On a crystal May morning, after everyone else seemed to have departed, he and Julie sat opposite each other at the scarred kitchen table, ready to go: between them now stood a tall glass of water and, in a saucer, two blue-stained cubes of sugar which their upstairs neighbor-gentle-eyed, hirsute-had acquired for them, tickets to Elsewhere. In after years he would sometimes wonder if at that moment he did not pass out through a sort of side door of existence, abandoning forever the main course his life would otherwise have taken; but it didn’t matter, for there was to be no going back through to find out, no going back along the unrolling path that soon came to be beneath their feet. Not seemed-to-come-to-be: it was no metaphor, or if it was a metaphor it was one that was so intensely so that the tenor and the vehicle of it, not identical, might just as well have been. In fact it became evident sometime during that endless morning that truth itself was a metaphor, no not even a metaphor, only a direction, a direction toward the most revelatory metaphor of all, never ever to be reached. Life is a journey; it is only one journey; there is along it only one road, one dark wood, one hill, one river to cross, one city to come to; one dawn, one evening. Each is only encountered again and again, apprehended, understood, recounted, forgotten, lost, and found again. And at the same time-Pierce standing gasping in the winds of Time felt it with the shocked conviction of a Bruno discovering Copernicus, of the first man in history to perceive it-the universe extends out infinitely in every direction you can look in or think about, at every instant.

Oh I see, he said, Oh I see, I get it , listening to the falling into place, one by one, of infinite tumblers that were tiny enough to fit inside the turnings of his own minute chemistries. He learned that day where heaven is, and where hell, and where the seven-story mountain; and he laughed aloud to know the simple truth. He learned the answers to a hundred other questions, and then forgot them, and then forgot the questions too: but for some years after-not often but now and then-he would receive, like a wave that reaches far up a dry shingle and then recedes, a dash of that day’s understanding: and for a moment taste its certainty like salt.

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