This post is by Imtay, not amuirin. Imtay is the other writer. He really does exist, and he really does stand up to pee. Honest.
On occasion, perspective—even somewhat lopsided perspective—can sweep in. A peripheral vision blur until it strikes, leaving you to wonder why it showed up and, afterwards, uncertain whether its appearance makes the universe seem more or less random and chaotic than it did minutes ago.
The setting: Nightfall, bleak and cold; watching snow swirl in pale, soul-sucking streetlights through my faint reflection in the gray tinted windows. I place a call.
Images of the day past. Tragedies. Mangled metal, swirls of redbluewhite flickering beacons, electronic wails, caved-in concrete; half-masted flags.
A missed friend.
Silence can be the hardest. Breath held, waiting to hear it end, not sure what will meet you once it’s replaced. The combination of dread and hope tears at the spirit.
In silence I walked, a black-coated figure. Long strides through an empty, endless lobby. Mop bucket; curved, blue polishing machine; indoor trees, nearly two stories high, laden with white holiday lights—a sign of lingering hope or mockery of overzealous decoration? —unsure.
I walk, emerge into the night, greeted by the sting of a March snowstorm.
Perspective and memory alter. This is the city, there had to be traffic; had to be a howl of wind and carrying voices. But I remember silence. A sign on the opposite wall warns against loitering.
Turning back indoors, the partially-polished floor, a flower shop. The owner, kind-faced, peers over her glasses. Some people claw against old age at every step; a few embrace it, stride into approaching, empirical wisdom. She is the embracing kind.
Seeing me, she waves, steps over strewn flowers, opens the door.
“How’s my friend?” She always calls me that.
“Good. How’re you?”
Her face wrinkles. “I’m better. But you’re not a very good liar.” I smile. She’s right, I’m not.
“I’ll be ok. Sometimes things just build up a little. So you’re doing better?”
My half-assed attempt to change the subject doesn’t work. She seems a little annoyed by it, even, and just nods, remarking, “I saw you walk by and thought, ‘He’s not doing so well.’ You don’t know it, but you radiate. The light shows. You have a good heart.”
Mental image: Figure walking down the hall, emitting a weird, green, radioactive glow as people run away, screaming. “Thanks,” I reply.
“I can tell when you’re sad. You can’t let things build like that. These people … they don’t know. But I can see something else about you. Those people got bad hearts from the things that got inside them, they think they can pile on stuff, but it’s not long before you’ll start stomping on it. Something’s stomping on you. I can tell.”
I laugh. This part, true, except I’m not certain of the good heart part. I’ve never figured out if I’m a pretty nice guy for being a dick, or if I’m kind of a dick for being a nice guy. Whichever it is, the woman is looking at me intently, and I find myself nodding my head.
I wonder how she can gage my emotions from a few brief conversations and waves.
She talks now, words that would make me uncomfortable coming from any but a kindly old woman. There are two forces in this world, she says: Those with bad hearts have given in. Too much stuff piled on. I remember a friend… one with a very good heart. One who also has people piling on “stuff.”
An image flashes in my mind: the two of us wearing big boots. And stomping.
I must have smiled.
“There’s that smile,” she says. “You see? You radiate with that good heart. It comes through you. Don’t forget that.”
I thank her. She lifts a hand briefly, turns back to her petals and leaves, removing those that have faded; the faint-hearted flowers.
I go thinking, perplexed, into the humming, ascending elevator.
Thoughts of my friend, of kind words in the cold night. I find myself wishing for some big ass boots.