I sat, once more in the late hours of darkness, in the
airport of a foreign city. I was tired as only both
the sufferer from insomnia and the traveler can be
tired. I had missed a plane and had almost a whole
night's wait before me. I could not sleep. The long
corridor was deserted. Even the cleaning women had
In that white efficient glare I grew ever more
depressed and weary. I was tired of the endless
comings and goings of my profession; I was tired of
customs officers and police. I was lonely for home. My
eyes hurt. I was, unconsciously perhaps, looking for
that warm stone, that hawthorn leaf, where, in the
words of the poet, man trades in at last his wife and
friend. I had an ocean to cross; the effort seemed
unbearable. I rested my aching head upon my hand.
Later, beginning at the far end of that desolate
corridor, I saw a man moving slowly toward me. In a
small corner of my eye I merely noted him. He limped,
painfully and grotesquely, upon a heavy cane. He was
far away, and it was no matter to me. I shifted the
unpleasant mote out of my eye.
But, after a time, I could still feel him approaching,
and in one of those white moments of penetration which
are so dreadful, my eyes were drawn back to him as he
came on. With an anatomist's eye I saw this amazing
conglomeration of sticks and broken, misshapen pulleys
which make up the body of man. Here was an apt
subject, and I flew to a raging mental dissection.
How could anyone, I contended, trapped in this
mechanical thing of joints and sliding wires expect
the acts it performed to go other than awry?
The man limped on, relentlessly.
How, oh God, I entreated, did we become trapped within
this substance out of which we stare so hopelessly
upon our own eventual dissolution? How for a single
minute could we dream or imagine that thought would
save us, children deliver us, from the body of this
death? Not in time, my mind rang with my despair; not
in mortal time, not in this place, not anywhere in the
world would blood be staunched, or the dark wrong be
forever righted, or the parted be rejoined. Not in
this time, not mortal time. The substance was too
gross, our utopias bought with too much pain."
--Loren Eisley, "The Night Country"