This is a story of fiction that I wrote
Do not read chapter 5 first, go down and start with Chapter 1
Curiosity compelled me to inquire of this man’s fate after he gave to Arthur his remaining years. The illumination in his face as he described Eva’s performance disappeared, as if he had just exited a room full of light to one bordering on twilight. “He died three weeks later.” Arthur flatly stated. He went on to explain that the man had not given him his name in their final meeting. But he did live locally and one day Arthur recognized his picture in the paper associated with his obituary. Arthur wasn’t one to usually turn to the obituary page, but since their encounter, he had hoped to find the stranger through his imminent death. There was his name, his date of birth and date of death. His life reduced to one short paragraph. He had no surviving relatives, none mentioned anyway. However, the time and location of the funeral services were included.
He went on how the services were simple and respectful. The man was an attorney with a practice in town. He had a number of friends in attendance. One gave the eulogy and described his life in a way that Arthur knew was not reality. It was a list of things he did. It did not include why he did them or what he learned from them. Arthur felt that he alone truly knew this man, knew how he must have suffered with his ‘ability’, and that saddened him. Who would remember and tell his story? The true story? The service ended and Arthur began to walk home, to his empty house.
Suddenly his face changed again, back to the one lit by the memory of Eva. He seemed somehow to look younger than he did just seconds before. There was an excitement in his eyes as this new memory took over his countenance. “Then the most amazing thing happened!” He said with childlike excitement and began to tell me the rest of the story.
When he was done we both sat in silence. One word more would have been one too many.
He was looking again across the creek to some distant point beyond; not to some specific geographical location, rather to some point not bound by time or space. I looked too, eyes unfocused, toward the same point. Which point for me was as much mine as it was not his. We sat there in silence for a while and a sudden gust of wind sent a chill through the back of my neck. A random page of a newspaper blew by my feet. My concentration now broken, I noticed the lack of sounds; the playground nearby was empty. No birds were calling out to each other. The twilight had descended, but it was not yet dark. I looked at Arthur and mentioned the lateness of the hour and that my wife would be concerned at my tardiness. I stood to leave, not knowing what to say, but his eyes said it all. He then vocalized his thoughts with a simple thank you. His story was now mine. It was as if a burden had been lifted from him. But in receiving it, I also felt lifted. I, in turn, thanked him and slowly walked to my car.
In the ensuing months I would occasionally pass by the park on my way home from work to see if he might be there on that bench. I never did see him again. But I know that wherever he is, he is fine. I remember that day so vividly. His story changed the way I look at my own life. I arrived at home and tried to explain to my wife why I was late. She just gave me this funny look and moved to the microwave to reheat what was left of dinner. I was not ready yet to tell her the whole story. It would take time for it to completely become assimilated in me. I could not sleep that night. The last part of his account kept replaying over and over in my mind. As I searched for its meaning, his words continued to echo through my thoughts.
“Then the most amazing thing happened” Arthur continued. The cemetery was not far from Arthur’s house. He began to walk down a path that ran alongside a small creek to his left. On the right was a park, which at that time of day, was busy with moms and kids playing. There were people walking dogs as joggers dodged them on the various pathways through the park. Between Arthur and the creek was a straight row of pine trees, equidistant in spacing from each other. Arthur noticed something familiar in seeing these trees. Suddenly, his mind was taken back to that memory of his youth. Again he saw the fence posts from the car window.
But they were different now, they moved with him. He could see each post perfectly; no blur at all. The corn in the field also moved with him. It was no longer a memory. He was transported to the place of his memory, but the past had now become the present. He was no longer in the car, nor was he a child any longer. He was standing alone and everything was in motion: the fence posts, the corn stalks, the trees, even the clouds overhead. All was in motion and moving with Arthur at the same speed and in the same direction so it almost felt as if he were standing still, but he wasn’t. He could feel the motion. But the movement was not just forward, rather in all directions simultaneously. How could this be? He thought. All directions: up/down, side to side, backward and forward, became one. And Arthur was at the center. He could see mountains, lakes, oceans, sky; all in motion. He could not, however, find the sun. Yet, everything was illuminated. The light was unimaginably bright, but not at all blinding. Everything around him was bathed in this light. But something was missing. At first Arthur couldn’t ascertain the absence of something so natural, that it is only noticed when it is not present. Finally, he saw what he couldn’t see. He had no shadow.
He looked around everywhere, there was no shadow. He lifted his foot off of the grass below his feet; nothing but illuminated grass. He searched the skies for the source of light. He saw no sun, no moon, no stars; only blue sky and clouds. Then a thought, almost like a voice, but heard not through his ears, came to him. “The source of light does not cast its own shadow.” It stated. At first he did not grasp its meaning. Again the thought came, “The source of light does not cast its own shadow.” When finally it came a third time, the light filled his mind and he understood.
As Arthur had been telling me of this experience, he was looking down, sometimes with his eyes closed; almost as if he were attempting to see it again, and by focusing on any particular object in the present, he would lose his connection with the event being revealed. However, at this point in the accounting, he looked directly at me and said in an almost imperceptible whisper, “The light was me. It was me!”
“And then it start to rain” he said after a long thought, very matter of factly.
He described the rain as not what you would expect. It was not drops of water falling from the sky. It was a shower of words. As he looked up, words were falling toward him. And not just from above, but from all directions. The words themselves took on a form of multifaceted translucent structures; something like spheres, but without any rounded surfaces. Flat polygonal facets formed the surface. Each facet was a different color. But the colors would change as the word fell and rotated toward him. They were ever changing. He searched frantically for the word. He needed to find that one word which perfectly described how he felt at this moment. It seemed impossible as he was now surrounded by millions of words. Some were quite large with few facets and others smaller with many facets and rapidly shifting colors. The words nearest to him often represented feelings or ideas. Distant smaller words might denote the mundane functional symbols we use without thinking; table, pocket, email, pickle etc… He saw happiness float to his right. No, he had too many memories. Others he saw: joy, contentment, relaxed, relieved, charitable, loved. Each one he had felt in some way. But there was one; only one, that could be the summation of this perfect moment. He searched words near and far. Some words floated quite near to him, while others moved away at a rapid rate.
Time passage seemed as an eternity and then he finally saw it. High above and behind his left shoulder he caught the first glimpse. He turned toward the word and it filled his gaze. As it slowly descended something changed. The word became solid. It was no longer translucent. The facets became fixed in their colors. But each facet contained not just one color, but all colors simultaneously. However, they did not fuse into one white color nor were they split as one might see through a prism. All colors were present together, each one distinctly present and visible; almost as if layered, and yet each one on the surface. As the word descended, all other words became black and white and fell to the ground at his feet. They were immediately absorbed into the grass and disappeared. The one word fell upon him, enveloping his whole being, and he knew it was the right word. This was how he felt.
He was complete.
Time stopped. There was no past, neither could future be imagined. Only now was present. The moment filled his existence. The present is the gift we give ourselves. He swallowed the moment and made it his.
He was complete.
He was on the path again. The trees there on his left. The creek spoke to him as the water ran over the submerged rocks. He again heard the sound of chains on the swing-set with the yells and laughter of children. He saw the birds as they moved from tree to bush to ground and back up again, calling out in chirps and whistles all the while. He noticed he had stopped walking and was merely standing in the middle of the trail. How much time had passed? A single second, an hour? He could not tell. He began to walk home again for the first time. As he walked, his thoughts returned to the man who had given him life; who had given to him a new life.
His name was Shane.
Dedicated to Barbie
Whom I love with my whole new heart.
In Memoriam of
August 8, 1975 – August 14, 2008
Who gave me my whole new heart.