The Aphorisms of Kherishdar
M.C.A. Hogarth

AJZELIN
ajzelin [ ah jzehl EEN ], (noun) -- touch-lover; someone allowed to touch your entire body in a non-sexual context at any time and in any situation or company--this word requires it be mutual on each other's parts. This blanket permission is rarely given and always a special intimacy.
      It was in the cool of a spring morning that I came upon the ajzelin sitting by the fountain near the bath-house. A noble had perched on its edge, his rich blue robe draped over the ivory stone. Beside him a servant had her hand on his; she was dressed in an irimkedi's simpler garb, marked with his colors. At their feet, leaning against the noble's knee, was a second male, in the sensible attire of a merchant.
      All touching.
      There is a word that encompasses our duty as Ai-Naidar to condemn in public those behaviors we would not see repeated. But we believe in balance, and there is another word that describes our pleasure at sharing our joys openly, so that all Ai-Naidar might be refreshed. These three were engaged in just this thing, and so I felt no shame in approaching, in choosing a bench where I could gaze on them and be eased by the beauty of their trust.
      It is a precious thing, to be azjelin, as rare as to be lovers. It is a freer thing also, as the three demonstrated, resting together by the fountain's cool water. Touching-love crosses castes far more easily, with fewer complications... and with no less meaning. Many a poem and song has been written about the joys of being ajzelin, and though I had never been so blessed, seeing them I could just begin to understand. And so I forgot my errand and became lost in the sight of those fingers on that hand, the press of cheek against knee, until my spirit felt swollen with a joy too transcendent for my frail flesh.
      The noble met my eyes, then... bowed his head with a slight, shy smile. It was an exception, that we could gaze on one another directly and have him look away first, when mine was the lower caste. But perhaps it mattered not at all, for I was the one humbled.
      When I returned to my studio, every item in it felt unreal to me, though I ran my fingers over the pebbled parchment and smelled the acrid scent of dried ink. I sat on my window-seat and closed my eyes, and wiped after a time the tears that accumulated slowly on their lower edges in perfect beads. Such a gift to be given, and with such generosity of spirit. My talent paled beside it, and even my loneliness, grown deep and silent since the death of my wife, seemed without meaning or context.
      I fell asleep on the window-seat and did not wake until long after dark, when the perfume of spring's night-blooming blossoms hung dense and sweet in the cool air that drifted through the windows. And after a time, I went to my desk and I wrote:
      Love is the foundation of society.
      Then I rested my head in my folded arms, and did not lift my brush again until morning.


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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth