Jason (jcreed) wrote,
Jason
jcreed

Came to me half-formed in a dream in Seattle; finally got the chance to write it down.


A story from Perido del Mar, translated from the peculiar dialect of Spanish spoken there:

This is an account of the practice of kenbaré, which our western neighbors have kept since the beginning of time, which our people have adopted recently.

Kenbaré is initiated when a woman asks a man, will you sit kenbaré with me. Only women may ask; only men may be asked. The man must then say, are you certain you wish to do this thing that you propose. The woman may then affirm or deny her intent. If she says no, then the man is absolved of responsibility — however he typically considers her proposal as a compliment. If she says yes, then the man must proceed willingly through the rest of kenbaré. To refuse is to commit the gravest of shameful acts. Because the man is in such a vulnerable position in kenbaré, it is considered equally shameful for the woman to propose it and affirm it if the man seems hesitant when he says are you certain you wish to do this thing that you propose.

Once kenbaré is affirmed, the woman and man negotiate a time and place. Traditionally, kenbaré only took place at the home of the woman's family, on the sunset that ends the first day of September — when the bobáth fruit grows brown and heavy on the vine. In our regrettable time, these customs have changed.

When the chosen time comes, those who sit kenbaré bring to the chosen place each a cloth, and place it on the ground. Each one turns so facing away from the other, and removes all clothing. The woman asks: will you now sit kenbaré with me. The man says: I will. They turn around, now facing each one the other, but with their eyes closed. They sit on the floor-cloths, and open their eyes.

The purpose of kenbaré is not to be identified with sexual union, nor love, nor friendship. It is a ritual expression of honesty, and intimacy between men and women who wish to see more deeply into one another. The removal of clothing symbolizes the repudiation of those barriers between us that are at once the most thin and trivial, and yet the hardest to discard.

Our neighbors to the west tell us about the correct practice of kenbaré: they tell us that while the woman sits naked with the man, she may admire his body (since she is often young and curious the first time she so sits) but she is forbidden to touch him, and he to touch her. She soon recognizes the molará* of the situation. Our neigbors tell us that no law requires any speaking, but it always comes. The result of kenbaré, however much it may not be its essential purpose, is almost without fail a conversation between two people — who, by necessity, have overcome shame.

*benign absurdity, lit. "soft laughing"

When the conversation is ended, the two put their clothes on, and pick up their floor-cloths, shaking off the dirt. They may have become friends; they may have ended their friendship. They may have discovered that one loves the other, and will never be loved in return. They implicit promise of kenbaré will, however, be kept by both: that what is said within it becomes a secret-resting-under-the-sun: a thing made of words no longer blent with shame, and no longer hidden in hearts of dark cloth — but neither are they spoken, nor especially are they shared with those who have not sat kenbaré.
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