I wrote this short story sitting at my desk in a dorm room in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It was cold and rainy, and the voices in my head were quiet and focused. Staring out that window that day, I was in a different world and I felt carried out into it consciously.
Soon, after I jotted it all down on paper–this was before everyone had a smart phone–I wanted to share it. Eventually, the story became an email. To be honest, I don’t remember to whom I wrote it originally, but later in life, I found it and edited it and I’ve been reaching out with it probably ever since.
Reflecting back on it now, I think the story has a lot to do with observing life instead of living it, and being lucky enough to find someone who is able to show you how blind you are when you are too busy looking to see.
The rain is regular and soothing. The day is cool, but not cold. My windows are open allowing the passage of moisture laden breezes into my room and into my nostrils. It is the feeling of an unending day. I can feel the moment opening up slowly. I take in a deep breath and I see myself from the outside…
He sits with his back to the door, his eyes staring skyward through an open window across a grassy park. He is young and strong. He is bright, but tired. He watches as the leaves are blown by a slight breeze, and listens for the sound of the wet rustling greens. He looks out through a misty grey day.
The day is ordinary and unprovocative, but he is fueled and ignited by it. He feels a sense that the day is a reflection of his emotions, of his inner most thoughts. The day is the response of someone listening to him. He feels that he cannot be alone because everyone out in the rain must feel the way he does. The people out in this cloudy day, well, they are being subjected to an environment like the walls of his thoughts. There is a downward motion, the falling of his ideas, into puddles on the ground, and a woman sloshes through.
Suddenly, he stands and he makes his move. He shrugs on a thin jacket, brown and waist length. He opens his door and looks out. There is emptiness. There is a huge space between the exit door and his door. He is confused by changing rooms and spaces, the environments shift to rapidly for him. He steps into the hallway and is overwhelmed to see his apartment from this outsider’s perspective. From the view of the hallway, his door, his room is a cell in the greater organization of the building; it’s just another part of the system.
In the hallway, nothing like his room, he is in a public place, but a mere foot away, his private space. He only wastes one moment on the thought. It isn’t important. He shuts his door quietly, even though there is clearly no one around. He is a tree falling in the forest. He walks to the exit and steps outside. Again the transition is daunting. How is he supposed to understand that a mere moment ago, just a step away, he was inside a stale and empty hall when there is nothing in this new view that is similar? Here the air is alive and delicious like a glass of water. The temperature is right. The mood is set. And there she is.
She is lean, limned against the forested background of the park, staring into the canopy of greens and browns. She stands before the forest on a path and looks up and away from him. Running a graceful hand through her hair, she shrugs her body down a little, to get a better look at something.
He walks up to her from behind, wanting not to frighten her, but wanting to know what has her attention even more.
There is a bird in a nest feeding its young. There is a knotted tree limb, old and rotten. There are so many compelling leaves and actions of the trees to defy any reason that attempts to identify any one as anything more than he rest.
He whispers a hello and a brief, “Ahem.” She is unstartled and does not turn around. She simply points. He is attracted to her confidence, her lack of need to address him; it’s as if she knows him, knows his thoughts, and the direction of his emotions.
She points; it is a clear and simple statement.
He can smell her through the fresh rain, through the dew covered terrain, through the magnificent sheen of water on her skin and in her hair. The breeze holds her smells and the smells of the earth and mixes them into something angelic. He is closer to her now and shrugs himself down trying to see what she sees.
He looks, but cannot find her perspective. He sidles behind her to the left and to the right and finally dips himself down a little, but he does not know what to see. He sees it all at once, and nothing jumps out at him. He searches through his mind for knowledge of what people see. What do they like? What do they want? He looks and cannot identify. So he tries to let go of that puzzling element, tries to see for himself what there is to see. But his mind is a canvass that simply accepts impressions, and later, later when he paints—he paints them over and over, again and again—he sometimes destroys the impression for not allowing him the room to fill it with all that he feels. The memory can never retain or contain the necessary pieces to live the moment again.
But he has felt this way before.
He feels the moment opening up. He feels time standing still. The petals on the flower of time are opening for this woman standing before him. She is able to peel back the façade of the world and see deeper into it, to see at a single glance, all of it, each part simultaneously. She wants to share it with him, what she knows. She is parting the clouds and the rain and the trees are bowing to her majestically.
Standing behind her, he is aware of her patient direction and the smiling light-heartedness of her failing attempt to help him see. Finally, she pitches her voice to resonate with the sound of the falling prisms of light, to crystallize through the air, her thoughts; she whispers directly into his ear, “Right there.”
The tone, the timbre, and the environment bend and echo the words so that the message is carried directly into his mind, a whisper-kiss of an idea. He moves even closer to her, and traces with his eyes the line of her shoulder to her elbow, the wrist to her pointed finger to see… nothing.
“Right…there,” she imparts with a smile. Her words are acceptance, encouragement, and exuberant hope that he will see. He nudges ever so slightly closer, still squinting, and still wondering and wandering. She turns only her head toward him, her body still and strong. Her nose touches the wet skin of his cheek as she moves her mouth to his ear. “There you go. See. That’s how close you need to be. To be with me.”