Scurrying about; trying to continue; trying to prepare what is necessary for winter, a medium sized gray squirrel stumbles across a patch of wild flower. The fragrance draws horribly vivid memories; beautiful memories… beautiful memories that push into a further lull of depression that can only be treated, or fed, by sleeping all day and never working. With no acorns he’ll be another starving squirrel timidly begging for bread and nuts in city parks or outside fast food restaurants.
He stops only for a moment, then scales the hill ahead and up one of two trees that overlook the fields and the flowers. The squirrel looks on and speaks: “What is a squirrel but a bushy tailed rodent, overabundant in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania; too stupid to remember where he left his stash of acorns he so troubled himself to collect; too stupid to remember anything: days of joy and game, beautiful sunrises and sunsets; the names of the stars. Nor do they care about a boy’s death by the wheel of a car more than a few minutes after. This is why I despise squirrels; it does not ease my pains confiding memories in them. This is why I envy squirrels; this is why I wish I was a squirrel again. I’d give it all up to forget her face, be rid the bitter guilt that strips my acorns of their sweet taste.”
“Though I can not, or rather dread to blame her for my sullen mood and would sooner say it was unfortunate circumstances or the spite of the fates or God for some sin I committed in some forgotten time, I can not escape the fact that it was she that woke me from my ignorant bliss.”
The Sun and the Wind
A cool breeze pushing round cold air would make the day most unpleasant if not for those beams of burning hot sun that nearly make one sweat.
“Hey sun, how are you friend? Thank you for keeping me warm, even if only skin deep.”
The sun does not respond. It continues to shine unchanged as the squirrel smiles a painful smile; the kind one smiles when watching children in the park, from that distance, after his life fell apart. The breeze picks up into gusts shaking the branches. The squirrel’s perch sways violently yet he remains high in the crown. Again he speaks, this time to wind: “Wind, I haven’t talked to you in a while. Do you remember me from before? Or was that a different wind?” Again he receives no answer- not that he expects one. An act more of his loneliness and not the idea of an animals’ connection with nature. Though with that as a possibility he does not sound his doubts, as not to offend such a valuable friend.
A day of summer turning to autumn or winter turning to spring: nostalgic days, smells, romanced depression. The squirrel’s question to the wind refers to two separate occasions. One was the sort of day mentioned.
A simple graveyard, no fancy tombstones or pyramid like shrines. Most of the stones date back at least 100 years. Some so old that they have been weathered illegible. A stone wall separates the field into a section for newer, and a section for older graves. Taking in a deep and sharp breath, the brisk air, the boy watches from a distance as the young girl leans down to rest a bouquet of simple flowers in front of one of these stones.
The wind shows his strength by waving the white pines that border two sides of the cemetery. Finishing her self issued ceremony the girl walks through the parking lot and eventually out of sight. The boy out of indulgence (cousin to curiosity) walks to the tomb she stood by. He smells the flowers, then reads the name.
The third day after the squirrel became the boy he sat in the grass of a park. With nothing to do and next to no desire to do anything he lazily watches a girl and boy’s curious courtship. Boy speaks first: “that disposition or state of feeling with regard to a person which (arising from recognition of attractive qualities, from instincts or natural relationship or from sympathy) manifests itself in solicitude for the welfare of the object, and usually also in delight in his or her presence and desire for his or her approval.”
The girl: “the warm, crying-like feeling of ending. The moment before summer. The moment before fall. A warm anxiousness, and anxiety for a moment to come much too soon or far away. When songs become saddest, and make you think of things in any moment but the present.”
“Certain songs evoke a need to embrace things too big or intangible: the girl who rides by on her bicycle, your mentally ill and violent uncle, your bear-like alcoholic school teacher, the flight of a bird…”
“What’s your name?”
The squirrel who became the boy continues watching till the two leave together. Days later as he came to the graveyard, where the wind blew in the trees, he read the stone’s name: ‘Thomas’. He takes the name and remembers it, now it is his, for if ever he is asked what he is called he will be able to answer.
Still summer (though quickly approaching the autumn of the present) the squirrel’s concentration is lost; his emotions are forgotten by the mere act of trying to maintain them. His mind, occupied by the thought that there was something he must remember, painstakingly tries to juggle two types of thinking: recollection and recollection of why he is running. He stops, finding himself by the loading dock to a large red brick building. The sun shines well (as it does in the summer months) and its light lays a thick white warmth- quite visible thick white. Amidst, the young girl is seated upon that loading dock with legs dangling far from the ramp below. The weight of her body pushes the thick of her relaxed legs out against the cement. You can see much of it from her high cut shorts. She is skinny; other girls might be insecure as to how that looks, like the skin on a flat stomach when you sit. It does not look bad on her, in fact it is hard not too look. She husks corn into a crate, the waste into a trash barrel below her feet.
Thick brown hair pulled back into a bun; up turned corners to her mouth give the illusion that she is always smiling even in the most hysteric moments of grief. In her eyes the watery sparkle that children have, visible despite her squint to block the sun, despite being someone a bit older than a child- old enough that one would assume she had witnessed a fair deal of the sadness that comes with life, sadness that drains the beauty from eyes with tired tears; or that she has begun wearing make-up, which sucks out the natural beauty from the face and leaves the pores dependent. The sparkle is lost and replaced with mascara and foundation. But still, despite being older than a child, her eyes carry that beautiful innocence, and those eyes meet with the squirrel’s, who had been admiring her from the base of a tree not five yards away.
For a moment the squirrel is taken from himself and allowed the romantic scene, that most unfulfilling yet desired feeling that is more often reflected upon than experienced. His inability to speak or think in any manner resembling her’s is put aside and he is a lover and sees what love will be, and is perfect as many before and after; but alas, like those many before and after it is but a fading moment. For as I said before, romance is more reflected on than experienced: like a snap shot, and slide shows count on moving through the pictures faster than the attention span of the audience.
She looks away and back to her corn. His attempts at remembering what he forgot become hopeless, though it can not be said that he minded or regretted being rid of the sickening confusion and perhaps mild panic or before, now that a sickening love had ensued. He too looks away, not carelessly, but due to such stress that he can do nothing but escape. He runs and climbs a tree. Resting on a branch he screams to himself in such a girl like voice: “what a Daisy! A girl exactly like a Daisy!”
The next two days are spent obsessing over the Daisy, in almost complete solitude. Only once, on the second day, does he interact with another life. A small bird, perhaps halfway mature, a cedar-waxwing. It can not fly, yet its wings are unharmed. It can not speak, nor does it fear the boy’s feet being so close.
“Perhaps he flew into a window too many times,” Boy’s thoughts.
This is the only instance in those two days that his concentration strays.
On the third day he attends a funeral. An outdoor ceremony that the Daisy also goes to. Boy participates from a distance and only as an observer. Compared to the others the Daisy sheds few tears, a bit flushed (but this can not be helped). Her face is serious, yet it maintains that youthful glow. Her hair is let down so that it parts halfway over both left and right shoulders. The boy watches and smiles: his little Daisy, dealing with the harsh realities of life, and yet so beautiful in the process.
“Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub,
It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges;
We make a vessel from a lump of clay;
it is the empty space with in the vessel that makes it useful.
We make doors and windows for a room;
But it is those empty spaces that make the room livable
Thus, while the tangible has advantages,
It is the intangible that make it useful.”
A family or friend or preacher reads in reference to the recently deceased. He continues describing the role the dead boy had spent as a listener, and how comforting his ear was to so many.
The ceremony concludes as people pay their last respects. The casket is lowered and people pair off to their cars. The Daisy slowly stands and walks alone towards the parking lot. A young man, maybe a year or two older, a real polished character, fitted jeans, sunglasses, neon’s, jogs up to her, throws his arm around her making moves unabashedly, untimely, without class and with only the most transparent veil of compassion. She is uneasy, tense shoulders, but still allows for his heavy arm and his company.
Boy is flushed with jealousy and anger, which almost immediately peters out into self pity and tired hopelessness. He leaves and walks to the city park.
Boy and girl walk off together and the boy continues watching, only watching not much at all now that they have gone. He considers hopelessness but also insists thinking of the Daisy, not suggesting these are mutually exclusive, so long as one remains only considered.
She’d walk with that Dude?- An argument. Some time past and even a pure Daisy could only bear so much from someone like him. The boy turns his head to view the scene: the Daisy pushing Dude away and quickly walking off. Dude stands for a moment; he too leaves, though not chasing after. The boy watches as she sits alone in her room, unable to speak all that is overlooked by those who think they know her. Picking up a pair of scissors she cuts off a conservative amount of hair.
The boy rises from the park bench with reaffirmed beliefs: to what? He is not certain, nor does he contemplate this much, but hopelessness is not the idea.
The wind blows and he follows.
Setting the bouquet of simple flowers back down in front of the grave’s stone, Thomas follows the path the Daisy had taken not five minutes before. She’s long out of sight, but
Thomas is quite familiar with the way.
Approaching the end of day, the sun is at such a place that it sends golden rays across and between. Hallways light up showing the best hue in their paint, parents call their children in from their games to eat.
Thomas comes to a stop near the same red brick building he had first met, rather saw the Daisy. She sits on a stone wall with two friends, looking on towards the sun. Thomas sits by the base of an oak tree, looking on towards the Daisy, beyond is the deepening orange that she watches.
The girls gossip and laugh, talk about who did what to whom, or who looks good and all. Embarrassing conversation to be caught having by judging ears, but conversation that is often most enjoyed, easiest had, and had by all. But as they continue, the topics grow reflective and sad smiles of remembrance find their ways to the girls’ faces. How they miss Thomas… then again, if he hadn’t died it would be someone else, something else.
Looking on as the sun reaches its strangely pleasant blue and red- sometimes he’ll think of superman and it looks ridiculous, but the beauty inevitably shines through leaving him in that romance he wanted, so that he may ponder: ”the human mind, or what ever it is that contemplates, looks for any excuse to feel sad. Even the happiest times are sad when you realize they will come to a close, or that the same activity had been done before with now missing parties. Often we try to dwell in these sullen emotions by playing music that is reminiscent. Even before sadness we prepare for it: a couple and their song- though never admitting it, completely aware that they will some day break up, or their “love” will fade, and the song will become their key for crying over memories.
Keepsakes: pictures, letters, flowers, songs, journals, unsent poetry, jewelry, and other such souvenirs, even after all is burned or thrown out, the memories so pleasantly torture our hearts and our will to do anything at all.
“Look at her there Thomas. Look at her up there on that wall. You can’t see anything but the back of her head and the silhouette of her body. You’ve never spoken to her or tried any such form of communication, yet you swear you love her, and perhaps she too you? Why? Because a look so perfectly given and received. To the random observer you know nothing of her, making you the shallow obsessor, a petty projecting ass. But you swore there was something more to her and that you knew there was; and again because of that brief glance, and a smile? Was there one?
“Would you pluck for her the innocent wild flower as the romantics did for their lovers? Then we ask ourselves: why? And as we think it becomes clear: a metaphor, and foreshadowing, but also the device. As you pluck the flower that had just that morning reached such a peak of beauty, that evening you will plucks her’s. Oh! I pray no one has tainted my Daisy with such ill will.
“Goodnight sun. Don’t worry the moon and stars will keep me company while you are gone. Hmmm… I suppose it is always day for you. You never get to see how good you look when you set or rise. You just keep going around the- or I suppose we keep spinning around you. None the less, thank you for shining another day, though everything seems so difficult. I mean I think I’ve found love and I have no idea of what to do. What an ungrounded emotion. I can’t fathom what could possibly satisfy it- or is it like emotions are, something merely to dwell in? But happiness can change to sadness as anxiety can change to peacefulness. Love’s opposite is argued to be either hate or indifference, but I can’t imagine how either could change from love; and if it could, it wouldn’t me. Well goodnight.”
The sky is a deep blue, almost black now. Any hints of warmth have sunk completely. The girls have climbed down from their perch and returned inside. Thomas stands, brushing the loose grass from the seat of his pants. Walking down a hill, up another, he comes to a field- a series of fields, both farmland and flowers. Ahead, up another hill, two trees stand. He makes his way to them and sits.
The sky- deep blue along the horizon, the whole length round, fading up into the black, you might follow a color with your eye, it does not keep still, rippling along. To the west is the orange glow, not the sun, city lights. The stars shine bright and Thomas stares at them. He stares and he begins to notice shapes, shapes resembling animals. He names them accordingly, then each star according to it’s relation to the figure it is a part of and the figures around. After each star is named he finds his and begins his lonely conversation once more.
“Hi star… Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish, I wish with all my might that… is it okay if I wish on you? I mean, I’ll wish on you and if you want you can wish on me. But, you might not even exist anymore… that’s something I don’t understand. I mean I see you as a point of twinkling light. Science tells us that what we see is light from millions of light years back that is still traveling through space and to our eyes. So if the distance between me and the origin of you is greater than the number of years you’ve lived, you’re gone. Imagine a string of light, as long as a star’s age, traveling in a line from its origin to our eye. But we know this can’t be, because stars don’t point only towards my eye. Stars shine in all directions, not in a line. So a hollow sphere as thick as the star’s age is expanding from each deceased star, and a full sphere from those still lit. So we should just be engulphed by your light rather than seeing a point of it.
“I don’t know science isn’t really something I know about. Apparently though, if I wish on you my wish will come true. Why not? Makes as much sense as anything else.”
Thomas looks down at the dirt on his fingers, then picks up another clump to fiddle with. His mind is again occupied with the Daisy. He seeks in his head, he imagines her’s resting on his lap, he cradles her in his arms and the star listens.
Early morning, though the sun itself is not yet visible she has lit a bit of the sky. The wind carries the first autumn smells. Thomas wakes cold and damp. Tired eyes, tired body, he stumbles his way back towards the red brick building.
That gold begins to break through the spaces between the branches of the tall pines that line the horizon. As she climbs over the trees the Daisy also slowly rises from her slumber. Thomas reaches the red brick building still searching for a plan, still unsure; though he is quite sure things will turn out dramatic. He ponders in his place, staring at the ground; he picks up a stone.
He throws the rock. Third story window proves more difficult to hit than expected. He finds another stone and tries again. Again he misses. A third try. He hits the glass! Only so lightly that he is unsuccessful in gaining the Daisy’s presence. A heavier rock, he tries again, backing up to gain momentum, with a running start, he struck before, he knows the arc, he can not miss, he heaves the thing, and it is square, precise. Only such misfortune! Why did he not look before throwing? How did he not see even from the corner of his eye? He was so focused on the accurate throw, had he paid more attention he would have noticed that she had come to the window and opened it upon his small stone’s calling. Instead his large stone has brought a tragic calling to a broken Daisy who lies upon the grass by his feet.
He stands for a moment, starring, a foggy mind, part blank, part manic, racing to figure out why he has no thoughts, no reason comes to light. Eventually, only seconds, he moves to her side. He pulls her half way into his arms. He looks into her eyes and she smiles. He is filled! Such longing, what joy or sadness! How wonderful is this moment! How fortunate the situation has turned out! The star granted his wish! But he has killed her. And just as quickly he is run over with guilt, and torn between his feelings, and he forgets about her almost entirely and just turns over thoughts in his solitude.
“Thomas?” she asks. He is brought back to the Daisy. She is looking towards him, but not so much at him. “Thomas?” Again. He says nothing, nor does he move. She dies. He carries her over his shoulder like a drunk, or potatoes, and lays her on the porch. He sits and thinks to weep. Tears come easy enough, but he stops. There is no one around to watch his show. He should not lie to himself to make himself feel better. There is a thin layer of sickening confusion and mild panic, but that has passed. There is guilt and some depression remaining. He scampers back to the two trees where the wind blows.
Weeks later, to try to relieve his rut, he stops his preparations and returns to the park. From a tree he watches as a boy and a girl have their final conversation. Her red hair is the color of her swollen eyes. Falling back onto her big down feathered bed, her small room cluttered with the posters and posters of paintings a girl would put on her walls, boy rests himself and utters an abrupt “nice room” to fill the space. This makes him more awkward.
Then tentatively, “how many have you been in love with?”
“What about your parents or your brother?”
“I thought you were talking about guys, romantic love.”
“What’s the difference?”
“It’s a different kind of love-“
“It’s not though. Love is its own thing. Some floating entity. It is not owned or sown between any one person or another, nor is it ever satisfied by any one thing or other. Maybe it is better described as the anticipation before crying, before autumn, before spring. The moment before the moment is ruined by bad acting by the love possessed.”
“I don’t agree. I picture love as a very special thing that I haven’t found yet. I will one day and it will be wonderful.”
“How do you know it will be wonderful?” He does not like that word. He finds it embarrassing, even sickening, and cringes when he repeats it. “I’ve seen love, it’s petty! In fact it might not even exist!”
The little red haired girl rolls her swollen red eyes.
“What? You don’t think I’ve known it? You’ve never seen it so how would you know? I think you’ve already experienced all that love has to give, you’ve just passed it up. There is not one special guy or girl for every girl or guy. That is for the delusional, sick drama. You either love hundreds or love does not exist, and that is all semantics. By your definition, love is not there, so stop searching. Oxford calls it ‘that disposition or state of feeling with regard to a person which (arising from recognition of attractive qualities, from instincts or natural relationship, or from sympathy) manifests itself in solicitude for the welfare of the object, and usually also in delight in his or her approval; warm affection, attachment.’ By those words you love everyone you know, for the most part.”
They sit silent. He fiddles with the blanket, she is still.
“I mean I wish it would be wonderful and there was one mystic girl that I thought was beautiful and all others seemed ugly; and all others passed her by without looking twice. But it’s not how it is. It is not that convenient. And so I love all women… or none.”
“I’m sorry,” she says.
“For what?” He stands. Leaving the room, “goodnight.”
Thomas leaves the park feeling empty, bottomless. He begins his long walk back to the two trees. From city to country, more fields, fewer buildings, and sky. Further off he makes out shadows. He is moving towards them, and there are more of them. They are moving as well, in the same direction. When he is close enough to make them out he sees that they are animals, countless species, the common to the not so common.
“Thomas!” A squirrel calls out to him, “you’re coming, yes?”
“You’ll be late.”
“You don’t remember? Come on!” He gestures with his squirrel claw and his squirrel snout.
Thomas follows, stopping as everyone reaching the two trees.
The countless stars shine bright.
He knows all their names.
And there is such a feeling of satisfaction.