It feels as though it is going to rain. As follows from that fact, it is also cold and darkly silent. A man in a grey overcoat steps out of an unremarkable grey house in the suburbs and walks briskly down the driveway, led by a little black dog that is trembling with excitement. The man stops suddenly and looks up at the overcast sky as if sensing for the first time the imminence of rain (although he obviously knew beforehand, as shown by the overcoat). The dog pulls impatiently on the leash and whines. The pair walk down the street together hurriedly, most likely trying to avoid the rain before it hits.
“Red! How goes it? Looks like we got some rain coming our way. Did you hear about the collapsing of the bridge? The collapsing of the bridge? All the children have gone insane. The flowers are melting into pools of wax too hot to touch. The rain is just what we need, just what we need; hopefully it won’t get too rough for the repairman out there.”
A bird falls lazily out of the sky onto the sidewalk. Red jerks his dog away from the bird and waves to his neighbor and continues walking. The sky grows darker and the silence grows pregnant with expectancy. Red threads his way carefully around pools of hot wax.
A child runs out of some hole in the sky and approaches Red with a smirk on his face while stomping gaily upon wax puddles as if they were mud. “Hey, mister,” the child shouts before turning abruptly into a piece of string sticking upright in the wax. Red’s little black dog whines and begins to lick at the string. The strings shakes and quivers and then finally pops back into the child, who promptly begins giggling, “that tickles, cut it out!” The dog’s stumpy tail waggles furiously in delight. “Animals always break through appearances,” the child tells Red in a matter-of-fact tone, the kind of voice children use when they are trying to be grown-up. The little boy scampers up onto Red’s back and seats himself comfortably with his arms around Red’s forehead.
“Now it all makes sense!” the little boy says cheerily, looking about at the world from his new perspective, “Everything is clear and simple. If you people would just let us see it from here more often, we would be able to understand everything even better than you could.”
“You don’t seem so insane to me,” Red replies, continuing on his walk as before, down the sidewalk.
“Who said anything about insane? If anyone’s crazy here, it would be you. Like how about that blue vase?”
“What?! How did you . . . “
”And the smoke rising out its translucent belly? With the cubist yellow background? C’mon! Who else would think of such a thing!”
“I . . .”
“You . . . always distorting things! Always hiding behind abstractions and intangible walls! What are you trying to get at? All you do is confuse me!”
Red stops as the little black dog does his duty on a little square patch of withered grass. Red mumbles something incoherent to the winds and then his face lightens up suddenly. “It’s like when you look at an ocean at sunset or . . . or when you want to say something but you can’t, like when you wake up in the morning and remember your dream and you know that there was something there, something that you knew while you were there . . . do you know what I mean?”
“I guess so,” the child says grudingly.
“And your throat gets all thick and you clench your fist and you know, you just know that something is there, is behind everything . . . and your soul, you soul gives this little leap . . . ”
“Wait just a second! Your soul? Your soul!”
“I mean, your heart . . .”
“No, no no! Don’t try to slip out of this one! I heard you say quite clearly, ‘your soul.’ You said, ‘your soul!’ the child says triumphantly, “So, getting a bit spiritual now, are we?”
“Well, and so what! Alright then, your soul, damn it!” Red yells as he begins walking again, “Your soul feels as if it were trapped within that infinite nutshell and it feels as if it were happy and sad all at the same moment!”
“And there you go again! What kind of contradiction is this? Always distorting things!”
“What do you want, the devil take you?!” Red splutters, fuming, before he catches himself and shakes his head about–much to the chagrin of the child, who hangs onto Red’s ears. Red helps the little boy off of his shoulders and they walk hand-in-hand. Thus calmed, Red walks in silence a little further before speaking again. “Well, I know what you want. You want happily-forever-after’s and Disneyesque epilogues. You want the redemption, the infinitely merciful judgment, the darkness and the light. You tell me that we separate things with abstractions–well, you separate things with simplicity. And so what if I do think of a translucent blue vase with smoke rising from its belly, with a cubist yellow background? Stevens had his blue guitar; Bishop had her volcanoes; Dostoevsky had his Karamazovs. We are all struggling in our universes within glass walls, forming our own realities based upon distorted perceptions.”
The child stomps his foot and whines, “But it’s because of you that we are simple! If you would let us see instead of covering everything up, we would know everything! It is you, you who have made us this way!”
Red stops and turns to the child. “But you and I cannot see the truth. Sure, you can see the hazy glorifications of innocence and the puerile basement upon which we are all built. And I can see the moody debasement of experience and the jilted heights to which we aspire. But none of this adds up into one, meaningful, absolute equation. There are always the spaces between our selves and each other for which we can never quite account. We all see through our own lenses, and everything is the struggle to bend it all into as broad a reflection as possible.” He lifts the child and kisses him upon his forehead, and the child turns into a string again, then falls down into Red’s mouth.
The rain begins to fall. It is a cold rain, a sheet of polished metal slamming into the ground like nails. The man in the grey overcoat scurries quickly back the way he came, tugging the reluctant little black dog along. At the foot of his driveway, the man pauses and scans the distant, gloomy horizon. “Ah, the bridge–it’s been fixed,” he murmurs, lost in thought.
A bird flutters like a flame through the rain and slips across the smoky blue sky like a dribble of hot wax. A yellow glint of sunlight arranges itself somewhere beyond the clouds, preparing for the post-storm flash of unburdened calm. The warm scent of flowers begins to wend through the air.