They Danced

Once there was a tribe where every man was the one true king, and every woman, the one true queen. Odd, you may think, and wonder how any work got done in such a society with everyone making rules. But these were not those kinds of kings and queens. They required no throne rooms, no jewels, no gold crowns. They chose to king as they went about the business of living. The gardeners, the blacksmiths, even the tax collectors were fair and just queens (and sometimes kings).

Among them lived the King of Sorrow, a man flooded with dinner invitations from friends who desired his ear for somber conversations. More often than suppers, he was invited to funerals and desolate November teas where he and his host might sit and watch barren tree branches tap the windows at the urging of a brittle wind. After a while, the King of Sorrow would speak, and he always had something beautiful and surprising to say. His listeners were often inspired to work for social justice and to make significant changes to improve their own condition. He was frequently witnessed attending demonstrations protesting cruelty and inequity. He was truly impartial, without any biases, for he visited every single king and queen.

All the Found Ones knew the King of Sorrow—though he sometimes overstayed his welcome—was absolutely necessary for greater love, greater compassion. After all, he was their one true king. The Found Ones liked to give him oranges, as the uneven, craggy texture made him smile.

Despite his many social engagements, he found time to fall in love.

They met in her hospital room. She had lost her child at birth. The King of Sorrow appeared before her with downcast eyes, and said, “I am truly sorry.” She wept and made room in her heart for him, for though he was a stranger, he loved her child as much as she. He promised to never forget her son, whom she had named Aaron.

She was the Queen of Light.

When they attended funerals together, she would release sparrows which darted around the mourners, singing with delight. Instead of an affront, their presence comforted the grief-stricken, who needed the cheery warbling to keep them standing upright. She could make water sparkle for those who felt despondent. She would whisper the word, “blue” in someone’s ear, someone who had just been kissed by her husband, causing that person to look up and see the expansive cobalt sky while taking in a full, deep breath.

Though she had many sisters (and two older brothers) who also called themselves Queens of Light, her particular gift was in details. The single leaf twirling downward. A determined yellow flower boasting its color at the sun.

Together, the King of Sorrow and the Queen of Light hosted dances in their backyard, under a tree so green, it was hard to witness directly. He loved it when she twirled him; he lost himself in the dizzying patterns of leaves. They invited friends who stayed as long as they could, enjoying the Turkish dance music and occasional moody crooners from eras past. They especially enjoyed songs in languages they did not understand, for they could focus on feeling the music.

They danced.

Together, they were almost indestructible.


Whose idea was it to leave the kingdom in hopes of restoring Lost Kings and Queens, those who had ventured far from the kingdom and forgotten their true nature? It is not known. “Perhaps,” they told each other, “Perhaps we might help the Lost Ones remember who they were always meant to be.”

They danced among the Lost Ones with their own unique moves, occasionally stumbling, then focusing on each other to right themselves. But they discovered restoring kings and queens was not as easy as they had assumed it would be. Over time, their attempts became more desperate. Instead of relying on the subtlety of birds, she would tell jokes at funerals, pushing too hard to temper her husband’s power. He continued to worship her and loved her by creating more and more opportunities for her gifts to shine.

At some point he became as lost as she, though he assured everyone he was not. “After all,” he boasted, “I still remember my name is the King of Sorrow.” He relied on this memory as proof, which meant he could not see the damage he inflicted, destroying hope. Among the Lost Ones, the King of Sorrow had grown sharper, more persistent. His gift was no longer a gentle and gloomy Spring rain, but had become a raging monsoon. She now laughed at the chaos he had sown, ripping photographs in half, throwing them into the wind.

The Lost Kings and Queens welcomed them readily, gorging on Sorrow as if he were the only dinner guest worth having. She remained at his side, snarking with gallows humor and jokes that hurt, forgetting fully the subtle gifts she once knew.

To this day, the Found Ones remain hopeful of this couple’s return.

They tell their children, if the King of Sorrow finds your heart, welcome him as necessary for life. Weep for the fallen. Shed bitter tears over the unfairness of this brief existence. Take action. Prevent horrors from repeating themselves.

But the key to this couple being restored to glory is the Queen of Light. In times of sorrow, say the Found Kings and Queens, remember her, too. Let her in. While feeling despondent, notice the taste of cold water, the determined agitation of a bug on a June sidewalk. See a mother holding a chattering ten-year-old’s hand and think, “That child is loved.”

Allow your fingertips to explore an orange and imagine each unique bump is someone in the world who knows your grief.

These things do not make the King of Sorrow retreat.

But they do make his presence bearable.

And if you are truly lucky, say the Found Ones, this couple will dance for you, a dazzling pas de deux, both painful and life-affirming, spinning under the tree of life. Open your heart to them, and you may help them remember.

Both of them are necessary, say the Found Ones.

After all, he is the one true king. And she is the glorious one true queen.

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3 Responses to “They Danced”

  1. Mark Makowski Says:

    To those of us lost in grief. When it’s merely a vast empty dry desert. The tears do come. The gift re-emerges. Thank you for igniting the divine flame of our own royalty. Our names written on the stars. Your story billowing up and breathing life into this tired old man

  2. Edmond Says:

    Mark, you’re NOT a tired old man. You’re one of the miracles of Arizona – a juicy peach in the desert, blooming with fascination and love for all things around you. And, you are a king.

  3. Jeffrey Fillion Says:

    Thank you, Edmond. You have written a powerful story on an archetypal, mythical level to understand the seemingly harsh and vast sorrow of the modern world. Thank you so much for sharing.

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