The old man looked nice. His white beard, the suspenders, the light snore. His face showed lines of a life full of hard things, of children and travels and endless work and even death. But also narrated was a good life, a life that, though hard, would not be traded for something easier and “better.” Just the pleasant silence and his sleeping face.
Light clung to the tops of the surrounding mountains, holding on for visibility as the sun was drawn into the preceding valley. Now thoughts of the old man. Both light and man give visibility, grow steadily dimmer, and gradually fade. Lights go out. Should we accept the night for the darkness that it is by remembering the light of yesterday? More likely, we should rejoice in the light of tomorrow: That is what makes the night so important. The “tomorrow” and light therein depends on it. Sleep is essential to waking, and vice-versa. A light that never shone can’t go out. Symbiosis.
The gently swaying train helped its train-of-thought little brother. Through the window, the passing trees held the last of illumination. Rattling mental and physical gears overpowered the sounds of nature, but she could see them. Strange. A small bridge suspended over a small creek, an iridescent fog or effervescent mist, thicker in the places where the water rambled, lost, and found over and around the rocks. No interaction with any of the obvious, but floating close, not quite touching, very close. And it was a dynamic actuality, with funny little shapes that would touch, and burst apart immediately or stick together as if bonded somehow, glowing brighter than before. Everywhere held this fog of sight, not just the now-passed creek. Only no noise at all had normal clarity. Silence was perfectly transparent. She bites a hangnail.
Tidying up the intricacies, the werewolves prepare for an Autumn feast. The menu is undecided; it doesn’t know what it is. Fleeing ignorances, simple men encroach on once-simple wisdoms, leaving nothing but a complex machine of numbers quantifying harms. How doth the busy bee endure such tragedy? The world depends on personal connection. “Alone in a crowd” is the greatest tragedy that could befall. Living through still photographs of times and places you wish would happen again or happen at all. Cycling through the iPods as the money disappears into white-chocolate frappuccinos that only jitter cerebral networks that really only wish you would stop searching and start finding. Surreal music fills lobbies with incandescent fakery while the magic blows from warm vents in sidewalks outside.
Wandering down Main St., nothing appears to be open. Everyone seems closed. Pick up that comforting love-sofa and hurl it at their brains. Stores you don’t walk into don’t offer you anything. The people you love the most are the ones you know best. If not spending it with and for those loved ones, what are you doing with your time? Roll up your sleeves and begin, not because it’s hard work, but so they can see your hands.
Solemn organs narrated the arrival at the station, and long-delays came to an end after 56 hours of epoch-making inebriation. Cold metal steps threatened with shards of a too-blue ice sky. Electronic headlights played Philip Glass in discontinuous pastry fillings and fifty-dollar steaks. Hostile hotels were contemplated, decisions were made. She entered, and he dismissed himself to the outer chill. Keys were turned and bellhops were passed in simultaneity. The organ faded.
She stole the soap before using it, because it’s useful for washing the cat. Doubly perm-pressed fabrics were destarched by a quick test-run, and the jarring consistency faded. A 37-story glance outside showed the dark caught in 700,000 of God’s tears. The glow was slight around the falling, and brightest when the parachute failed. Her reflection super-imposed over the weeping skyline reminded her of the lack of finality in everything. The skyline is her, she is the skyline, and they are both everything in between. The potted plants, the breakfast cereals for the little boy in footy pajamas, the diamond necklaces, the overstuffed chairs in living rooms of couples married 60 years and just as in love as the day they met. All is all.
A quick panoramic shot away, a harbor shore held many of those salty drops and the footprints of a young courageous. He strode valiantly through incommensurable walls of pressure and heat. He jogged for a while, then resumed walking at a brisk pace. After the long intermission in hostilities, he quickly regained structure and repaid long-overdue debts to his body. He hates the fact that he’ll freeze to death if he stays out here permanently, or even too long. He doesn’t even believe he should be here in this scene, so he stays in the hotel to avoid gaining too much residence. Sometimes he belongs, and sometimes he doesn’t. Whenever he gets too restless he comes out here, but it takes time for his eyes to adjust after leaving the hotel and after reentering. He hates this cycle, this half-life, but no saving grace appears to be present. He began to jog again.
If everyone could just look at their machine-loaded red-gun stop-light existences, clear the dissonant traffic and disregard pedestrian inconsistencies, and just breathe, maybe that raven circling overhead would stop waiting for us to stop. That seemingly elusive peace is the ultimate notion without a source or destination. We could all be looking at the completely still second hand with the hour hand whirling behind it, embracing the eternity of every bit of our lives. It could take the rest of our time after that to write the memoir of that second, but that’s unnecessary. We don’t need to recount because we were there. All we have to do is appreciate. All we have to do is smile. Warm, home-kindled fires were extinguished with the blast of a fog horn in the bay. But the sound had absolutely no echo. Cartographers refrigerated that sound long ago, so resonance is almost entirely a thing of the past. Bleach-white organization supersedes immortality, and he couldn’t figure out why. Though he’s never really seen the sun, he still colors it yellow in the coloring books he buys because that’s what Mom told him to do, but also because he likes to think of it that way. It somehow makes things more. Just more. Constraining adjective sniper the vision. Whatever the sun is, that yellow crayon intensifies and heightens it to something it couldn’t ever be without the distinctive filling of the spiky circle on the page.
He had slowed to a slow walk now, and was reaching a peninsula that jutted into the ocean. He could feel its reach, its yearning. It extended this finger from the hand of the land, trying desperately for something. The sea bashed and battered it every day, but something was worth it. The desire to attain, to sate the want, overtook all and banished it. Through the cold waves and unforgiving tides, it stretched for what it wanted. Its want to reach and find created it. If it was just another clenched fist, it would not exist at all. Whether reaching for juxtaposition, another outstretched hand, or simply change, it found the power to thrust into the unrelenting motion, the sea of dreams.
He stood there in the rolling fog and moderate moonlight transcending. Moving beyond, taking risks, and relaying foundations. In the cold bay, echoless, he began to sing a note that never seemed to end. It swept across the loading docks, the sleeping captains of ships, the wedding pictures on mantles, the wrinkled eyes of both sadness and joy. Though without aural reverberation, it vibrated everything ever so slightly. This included a just-too-hot cup of tea on a hotel night-stand. The TV was on but muted, used only for dynamic, iridescent lighting. This little rumble cast the tea-cup shadow three times its usual size from the light of fake reality. Back on the stretch, the harmonic brilliance faded to reveal a quieter, and yet more intricate setting. The waves were softer, but more detailed. The soul of the entire place came alive. To match the new scene, a smile broke across his face, electric in its tenacity to infect. Rapturous footsteps raced back to the now open, welcoming hand and onto the gleeful pavement that helped and lifted every downbeat of this fast song. Every sight and sound radiated philanthropic joy. Three key changes and an instrumental solo later, he arrived back at the changing ground, the hotel of inconsistencies. He entered the now-balmy glow of once-harsh lights, walked through the lobby of fragrance, briefly appreciated his damp reflection in the metal doors, and pushed Floor 37.
Moist carpet steps marked the trail back from discovery to change. The answer to a brief respite from recollection was 16. Pockets gave keys, and then
“This is room 16.”
The door now open.
“Why are you here?”
“Why are you here?”
Two explaining receipts were given from more pockets, and as she examined, he caught the full radiation wave of her eyes. Flickering, concentrating with almost an absent-mindedness on the thin strip of meaningless gloss. Planes flew by, reindeer pranced through snow, wide meadows opened, bloody no-survivor car crashes happened. All in her eyes. Again, the shadow jumped a multiple of its usual size.
They discussed the how of this unexpected meeting. Chance? Mistake? Fate corroborating front-desk conspiracies? The how quickly divulged the why, and apparent tangents became the circles themselves. Her mind snatched at answers through all the mud face-rub the day had deposited. He thought out loud, constructing elaborations on the psychology of the clerks and what their Freudian motives would be for perpetrating such a heinous fortuity. She glanced outside and saw the still-falling tears, wondering similarly.
“What if we’re just the cotton balls in the ears of some old man whose name happens to be Universe? That could be it. Baseball bats, ice cream cones, legal jargon. It’s all just ear stuffing that actually blocks sound. Prevents hearing, thwarts listening. Trampoline your brain around on that.”
“Mr. Universe would just have to open his eyes. And who knows what he sees.”
“He certainly doesn’t.”
“Concentrating on us. The prohibition.”
“And so blinds himself?”
“To his world, yes.”
“But what is his world?”
“Currently, it’s what he’s seeing with his eyes half-open, the dull hammering against us unnecessarily preoccupying.”
“That’s his world, currently.”
“Right now, yes.”
“And in the future, he could see -”
“Anything he wants to. Everything that is and could be.”
“Even while we, the living silence blockade, are there?”
“We don’t have to matter.”
“But we can.”
Various times flickered by while the blinking colon beat a million times and yet only once. The muted dynamic lighting became the sole source of light before it became the source of darkness. Now, with only some slices of humanity reflected by tears through the window, the viscerally perceptible dim beauty stopped by. They sat, watching the complexities of impaired vision. In the middle of a story about saving an infant from a burning apartment building, he grabbed and held her hand. The abrupt still was met in intensity by his gaze at the sky, and hers at him. Lightning flashed. He smiled. She smiled, and turned to watch the peaceful storm. One, two, three more knife-strikes at the earth. He turned to face her, and was again drenched in the radiating gaze. A lifetime of a moment passed. He got up partially, and delicately kissed her on the forehead. Then he rose and walked out through 16, down from 37, through the damp metals, past the fortuitous uniforms, across the high-shine, between the brasses, and out into the blessed tears. She watched the sidewalk carry him away. He stopped, briefly, to shake someone’s hand and say something to them. They immediately embraced him, shook his hand again, and continued walking with a distinct lightness. He continued walking with purpose, but probably without destination. He turned the corner.
The lighting struck again.