What Alysoun Did Not Tell Hunnymannkw ^>nHer beauty is weakness. Has always been. For as long asnshe has any memory of herself. As a child, with goldennhair, with fair, smooth, completely unblemished skin andnwith bluebright eyes, she was at once spoiled and protected.nPleased with herself even as others took a curious pleasurensimply from her appearance, her presence. Pleased withnherself as her mother and father were certainly morenconcerned with her health and well-being (a form ofnconstant, solicitous tenderness which she confused withnlove) than with the mundane welfare, the aches and pains ofnher brothers and sisters. Who were, as she observed and notnwithout some wincing envy, far more free than she was, freenat least to live, to suffer and rejoice, to die (as some of themndid in infancy and childhood), not without arousing anmeasure of grief and sorrow, true, but also a grief which wasnnot without the common sense of resignation, even, innpassing of time, of cheerful acceptance. She knew that theynwould not resign themselves to her death so gracefully. Alsonknew, sensed strongly, anyway, long before she had learnednany words for the sense and feeling of it, that her brothersnand sisters shared some things with her father and mother,nkinfolk and others of the village — which was to her thenworld, and all of it, then. And one of these shared things wasna clarity of expectation. The best and the wisest amongnthem were never wholly hopeless, not by any means; butnthey learned eariy in their lives to hope only for the simplestnthings. And learned to be well pleased, indeed content, bynthe slightest and the least. They were not safe from pain andndisappointment, not ever. But they were not at the mercy ofnbright and bitter expectations, especially the demandingnexpectations of others.nAnd she might have come to share this common strengthnand heritage, by birthright, if she had not been, fromninfancy, exceptionally beautiful and, thus, at the mercy ofnthe hopes and envy, the love and hatred of others. Othersnwho mysteriously were empowered to invest her life withnsecret expectations of their own, with all the selfish hopesnand fancies which they had suppressed in and for themselves,nbut which they now felt free to set free (like, O!, then20/CHRONICLESnnnwinged and terrible creatures freed from Pandora’s box) innher name. For her name’s sake. They might believe her tonbe worthy of admiration or envy or even a form of bitterncontempt. Yet they could never imagine her as she conceivednherself to be — as a perfect and living sacrifice tonalien beings who were like shadows of themselves. Annoffering up of self to strange gods and spirits who filledndreams with their murmuring voices and who riddled thendarkness with frightening and invisible wings.nSo you can see how to all the natural woes of childhoodnwere added the burden of fears, at times reduced to thenpure, chilled, cold-sweat terrors of awareness, as in the heartnand center of an evil dream, that she was not so muchnblessed, being spared from so many commonplace, quotidiannbruises and breakings, itches and winces, fevers and chills,nthese things which make up such a large part of the lives ofnall of us, the less lucky others, as she was being raised up likensome fat goose, prize pig, spring lamb, kept and preservednfor something yet to come, perhaps for some enormous andnsurprising agony. An agony of flesh or spirit or, most likely,nof both. An agony which, whenever and wherever it mightncome and seize her, she surmised, would serve as a blessingnfor all the others, those whose indifferent lives ran gentlynaway like water dribbling from their cupped hands.nThis, then, was the playhouse of her childhood.nEarlier in the age, in the old days of the old Faith, shenmight very well have studied and dreamed the lives of thensaints. Perhaps found her own true vocation in a nunnery.nBut here and now in this new/old world, all of it burning,naflame with continual and indescribable changing, shenfound no sanctuary except whatever imaginary edifice shencould build and inhabit by the power of mind and by thenstrength of her indomitable, aspiring will.nCall it paradoxical, if you choose to, the purest form ofnirony, but nevertheless what the worid took to be herngreatest blessing, gift and asset, that extraordinary beauty ofnface and form which, no matter how much or how oftennthreatened, has never yet failed her, she took and takes to bena weakness and a curse. And so her secret, thus her strength.n