Part Two - Check Your Shadow at the Door
He rests for a moment beside the fountain at the park's center.
Although its flow of water is shut down during his visits, he
is always steadied by its sheer beauty...the perfect symmetry
and inevitable erosions. A great circle from which life springs
and death comes to pay a final visit. This is the heart of
this great space -- pumping energy into the arteries that lead
from its base...a collection of paths where lovers walk in ecstatic
oneness, where mothers push strollers and gaze into their infant's
overwhelmed eyes, where old men gather to share stories and children
run with reckless abandon. All congregating at this wonderful
fountain. To reflect and smile and surrender to its peace.
This is the point from which his work commences.
As he is about to rise a light rain begins to fall. He pauses and
listens as the gentle shower brushes against the trees lofty shelter
and makes its way to the ground, striking the grass and crashing
into pavement. Each sound distinct...joining to create a symphony
of elegance. A muted brass horn sings in his mind and he utters a
sad laugh at the empty seats for this grand performance...wondering
about all the sleeping bodies hidden behind darkened glass. Resting
for the busy day ahead. And, as he often finds himself realizing,
he is happy to no longer be among them.
The rain will not deter his work but he is hopeful that it might
hinder the arrival of the first shift. He never has enough time
to complete his tasks but he does what he can. Starting now as
he resolves to finally rise. He begins by taking inventory of
the coins resting at the bottom of the fountain. With the water gone,
and only an incidental amount accumulated from the rain, his job is
easier than it might be otherwise. He notes each location and
denomination. Another set of entries in a daily log of tossed
wishes. The coins will all be gone in a few hours and it is up to
him to make sure some evidence of their existence remains. He
knows how easy a wish can be washed away by the forces of the day.
So he keeps his record. If not in service of the person who tossed
the coin, then in honor of the intention.
A person's hope might easily be crushed, but hope itself must find
a way to live on.
From the fountain he moves outward in a spiral that would ideally
cover the entire park, but time and resources limit him to those
areas deemed most necessary. He pauses beside benches to
inventory painted initials, joined for eternity...brave declarations
of undying love which will shortly be taken away by liquid chemicals
and muscled arms. He fills his ledger with slogans and mysterious
symbols. Representations of belief and pride and conviction. Each
a glimpse of yearning and freedom. Undeniable manifestations of
deeply felt joy.
He passes by a monument to the brave young soldiers who embarked from
the doorsteps of this neighborhood long ago to fight on a distant shore.
A symbolic angel reaching with one hand into the endless sky and holding
a loaf of bread with the other. The inscription has long since been
filed away...another statement of integrity and resolve dropped
into the growing abyss. At the angel's slender feet someone has left
a wreath of flowers, which will soon be duly taken away. Perhaps a forgotten
Veteran wounded in one of the war's countless battles. Or a loved one
still waiting for a knock at the door and an embrace that would last a
lifetime. He takes down every detail of every petal and pays particular
attention to their slight imperfections.
Heaven and Hell have reserved their own worlds. And their reflections
must surely be reserved a space in ours.
His work continues. For many hours. Tedious. Exacting. Scribbling
furiously in spite of the forces of time. A crimson ribbon tied to
a metal gate. The murky outline of a hopscotch game. Candy and
cigarette and other wrappers. Empty bottles. A tiny sock stuck in
some briers. A dirt black overcoat hanging in the limbs of a Sycamore
His work continues... Until he arrives on the park's outer
edges. The sun is beginning to come up. And, as usual, he finds
himself in a corner of the park reserved for purposes that do not
belong to him...a section of the universe he'll never enter, although
he is allowed to hang about and observe.
This is where the abandoned lives take refuge. The unclaimed souls
turned away from your front steps. You secure yourself from
them. Hiding behind thin walls and locked doors and sliding glass --
sequestered in corner rooms, paying bills and dreading the future.
Busying yourself with 'important' matters that have nothing to do with
anything. But no matter how safe you think you are, they have
a way of showing up. Waiting inside an upstairs closet. Hanging
around the edge of a bedroom mirror. Half-asleep among some boxes
in the basement. Paying a visit. Seeing how the other half lives.
There is no escape from these uninvited guests. Unmistakable in their
characteristics. Recognized immediately in a moment of breathless
terror. The battered profile of a failed dream. The limping outcast
of forsaken opportunity. The hollow eyes of an unredeemed mistake.
The bent frame of disappointment. The bone-thin shadow of better
intentions. They mean no harm. But that doesn't mean you'll walk
away from these encounters unscathed...the scars just exist in places
not readily seen by the casual eye.
They're a funny bunch. In fact, he often finds himself chuckling at
their antics. They seem to enjoy huddling in this desolate area of
the park. Milling about. Mumbling to themselves -- giving the
appearance of a lively discussion at hand. But they never directly
address one another. They wouldn't know what to say. Or where to
begin. Or how to listen. Consumed by their own non-existence.
They bump into things quite a bit, seemingly unaware of where they
are going -- or perhaps fully aware that they are going nowhere.
His work ends here. Inspired by your resolve to deny their appearance,
he extends no effort to report their words or movements. Nor does he
attempt to engage them. Why should he? To him, they are the same as
anyone else. They just have a different set of reasons for keeping
their distance. Still, he does feel a sense of solace from their
daily presence. After all, they do have many things in common.
As he is about to exit the park, he passes a crumpled sheet of paper
lying beside the walkway. He leans down to pick it up. The paper is
filled with a collage of images -- some are photographs, others
created by hand. Rocket ships. People flying kites. Trees. Birds.
Stars. Clouds. Grass. Sports cars. In the bottom corner is a crudely
drawn image of a child. He assumes its the same child who created this work
but has no basis for this assumption...other than experience. The child
is standing alone. Tears run down each cheek. He folds the piece of
paper and places it in his back pocket -- some bits of history must not
simply be registered, they must be kept close at hand.
. . .
He thinks of the child's creation as he stands before the drawing
in the storefront window. Unlike the paper in his pocket, this
page is filled with only one image and a few words. And in contrast
to the crude depictions on that paper, the image on this page is
quite realistic. Every detail of the face has been rendered with
great care and considerable distinction. One would readily recognize
this person if they were to come across his path -- a realization he
must now come to terms with...standing speechless before this unwelcome
visitor. The person he once was.
~ ~ ~
Read Part Three
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