The Eternal Frame
He was stuck–dumbstruck, really. This was not what he was expecting, and his emotions had overtaken his wonder. Less than thirty minutes ago, he was in extreme unction, his life on a knife’s edge. Wandering those tight dark alleyways, surrounded by all this solidity, the sense of weightlessness unnerved him. It was already replaying in his mind as he stood in this room, as he knew it would for the rest of the life he now had had given back to him. How if his foot had slipped one bit off of that edge he would have been smashed to smithereens. It chilled him to his bones, yet he couldn’t decide if it was from his slim escape, or the shock of the explosion of space, the sliver of sky, the framed glimpse of the heavens.
So it was that he fully understood her emotions when she stepped foot into The Pantheon for the first time. It did not require that she feel that she had cheated death; she simply felt the awesome power of this perfect volume. Like that cavern, the oculus admitted a single shaft of light: here it was not an accident of erosion, but the intentional introduction of the dome’s designers. It slashed across the space, alighting on the concave walls of the monumental cylinder. Transfixed, it became the one marker of the passage of time, of seconds, minutes, hours and eons.
He crawled around the outside, looking for clues of the compromises he had learned of. He was always irked that the portico was ill-proportioned, and there it was, the traces of how a smaller portico had been grafted on after the ship with the grander columns had sunk somewhere down the Nile. How the builders had to go down to the Rome Depot to pick up some other columns in order to meet the deadline of Agrippa’s coronation. She was uninterested, and dragged him back through the black anteroom and into the perfect sphere of space.
The memory rushed back at him, like a freight train plowing through the piazza. In an instant he was exploring the lava caves of Mt. Suswa in Kenya again, miles from civilization. He could feel his toes tickling the edge of the precipice, loose rocks tinkling down the cavern, their echoes sending signals of infinity as their journey found no bottom to the void that yearned to swallow him whole and steal his life, his promise, his ambitions, his sins and sacraments. The floor of the cave had given way, and he of the seven was the sacrifice. His instinct to reach for any crack and the narrowest of ledges were all that stood between him and his end.
His companions had grasped him, pulling him out of the gaping maw. It was only when they happened upon that sun-stroked cavern that the heaviness really hit him.
Like it was hitting him now, inside The Pantheon. It is easy to be lazy about our lives in the minutes and minutiae of the daily grind. Here in this perfect room, he couldn’t help but think in lifetimes and eons, of the second chance he had gotten, and how, at this moment, holding the love of his life and cradled by his passion, he was one with eternity.