Love Ageless
by Michael Priv
          My Linda. I saw her in my dream as a little girl. Different place. Different time. Her name was Ursula then. Neighbors and playmates, we grew up together near Liege, Belgium, the year of the Christ 987. I was about five, when I recognized her in a three-year-old neighbor’s daughter. When Ursula, or Ussi as I used to call her, was old enough to play with me, we splashed together in our beautiful river, the Meuse. We shared our first awkward kiss when she was nine.
          Once, in the pastures down the river, when she was probably ten or eleven, completely unlike her perky self, Ursula sat quietly, her back against a willow, weaving a wreath with the most beautiful flowers she could find, her lips moving in silent prayers.
          “What is it?” I asked, alarmed.
          She just kept shooing me away.
          Finally, with the wreath completed to Ussie’s full satisfaction, she placed it on my head.
          “Before Father God and Mother Earth I choose you as my husband. Do you choose me as your wife?”
          “I do,” I mumbled, shocked but ecstatically happy—the happiest boy-man on Earth.
          “Forever?” Ussie asked solemnly.
          “Forever.” I confirmed.
          We kissed.
          “Martin, I want you inside me,” Ussie whispered in my ear.
          Her velvety voice and that moment in tall grass at the riverbank—so meaningful, beautiful and intense—are etched in my mind forever.
          Was our lovemaking sublime! I knew we had been lovers before, but Ursula could not remember any of our past lives together, as usual. She used to call me crazy for my stories.
          But I actually convinced her that we had lived together and loved each other before. I told her how she died about a thousand years prior. She was a man then, by the name Theodoric; we were Germans. My name was Adelheide, and I was Theodoric’s wife. We were both killed in a battle with the Romans, who felt compelled to cross the Rhine River and set up their stinking forts in our forests. We kept fighting those pretty Roman boys with their plumes and flashy clothes, inflicting terrible losses on them—and ourselves. We would always push them out, but they would always return to fight us again.
Theodoric (Ursula, Linda—same person) was killed in that battle by an arrow to the throat, his death was quick. I outlived him by mere seconds. I took a spear through the chest, but not before I charged the suddenly terrified adolescent archer, who shot that fatal arrow that killed my Theodoric, and succeeded in hacking his head clean off with my heavy sword.
          When I told Ursula how she died, she cried in pain, grabbed her throat and coughed so hard that she was soon spitting blood. She was so sick for a few days, and her throat hurt so much, that I promised myself then and there to never again tell anybody their past deaths.
          From that point, Ursula knew she had lived before. That added depth and beauty to our relationship and our lovemaking.
She was not Linda then, her name was Ursula. We eventually got pregnant, Ursula and I—the happiest day of my life but an incredible insult to her family. I think Ussi was about fourteen or fifteen then. I was the villain regarded with utmost contempt and animosity by that clan. They decided to send for Old Martha, the whisperer, and abort the baby. Fools! Who did these people think they were? They had known my Ursula for just a few short years, and they thought they were entitled to pass judgment and make life-or-death decisions for OUR child?
          In our one-horse cart, we left home with my parents’ blessing and traveled in secret some one hundred twenty miles west to Ostend, a North Sea coastal town—I had an uncle there, Anceel.
          Uncle Anceel set us up with a room in their communal Big House and got me a job as a fisherman. Ursula stayed home. She had our baby, a big, healthy boy with blue eyes, like mine. We called him Thomas. I was away at sea for a spell and then home for a few days. Business was good. In a couple of years, we managed to build a small three-room house on the outskirts, had another baby, a girl this time, little Agnes. Ursula kept the house nice. I loved my family. Life was so good, it simply could not have been any better. I thought the wonders would last forever, but the bliss only lasted for about four years. Then—the storm.
          I recall the horrific events of that tragic day. Our fishing schooner with a crew of eighteen was caught by a squall over a hundred miles off-shore. Pummeled by relentless wind and freezing rain, we attempted to make it to shore using the jib for maneurability and the gaff topsail for speed. I saw myself among a dozen others, heavily bundled in oilskins against the freezing squal, climbing the webbing to deploy the sails with my heart pounding and freezing sweat pouring down my face.                The unfolding sail kicked hard, sending my friend, Baas, a father of four, plummeting to his death into the heaving frigid sea, his last scream still fresh in my mind’s ears. We didn’t outlive Baas by long. We all died that night in the mess of falling masts, flying rigging and debris, whipping ropes, ferocious winds and waves rolling over the top deck. I saw a pale face of old Willem praying to God for mercy, hugging the stump of what used to be our fore mast for his dear life on the heaving deck, just as a heavy tackle struck and took out the side of his head. His lifeless body was immediately devoured by the ferocious sea. I had a good grip on the webbing but the schooner with the masts broken and the rudder rendered useless was now but a toy in the hands of Mother Nature. I saw the wave coming, I stared right at it, a fifty-foot swell frothing with fury, as it lifted the doomed schoone, crested, crashing the boat, and then capsized it.
          “Ussie!” The last thing I saw in my mind, as the burningly fridgid water filled up my lungs was the terrified face of Ursula, as she ran out of the house in nothing but a long shirt with tears streaming down her face, looking into the sea and asking God to save me.
          “Martin!” Her scream was the last thing I heard before my mind shut down.          
          After drowning, I did my best to be born again as a boy at Ostend, of course, to come back to my Ussi and the kids but failed as usual. I am very bad at that. I hope to master this someday and get better. Some people retain their sense of orientation and full sight perception in a disembodied state. Not me. I am disoriented between lives and my perceptions are dim. That is how I ended up in Eindhoven, a part of Germany then but really in Holland, about two hundred miles east of Ostend. At least I was a boy. I liked my new parents very much. They gave me a nice, manly name, Edgar. I must have been about four, when I remember asking my mother where Ostend was and her pointing in the direction of the hills on the outskirts of town. “Behind those hills,” she said. A small child of four, I often stared at those hills, imagining my Ussi. At the age of eleven I was finally ready to return to Ussi, to walk toward and past those hills and keep on walking.
          As fate had it, right then we were raided by the Vikings. The filthy creatures attacked at night, taking the town by surprise. I fought that hopeless battle shoulder to shoulder with other men of my family. I was small, but I was a man. I jumped on one, trying to claw his eyes out, while older men of my family attacked the beast with knives. Together with my father, we killed two of the brutes. Then with my father already dead, I killed one more by tripping him and plungimng my knife deep into his eye. As a family, we must have wiped out over half a dozen of the stinking animals. I remember seing my mother and sister attacking a wonded one with pitchforks and then setting another one on fire. One of them went after my mother, but I stood firm on his way, straining pitifully to lift a two-handed broad sward against him. The Viking gave me a long stare and turned away without a fight. They did burn down the house and the barn, though. The horror of that night is also etched in my mind forever.
          My father, uncle and older brother were all killed defending our home. When the dust settled, at the tender age of eleven, I became the head of our devastated household, having to take care of my now homeless family.
          My younger sister later died of her wounds and my mom’s sister froze to death that first winter with no home. But life went on. People bury their dead and keep going. We rescued some yarn and fleeces from the fire, mom and my aunt started knitting, I was selling things at the market and soon we were able to buy a goat to have milk. After almost a year of living in make-shift lean-to’s, we finally built a real house the best we could. Our horse was killed by the Vikings. It took us three years to buy a horse and start harvesting enough food from our small field to survive on. Eventually my mom remarried. I was finally free to go, so I walked back to Ostend.
          I was barely sixteen when I caught up with Ursula. My heart skipped quite a few beats when I saw her. About thirty-four then, wearing a simple cotton work robe and soft rawhide shoes, Ussi was even more beautiful. I was so happy to see her! Blood rushed to my head, numbing my senses and turning my legs to jelly. If I could just touch her! I wanted so much to embrace her, kiss her lips. Not yet. Ussi wouldn’t recognize me. One-lifers trust their eyes too much, vastly overestimating the true capabilities of the primitive lense and optic nerves to see the real truth.
          My Ussi. She lived in our old house with her new husband Phillies now. He was a mean, burly guy of about forty, an old man. A strong, silent type. A total jerk, in other words. I hated him immediately. If he were such a tough guy, why didn’t he build his own house, hmm? Why did he have to take mine? Like I said, a fake and a jerk. And what kind of a stupid name is Phillies?
          Ursula did not recognize me at first in a homeless stray looking for work. I stared into her eyes and held my gaze. She suddenly grew speechless, tears rolling down her cheeks. Then she sobbed, averting her gaze and wiped her tears with the sleeve of her tunic. She allowed me to do some chores around the yard in exchange for food, and I could sleep in the barn. Later that day, as I was chopping wood, I saw her crying. She did not recognize me, but I guess I reminded her of—well, of myself.
          I also met Thomas and Agnes, my children. They were older than I was now, good-looking people, both of them, strong and cheerful. My heart went to them. With a start, I discerned a clear resemblance to their father, to me. Wide in the shoulders, both, high foreheads and large strong hands. Unbearable as it was to keep silent that moment, I kept the joy of returning to my beloved family to myself. Both of my children stared at me for a long minute. Then Agnes showed me around, smiling and holding my hand. She didn’t wish to let go. We were perfectly comfortable holding hands. I cherished the company of my sweet little girl, especially her open face and the graceful, composed way she carried herself—she must have taken after her mother. Thomas was a toolmaker’s apprentice, recently married. I felt very happy around Ussi, Thomas and Agnes.
          Ursula had two healthy boys with her new husband, little Peter and Paul, who were busy scurrying around most of the time, yelling excitedly.
          Soon, we were spending most of our waking time together. Then the inevitable happened. One time Ussi sent me to the creek nearby to wash clothes. She joined me a bit later. We washed the clothes, horsing around and ended up in the water, fully dressed. Laughing, we splashed and chased one another. Then Ussi gave me a large linen sheet to dry myself, took one for herself and went deeper into the woods to change. I quickly won—or lost, as the moral uprights would say—a brief but very intense moral struggle with myself and followed her into the brush.
          I found her drying her sweet, naked body with a sheet, gazing at me dreamily. I came over and stood in front of her wrapped in my sheet, shivering, staring. I adored that body. God, how much I missed her! She missed me too. I could feel it. Still naked, she started rubbing my back through the sheet, explaining in a suddenly hoarse voice that she didn’t want me to catch cold. She brushed her hand against my genitals through the sheet several times, gasping. Then I felt her warm, eager hand inside the sheet stroking me rhythmically, while I caressed her delicious moist softness. We were both red, trembling and breathing heavily.
          I had the body of a sixteen-year-old boy. She was a married thirty-five-year-old woman, a mother of four. In my estimation, the result of our lustful preludes was going to be a huge guilt trip, and she’d probably send me away forever and ruin everything. Preemptively, I whispered in her ear, “I love you, Ussi. I adore you. I’m back.”
I was the only one who ever called her Ussi.
          Beautiful eyes suddenly large as two saucers right in front of mine. Her legs gave out. She dropped to her knees in front of me, pushing back the scream, tears streaming down her suddenly luminous face. I saw incredible anguish mixed with joy and a whole lot of love on that beautiful face. I dropped to my knees in front of her. We hugged. She held me tight to her chest while her whole body convulsed and shuddered in silent weeping. We both wept.
          Ussi sang songs on our way home, her eyes brighter than stars in the sky; she was radiating absolute and utter happiness. It was dark by the time we got to her house (my house, actually). It was time to turn in for the night.
I could not sleep on my old horse cloth in the barn, staring into the darkness, thinking how things could have been, when the barn gates creaked, and I heard Ussi’s light steps. She climbed the shaky ladder to the hay bay and groped around for me. Without another word, Ussi fell into my arms. We both cried quietly for a bit. We kissed and cuddled and then made love—finally!—long and sweet, tasting, savoring and enjoying every square millimeter of each other’s body.
          Tragically, we only run into each other about once every thousand years or so. We had spent centuries searching for each other, thinking we’d found one another only to realize we hadn’t. All that while Ursula never remembered anything and so had no idea who she was always searching for. Well, now we were finally together. We savored every moment.
Her name was Ursula then, my one and only true love, my Ussie.  Almost a year passed before we were finally caught in the act by Ursula’s husband Phillies. That fateful night, we were making love in the barn, basking in every delicious moment, when the fat bastard attacked us with a pitchfork.
          Although I was very preoccupied and working hard at that moment, survival instincts honed by an eternity of nearly constant trouble saved my skinny butt once again, as well as Ussi’s much nicer butt. Even before I was analytically aware of Phillies’s presence, I had already grabbed Ussi, moaning and hopelessly lost in her adorable oblivion at that moment, and rolled both of us a couple of feet over, outside of the pitchfork’s reach. I then grabbed the extended pitchfork, yanked it while kicking Phillies’s hand on the pitchfork staff. He lost his grip, and the pitchfork flew out of his hand and mine. I lunged at him, pushing the old man off the ladder. We both fell, rolling around on the earthen floor in uneven candlelight, kicking various implements around.
          Ussi finally screamed.
          Phillies had at least a hundred and fifty pounds on me. It was not to my advantage to roll around with the fat hog. Having disengaged from him, I jumped to my feet and kicked him a few times before he got up heavily, spitting blood. Fighting naked, I felt awkward and vulnerable. My nakedness was also pissing Phillies off beyond belief, I could tell. I punched him several times in the face while easily escaping his slow punches. I only succeeded in getting him even more pissed off. Looking into his bloodshot eyes, I suddenly knew that he was going to kill me.
          I kept successfully evading his bear hugs, repeatedly punching him in the face now slick with blood. That, unfortunately, did not seem to affect him. He was too angry to care, too much adrenaline. Sooner or later, he would connect and that would be the end of me. I glimpsed Ursula’s horrified, white face right when Phillies threw one of his slow, heavy punches with the right. I was blocking and stepping in for an uppercut when I stumbled in the dark on the uneven floor and ended up in his bear hug, squeezed mightily. My attempts to break the hug, my head butts and knee kicks were all futile. I was dimly aware of my ribs cracking and vision fogging. I couldn’t breathe. I knedw I was suffocating.
          The crushing pressure suddenly let off. I slid to the ground gasping. It took me a few seconds to come around and realize that Ussi had hit him on the head with a large chunk of firewood. He was sitting on the floor now, smearing blood all over his head listlessly, while Ussi recovered her chuck and was getting ready to whack him again.
          I staggered to my feet, coughing and retching. Ussi lifted the chuck high above her head and lowered it on Phillies’s head for the second time. Her husband slumped on the dirt floor—out cold but obviously breathing.
          While I was laying outside sucking the air into my lungs painfully and nursing my broken ribs, Ussi got the buggy ready, saddled one of their horses and went inside the house to see the sleeping kids for the last time. We left our old house, abandoning the children into the care of her husband. My lover’s dear face was contorted in anguish, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she looked back at her home for a long while after it was completely swallowed by the darkness behind us.
            
                                                                                                                                                                                    © 2011 Michael Priv. All Rights Reserved.