In heaven, it is always spring, always the very beginning of spring: each blue and green day dawning as if the days before it had been gray and icy cold. I am awakened by the sunlight coming through a window, along with a sea breeze and the cawing of distant gulls.
Breakfast is eggs benedict, asparagus, hash browns, English muffins, sweet butter, pineapple preserves, orange slices, and champagne. I eat till I’m full while my dog Tom Ripley gnaws his rawhide at my feet. Somebody next door is playing the Gymnopédies on the piano.
I walk along the white-sand beach with my friends, one or two at a time. When my friends are called elsewhere, immediately one or two other friends take their places. We talk about the things that matter to us—Why do we think this or that person is beautiful and good? Why is this or that sexual position exciting? What sort of poem would suit this particular day? How lovely it is to change—and how we sometimes miss the subtle pleasures of mutability, even when they were involved in the pains of mere earthly existence!
After my walk, I watch tall handsome men wrestle in a small peristyle arena. They have dark close-cropped hair and trimmed beards, eyes as black as onyx, with strong noses and jaw lines, hairy chests, hard round shoulders, firm bellies, and sturdy thighs. They are as fierce as they are tantalizing to watch. They enjoy the fight, coax me to jump in with them, their speedy violent moves gradually tapering to long, sweaty, languorous holds.
Afterwards, we shower and eat steaming salty bloody steaks and cool salads of lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, peperoncini, olives, feta, anchovies, cracked black pepper, lemon, oil, and vinegar, washing it all down with cold dark lager.
I siesta in another room, my dog Ripley at my side. Compositions by Brian Kenny, Jean Cocteau, Paul Klee, and Willaim Blake hang on the walls—a life-sized cast of Rodin’s L’age d’airain stands at the window. Billie Holiday sings on my iPod. In my dreams Auguste Neyt poses at my bedside while Rimbaud reads from Illuminations, Whitman from Leaves of Grass, and Rilke from Neue Gedichte.
I awake to drumming. People, friends, are dancing outside. I join in. We pass hashish and bottles of wine as we move. The rhythm is relentless and frenzied. We all glow with perspiration and vitality. Our muscles glimmer liquidly under our skin. We are all reveling pagans without gods—saints as we bless each other, but require no other hand to bless us.
This heaven has never known a Christian (or a monotheist of any type) and never will. This heaven had and lost its gods long long ago—lusty, beautiful, natural gods, who relinquished their power and thus their existence when nature lost its cruelty and death ceased to be a necessary escape.
When we tire of dancing, we fuck, tirelessly, with joyful mischief and laughter. Again we drift to sleep in one another’s arms in the cool dry grass, a short nap.
It’s twilight when we awake. For a couple of hours we read—Proust, Didion, Burroughs, Kafka, Salinger, the Arabian Nights—every word taken in with new eyes as if for the very first time. Then we graze at a buffet—carrot cake, peach cobbler, vanilla ice cream, flan, coconut cake, shortbread, butterscotch candies, Jordan almonds, grapes, pistachios, fresh pineapple—while on a sheet stretched out between trees we watch old movies from the 1930s and 1940s.
After the movies everyone wanders off in twos and threes—and solitarily, as the mood dictates. Ripley and I crawl under clean blankets and sheets, scented with cedar. The ghosts of everyone I have ever loved hover around us.
As we drift off to sleep, it starts to rain.