A/N: I drew inspiration for this story from listening to Coltrane's rendition of Fred Lacey's Theme for Ernie.
The rain drips from the icicles and puddles in the snow. The pitter-patter beats onto the empty years that stretch out before me into the blessed distance where this all suddenly stops. I sit there, watching, remembering something wonderful.
There are moments when life is like a movie, when things have been written out for you just the way they were supposed to go, when things are natural, without question or reason, when the girl's eyes just look at you and say, "Where have you been?"
I don't know if those moments make life meaningful or if they prove it has no meaning, but I do know they're beautiful, and I hold onto them, if for no other reason than they set this world apart from the world I grew up in.
That world, the world of my childhood, was a cold, hard, sad world.
I was the boy who couldn't draw a straight line in art class. I could give you other examples of things I failed at, but this one thing sums up my life so well. I couldn't make my lines straight.
That isn't to say I couldn't draw. It just took me hours of painstaking work, connecting minute crooked lines into the shape our instructor asked us to, and in the end my hands would shake from the effort it required. I couldn't get my assignments in on time because even a simple straight line took so much time. This was how my whole life felt. The simple things required took infinitely more time and effort for me. I never found a niche, an appreciated talent, or a goal, so I left for the city to blend into the background of the world, of my new world.
But sometimes I stray out of my world, to exotic places like the library. I love the dead knowledge of the library, how it had aged and dried out like an autumn leaf, but refused to be swept away. It gives me something to look forward to. I go there to live the stories I find; stories for them to throw stones at. I live the story, and they throw the stones, and in that manner the world learns a lesson.
It's not that I don't like other girls; I just can never catch up to them. I think I know the things to say to them, or I could learn anyway, but I want to tell them my own words. Words they can't hear, or won't hear, because my words won't get them anywhere. And they're all going somewhere, always. I haven't figured out where yet, but in my world, they're all going to the same place. And I don't want to go there. I don't know where I want to go. Maybe there isn't anywhere I want to go. I haven't seen any, nor can I imagine any.
But, as in all stories, there are other girls, and then there is this girl. With this girl I did something different; I believed that there was someone for me. Or maybe I mean I thought life owed me something. I don't know. Maybe I'm making too much of it; maybe I just saw a girl and wanted her.
They will throw rocks because this story is about something that is wrong, but I will be hit by the rocks because I believed there is someone for me. That's why I write this story. So they will fill my emptiness with pain. There's nothing else left for me.
My placid eyes were studying her while she was studying her book, wondering how she had managed to duck the scripting of her physical appearance, which dictated some girls to be partiers, some to be domestic, and some to be lonely. I was feeling bold that day because I didn't care enough to even be embarrassed. I guess I can be intense at times in my nothingness.
She looked up and saw me staring. Her eyes were expectant and piercing, but she went back to her reading.
I didn't care enough to go start a conversation, at least that's what I tell myself. I really had nothing to say. I could search all the scripts of the world and not find a line for myself to say, for I really didn't think of myself as a character in the world. I would find myself in movies, walking past in the background, unconcerned with the beautiful people and their beautiful words, just filling space for the director. I saw myself this way until she looked up again and spoke to me.
"I read about the wall sometimes. No one will let you cross it…"
I started to pick dead skin off of my hand.
"Yes, there," she continued. "That is where it starts, for sure."
She came and sat next to me and put her book on my lap. She tried to explain Anna Swir to me. I thought I'd get nowhere because I didn't know who Anna Swir was, but I was patient; I was listening too.
Her voice was perfect and passionless in its intensity. It rang hollow of what was denied her, or maybe what she denied herself; you never can tell with builders. We read about the poet, and how she made love; of her love for her father; of the faults, limitations, and glories of her body. I looked into the soul of this poet, and I was listening.
"Does this mean anything to you?" I asked, when she had finished reading.
"The quietness of a small life. Carving just a tiny bit of meaning and holding onto it. You?"
I shook my head. "I don't know. I've never had answers."
"Or the answers have never wanted you. Everything built in life is made of answers. And everything is destroyed by questions. But if you don't destroy, you can't build any more. And if you don't build, you can't destroy any more. So I'll ask this question. Is life flexible enough to embrace us all? Now you ask me a question, and I'll give you an answer."
"Do you want to come back to my apartment?" I asked.
She thought, looking at her fingernails in her way.
"Ok," she answered.
My apartment is small, located near the center of the city, and so in a way, I feel like I live in the dead heart. I came here to escape my town, where I was an intelligent raven among talking parrots. I came her to be free from their idle chatter and meaningless ideals they repeated over and over to each other. I wasn't a bird to be kept in a cage. I wasn't colorful or attractive. I was the bird who would wear black and bury its friends. Often, I will look out the window and think, I could leave this apartment anytime I want to. Anywhere in this city, free as a bird. But where would I go?
I find this now with life. All this freedom and nowhere to go.
I keep plants in the apartment, because we aren't allowed to have animals. They give me comfort, because all they need is sunshine to grow, not love, not kindness, not attention, just sunshine.
But she was here now, so we sit on my bed, and she asks me all about my plants in her probing, dissecting way. I don't have any answers for her. I don't know what kind of plants they are or where they come from. I don't know what the best kind of sunlight for them is, or what special things to water them with. But I do know the plants and I both stay silently here in the apartment, and we help each other live. I can tell her that.
I feel like she is trying to crawl inside me and learn everything there is to know about me, to figure me out and see what I'm good for, what purpose I could possibly serve. But she must sense there's nothing there. I know she senses it. As we go on talking, the sadder she gets. Finally, after about an hour, she reaches for me.
There were thoughts coming to my head, about gashing society open, about building and destroying, and something about people, so I just looked at her lower lip and kept the other thoughts out by focusing on how moist and tender it looked; the way a thing can look only after you've made love to it.
"Do you feel anything?" I asked.
She shook her head.
"Neither did I."
"It was beautiful, wasn't it?"
"People can just be who they are," she continued, "and the rest doesn't matter. It's beautiful because it doesn't matter."
I stroked her hair and looked at her lip. The act had been so tender, but there was no love in it.
We got out of bed, and she used my shower to wash me away while I waited in the living room. I was feeling good, free from my past, as if it suddenly stopped weighing down on me. I didn't know the weight had been there until it was gone. I thought about her and felt immune from the stones I knew were coming.
I asked her to stay for dinner, and she came close to me, almost as if to kiss me.
"Don't let it mean anything," she whispered. "Then it will be pure."
I felt so bittersweet for a moment. As the door shut behind her, I was empty again, save for a memory. And in a way, I felt she was much the same as life; neither had a use for me. But unlike life, she took a few hours out of her day to let me feel the love I never had, the love the rules said I couldn't.