His Deer Wife
Dreamed 1995/7/9 by Chris Wayan
I'm a slave in the house of a lord of the New Aztec Empire. But all things considered, I like my job. I'm a scribe and scholar. Our master is Captain Nezahualcoyotl, that is Hungry Coyote in your northern tongue--the name of a great poet and emperor, long ago. Our master is a liberal and enlightened man, in most ways, if not entirely worthy of his illustrious name. Because we like him, we're usually discreet about his one great flaw, but the nature of my tale will force me to reveal it soon, so I will be northern-blunt. Nezuahualcoyotl is inept and selfish in love; as greedy as, well, a Hungry Coyote.
No one dares tell him, so he fondly thinks he's a great lover. Do not think me cynical--he is a good man, as aristocrats go. While I may wish to be reborn some day in a tribe like yours, where all folk stand equal, I do not speak out from hatred. I speak from hurt--not my own, but the hurt of one I love, though I should not.
(I shame my tutors, writing so carelessly. You wonder "Should not speak, or should not love?" Both; both. As you'll see.)
One day, our Captain brought home a wife. He paid a great dowry for her. You northerners seem to confuse a proper wife bought from her family with such things a concubine, a sex-slave, or a prostitute--though I do not truly grasp your northern sexual customs either. But she was a wife--his first ever.
She seemed not unhappy, indeed to like him. She's a southerner, from an Andean tribe, speaking our tongue slowly, though well. From words we had later, I think she was glad to leave her village.
She comes of prosperous farming gentry who don't travel or read, and were mystified by this daughter who loves both, who begged for schooling, learned to read not only her own Quechuan but Mayan, and even our own glyphs (the modern simplified forms of course! It took me years to master the old script of the codices. No woman could.)
Her name is Vicuña, which means, Golden or Long-Necked Deer, a beautiful creature of the southern mountains, with long, fluffy, much-prized fur, proof against the biting cold of the high peaks. The name suits her, for unlike ordinary deer, they are wise creatures, as clever and patient as dogs; it's even said they can herd lesser beasts, as men do.
Like her namesake, she has gentle, wide-set eyes, with no whites--green as a cat's. Her thick shaggy hair is a reddish gold in color startling to our raven-haired people, though (I hear) not extraordinary among your own, in the north. Her elegant neck is fully twice the normal length, and so flexible she can turn to face you squarely over her own back (which can be unnerving, especially if one is a servant engaged in some trifling impropriety).
Her tribe is famed for these long necks. It's rumored to be genetic meddling: the Inca, their ruling class, has in the last few generations puffed up with pride that they feed the world through their superior crops--and gone on to improve the breed of man. They evidently added llama and vicuña genes to see if common folk might work better at great heights. They did not perhaps anticipate (though if I were cynical I would write, they should have--but the proud Inca do not always face their limitations) that better workers often prosper. And good-natured, honest, clever, persistent folk may often climb to heights where others cannot--I do not speak of mountains. Even the Inca, master breeders though they are, cannot always say "this virtue, but not that." More vicuña virtues may have entered mankind than they intended. For in but a few generations, her breed is much respected and desired.
Hence her bride-price. No, it was not her literacy or curiosity--her family is too conservative to appreciate intellectual virtues. But they saw and valued her elegance, her diligence, and most of all her loving nature.
They knew they had to find her a good husband. They tried.
And to all but his servants, Nezahualcoyotl must seem a great catch.
After the ceremony welcoming Vicuña, the Captain chooses to follow the a custom rare today: rather than retire to their chambers, he unwraps his new bride, first of her Vicuña robes (magnificent, but far too warm for our climate), then of more intimate layers. When she wears but one last small skirt and an exquisite gold and shell necklace with a curious glyph, we applaud her beauty and good taste. The head maid and the cook and I in particular make a show of this, for it's plain to all but the Captain that she is as body-shy as we are body-proud. No wonder: in her chilly home, nakedness is no doubt a cold, risky matter, while to us, a loincloth and jewelry showing one's rank and taste are adequate for a summer's day. We try to reassure her...
But now Nezahualcoyotl proves he is well-named, for like a Hungry Coyote he eagerly strips off even her last skirt, and removes her jewelry, so she stands bare before us all. Her dark face does not blush visibly, but her eyes dart and blink in clear distress. How can he? But worse is to come.
Our Captain tells Vicuña to climb, naked, onto the stone dais in the center of the great atrium, and lie on her back. She silently does this, baring her sacred gate for all to see. The Captain strips, proudly displaying his warrior's muscles and firm spear of fatherhood. He climbs on her, before us all, and shoves his war club proudly in. Seemingly under the impression this is leisurely love-play, he pushes her into positions he likes, as if a husband were a potter, and a wife red clay.
He announces delightedly, "Why, your neck is so flexible, you can turn your face right away from me, as if we're mating like deer! See?"
She obeys her husband. She does not cry.
When he's done, he pats her kindly, even proudly--leaves her sprawled and tangled on the dais like a sacrifice to the bloody gods of ancient time, the bad times. Dripping only his white seed, not her own heart's red blood, but still... it's a troubling omen, that altar.
And it goes on like this!
He sees in her, I think, a girl's lovely body, but a pet's submissive head. But if she is part animal, she is a wild one: a shy deer-wife needing solitude and gentleness to flourish. He sees a dog-wife, living for his praise, who he can treat as he pleases. He is affectionate, yet strangely blind to the strong, sweet spirit looking out through those strange dark wide-set eyes.
I love her, and long to please her. Not shove her face into a mat, please myself, and walk away from my sweet deer. As this Coyote does, his hunger sated.
Dare I face him, tell my owner he mistreats his wife?
Or would she run away with me? She is, despite her personal humiliation, a great lady here. What can I offer her, beyond love and respect? Where could we live? In your cold northern world? Could we even reach the border?
My asking the question at all is the answer.
If he won't change, I will. She may decline my offer, but I'll make it. I'll dare punishment and exile to free her. To be with...
CLEARLY NOT THE END
The New Aztlan Empire? Today I read an old Andre Norton novel, QUEST CROSSTIME, set partly in a world where the Aztecs crash-modernized like the Japanese, and rule western America. Great estates with lords and servants...
Why a slave? Well, in therapy today, I discovered I used to be caught in double binds: ALL choices made me guilty!
But now I often can avoid the old torments of guilt by following one path I decide is moral. One track instead of none!
What a luxury! No choice, but peace of mind is such a seductive improvement over torturing myself, that I may settle for nothing more, and glide contentedly down my track forever...
It's dangerously addictive. What about freedom?
Letting my neck get pushed around: today in yoga, I obeyed my teacher and twisted my neck too far. Master knows best, right? Tonight, OW!
And I wonder why my life's a pain in the neck.
His deer wife: my friend Dawn visited today. Gentle and slender as a deer. I have a crush on her, and think her husband neglects her a bit. She sprawled sexily on my sofa... but with her chin crunched into her chest. Gave me both an erection and a crick in the neck! She's been slaving over her computer lately... if she doesn't watch out, she's gonna end up pretzel-necked. Or am I talking about me?
The Captain's weird sexual position, neither face-to-face nor dog-style: my attitude toward my OWN body! I don't give my physical needs face-to-face parity with my mental priorities, negotiating as equal partners; nor do I let go, follow my impulses, with the animal abandon of a deer or a dog.
Instead, how I connect with my body is twisted: I force my own head to look away, denying how intimately we're linked beneath!
But then, aren't all of us slaving away for America--for New Aztlan--pretty hard on our bodies? We're proud of our enlightenment: we no longer tear out our living hearts! Just hunch over computers, work at office desks, crunching our necks...
And our wild dear bodies feel hurt, neglected, sad and lonely. When they're so sweet. When they deserve love. Not this twisted, offhand thing we give.
ABOUT THE DREAMER
Wayan is the common field name for a shy, herbivorous mammal endemic to the warmer hill slopes of the San Francisco Peninsula. This graceful but timid creature is little seen, though it nests even in urban areas. Whether the species is native or a feral offshoot of the common western shaman is still uncertain.
Treated gently it makes a loyal, intelligent pet, but should be left to forage for itself, as it is ill-adapted to digest human foods. Its diet in the wild primarily consists of fresh-picked flowers, leaves, and seeds. The species is believed to spend two-thirds of its life sleeping, dreaming, drawing, and writing.
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