I was sitting in the Memorial Park downtown, among that small grove of gingko trees near the Depew Memorial Fountain. A small yellow spider kept tenaciously crawling up my knee no matter how many times I blew him down. His legs were freckled with black spots. I was writing about the limits our society places on us; the limits of debt, of consuming, of obligation; how we perceive them as the most important elements of our life. I wrote, “I crave for humanity to return to the state of nature, now, at this stage, with all we’ve learned and accomplished at our fingertips. What would we build for ourselves if we were free to start again?”
My parking meter was almost up. I stood to go to my car and you were sitting on a curb nearby in blue athletic shorts with a white stripe and a blue short-sleeved button up which was open to the bottom of your sternum. You wore chains, totems, protective amulets thick around your neck, stark against the dark ashyness of the skin of your chest. Your front four teeth were yellowed, sunken in with rot. I started to walk past you. You said “Can I ask you a question?”
I said, “Sure.” I thought I already knew your question. I was happy I left my wallet in the car.
You said, “Come closer, sit down.”
I came to you and I sat. You said, “What do you think is at the core of all this? Beyond our elements, our archives.” You talked for a full minute. Sometimes you were talking to me, sometimes you weren’t. I wondered if you were on drugs. You told me you saw snow on the grass. You asked me if an iceburg passed behind us. You told me about the movements of the planets. You asked me if I believed in spaceships. I said yes.
“We want to find another realm to escape this one,” you said. “But think about the oceans made of water. When you go into them, you are in another element.”
I observed that fish must feel that way when they are caught. They’ve come into a place they didn’t know existed, completely alien to their own awareness. You nodded. We were silent for a moment. You asked if you could hold my notebook. I gave it to you. You held it for a second and gave it back.
“I was just thinking about what it would be like to throw off all these rules,” I said. “I suppose humans have to organize themselves into groups to make everyone happy.” You smirked. You said that kind of happiness is an illusion. You said happiness lies in sacrifice. I said sacrifice is the one thing we've gotten bad at. "Yes," you said. "There's always an excuse. But the more you give away the more you find."
You asked me again what holds it all together. I said, “That’s the mystery.” You said, “The mystery is in the darkness and the light. It’s in the ebb and the flow.”
“But we can never know it,” I said. “So we accept that there’s this unanswerable question about our reality--and then what? We have to dwell in that void.”
You asked me how I felt about it. I said I felt okay with it.
A bus passed a few hundred yards away, plastered top to bottom with an ad for a restaurant. You pointed at it. You said, “The freedom we have, it goes deeper than that. You shed everything you have and it’s still there.”
“And they can’t take it away,” I said.
“No,” you said. “There’s too much of it. There’s too much in us for them to ever take. They can't take the truth.”
“They’re us, anyway,” I said. “If they take from us, they’re taking from themselves.”
We sat in silence for a few moments. I said I had to go. You asked me my name, then threw up your hands. “Don’t tell me, just give me a hug,” you said. I did. We hugged for a long time. You whispered over me--maybe they were prayers, or spells, or just murmurs of thought. You kissed the place where my neck meets my shoulder. I kissed yours back. When we separated you said, “It’s always good to meet family, even if we don’t meet again.” I said that I hoped we would.
Road blockages for a pending festival forced me to circle a city block to head toward home in my car. When I passed the park again, you were gone.
Brother, I think maybe you were only there to find me.