her with its frenzied beauty. But when she spoke now her hair was wrapped and wound tight in an immovable bun on the top of her head, so that when she shook it and continued, her wild hair moved not a hair’s breadth. She said: You know what he has told you, what he has told all of us! Do not pretend now that you do not know! All he has given us is an offering, not a command. Do not pretend now to see all of his actions and his words as commands, when that is the furthest from the truth! We say Yes to what he offers, we cannot be damned, even if the highest power from the height of power wanted to take us down at that moment, he could not, not while and not as long as we pronounce Yes to the things our friend says–Yes, this friend of ours! And if we say No…. If we say No…but no, I will not even pretend to say No in his presence, even if he cannot hear me, for then I shall leave myself wide open for the true and defiant and brilliant-dark No to clench itself around me and choke my breath and stop it from uttering what it must utter when what is at stake is a love for life–or a love for death, or a living death…you choose. As we all choose: when we open our mouths, when we speak; even when we sing, or hum, even when we sigh, when we merely breathe, even when we breathe our last, we choose.
The listeners were astonished by Samantha, not only by her openly declaring herself before this small band assembled around her of the larger crowd in the cave, nor only by the passion and zeal with which she had expressed herself, but most of all for this: for the profundity of what she said, and how, distant as Samantha had always seemed in relation to what occurred around her, she allowed the corner of gatherers who listened to her to gain a bit of access, as it were, to the unfolding events in the cave.
Yes, he loved, the man kneeling on the floor beside his friend, his friend and the friend of all those gathered in this chamber of the earth. He loved his friend unto death, and even promised the man he looked up to that he would follow him through even the most terrible dangers, should they ever arise. This man, kneeling now with such reverence in his heart, loved so much that he even wished to love when no one was looking, when no one noticed or took any note of his love. This man loved with an ever-loyal, ever-productive, boundless-seeming, no, boundless love, his love knew no bounds…. Then what? What went wrong, where did this man go wrong, and how? When? Where? Sometime, somewhere, somehow, the man had a little No creep into his heart. But just as the heart and the heart’s rooms give plenty of room for the resplendent reverberations of a man’s Yes, so too do these same rooms give room, and again, plenty of room and spacious places, for the No to roam and run free and take with it all of a man’s powers of imagination and intelligence, all of his curiosity and good animal-adventurousness, until the bright shadow of No covers the whole of things; not the whole of the world, for to the world this man’s heart says Yes, yes yes, but to the whole of that inner and invisible world where treasure lies, where it lies in abundance if only it is accepted, accepted openly and with wide-open thanksgiving. So the wickedness and scandal of it all is this: not that his love was restricted and bound–for his love was boundless–but that somehow, sometime, somewhere, it is possible to say No even to boundless love, even when this boundless love is with you on earth, even when this boundless and unfathomable love lives within you and you live and breathe through and with it, so that you can do nothing to stop it, nothing at all…. Even your No and all the No’s in the world could not stop it–it would only stop you as they would only stop the world–stop you and stop the world short. As some poor little No, sometime, somewhere, somehow, stopped this man–not from loving–he loved boundlessly, but–from being saved by his love.