Home Login Contact
Sections

Galleries

Authors

Issues
Soul Graffiti by Ray Printer Friendly

........................................................................................................................

“Do you believe in magic?” Her question catches me a bit off guard. Not because it’s a stupid question—although it might seem like one under different circumstances.

We met at a bus stop, both of us moronic adventurers, traveling without a clue. Both of us out of school for the summer, sowing our wild oats and all that. Both of us broke-ass and trying to find a dream to live.

We met at a bus stop, both of us stranded in Nebraska, a world away from anywhere, not enough cash to finance the next leg of the journey, unsure of what the next leg of the journey even consisted of. We weren’t on the same bus, but we got dumped out on the same chunk of the world.

We met at a bus stop, both of us standing there at the terminal, examining the grungy pamphlets describing various locations, describing various costs. Both of us realizing that there would be no bus travel, not for a while, not without funds.

We looked at each other, and I realized what she was and she realized what I was. Travelers, stranded in a foreign land.

“Fucking Nebraska,” I said. “Can you believe it?”

“As good as any place to continue an adventure,” She replied. She replaced the pamphlet into the time-yellowed plastic display case, hitched her traveler’s pack up on her shoulders, and headed towards the door.

I followed her out, to a dismal sight of nothingness. A single stroke marking the world, horizontal, indicating the separation of sky and earth. Flat and open in a way to make a naturalist feel agoraphobic.

“You were saying?” I asked her.

“Shit,” She muttered.

Because there was nothing else to do, I started walking. Off the tiny rectangle of crumbling concrete, onto the asphalt, into the evening. I heard her footsteps behind me and turned to look at her.

“Mind if I walk with you for a ways?” She asked.

“Are you a murderer?”

“Not professionally. You a rapist?”

“No.” I continued walking. “Pretty clever, that bit about not being a murderer professionally.”

“Thanks.”

“Didn’t leave me much of a set-up with the rapist thing, though.”

“No?”

“Nah. You make jokes to a stranger about being a rapist, you either come off as an asshole or majorly creepy.”

“Sorry—I’ll try to work on that.”

“I think that would be for the best.”

We walked down the road together, alongside corn fields and hay fields and alfalfa fields. Sometimes, a pickup truck would pass, and once, we saw a tractor out in the distance, but for the most part, we were alone.

The sun sank below that slash in the world, a magician’s trick performed in slow motion. The world turned gray, and then black. There was half of a moon, dazzling in the stark emptiness of Nebraska nothingness. It lit the world, but not enough to put us completely at ease. Animals hooted and howled, and something screeched in the night.

“You from the country?” She asked. It was the first time either of us had spoken since leaving the bus station. The silence we had been walking in was better than comfortable—it was understood and pure and necessary.

When she broke it, it was just in the nick of time, the perfect moment, and I smiled in the darkness.

“No. Not really. Not like this. You?”

“Nuh-uh. Lived in the city all my life. Had to get out and look around, though.”

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t know it would be so dark,” She said.

“It’s real quiet, too.”

“Are there wolves, you think?”

“Coyotes, probably. I did a little reading up—not much, though. Could be wolves, I guess. Probably coyotes.”

“Hm. Think they’ll attack us?”

“I wouldn’t think so. I have pepper spray in my pocket.”

“I didn’t think you could pepper spray a wild animal.”

“Pretty much any time you use pepper spray, it’s on a wild animal of some sort.”

“True. You feel like talking?”

“We can talk,” I said. “I’m not too good at that kind of thing, though.”

“Are you not?”

“Not really.”

“I’m pretty good at it,” She said, “But I’d like to be better. I’ve been thinking lately that I’ve spent a lot of my life talking, but not much of it saying anything. I’d like to get better at that.”

“That’s an admirable goal.”

“I also want to learn to enjoy life more. Not just the parts I control, though. Not just the parts that are easy to enjoy. I mean, like this, like Nebraska. What the hell, right? I didn’t intend to get dumped out on my ass in the middle of Nebraska, but since I’m here, I might as well enjoy it. Right?”

“Absolutely.”

“So, yeah, goofy college kid, decides to take a journey, discover something about herself, something about life. So very cliché.”

“An oldie but goodie.”

“What about you?”

“Same thing,” I said.

“What a couple of classics we are.”

We walked and we talked, all through the night. We discussed things that weren’t important and things that were all important, but nothing that belongs in this narrative. The air grew cold, and we unbundled our coats, and when we began walking again, we were holding hands.

I looked down, almost startled. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. I couldn’t even remember taking her hand—it was like it was just part of the process: un-sling pack, pull out coat, pull on coat, wrestle pack back up onto shoulders, join hands, continue walk.

Strange, but comfortable. Unexpected, but natural. I looked up from our hands and saw that she was doing the same. She smiled a tiny smile and shrugged, surprised, but unwilling to get worked up about it, and then she continued telling me the story about her first kitten.

Clouds moved in, erasing the moon and the stars, and then veiling the sun, when it finally decided to join the day. We walked through the flat, gray world, hand in hand, and existence was beautiful.

When it started to rain, we sloshed our way through muddy rows of plants that I didn’t recognize, laughing and crying out to the heavens as they dumped down on us. We ran, and we sang made-up songs, and we soon found a weathered barn.

It was old and falling apart and unsafe, but it was also dry and amazing and perfect. We stripped down to our underclothes, shivering and unselfconscious, and still laughing. She didn’t have a sleeping bag, which I didn’t understand.

“How do you sleep?” I asked her.

“So far, I’ve slept on busses, or in bus stations, or in towns—park benches and movie theaters and stuff. Once, I spent the night in a post office, under one of those tables where you sort your mail.”

“Turn around,” I said to her, and peeled my soaking underpants off and draped them over my pack. I pulled on another pair and began unrolling my sleeping bag. I turned it so that I would be able to look out the open barn door at the rain. “Okay, you can turn back.”

She stepped around behind me and I heard her zipping and unzipping compartments on her traveler’s pack. We both carried the large hiking packs, roughly the same size. She stood almost a foot shorter than me, though, so when she put on her pack, it looked as if she might tip over at any moment.

“I didn’t realize I was going to be sleeping in Nebraska barns,” She said.

“It just isn’t an adventure if you don’t get stranded in a Nebraskan barn.” I climbed into my sleeping bag. “You want, you can get in here with me—it’ll be cramped, but we’ll both fit.”

“You sure you aren’t a rapist?”

“We talked about this.”

“Oh, yeah.” She stood over me, dressed in an oversize t-shirt and panties. She shrugged again, and then scootched down into the bag with me. We had to spoon in order to fit; I wrapped my arm around her waist, and she curled up against my body.

“Your feet are freezing,” I told her.

“Yours are real warm,” She said, and intertwined her cold feet around my legs. I gave her a gentle squeeze with my arm, and kissed her on the back of the neck. She sighed a happy sigh, and kissed me on the back of my hand.

I shut my eyes and listened to the rain, and felt the warmth our bodies produced, and I smiled into the back of her neck. She giggled a soft giggle, high and sweet and lovely.

“This feels…perfect,” She said.

“It does,” I said.

The clouds had grown thicker, erasing most of the light within the barn, giving the outside world a strange, monotone glow. Lightning pulsed through the clouds occasionally, almost playfully.

We had walked through the night, and I was exhausted, but it felt incredible. It felt right. It felt…well, perfect.

“Do you think there’s such a thing as a perfect day?” She asked.

“I think…yeah. Yeah, I think so. I mean, every day we’re given has the potential, right? Like how you were talking about learning to enjoy life. ‘Not just the parts that are easy to enjoy,’ you said. So think about it: if you get good at—no, if you perfect—that way of living, what would keep every day from being perfect?”

“Some days would still be better than others though.”

“Okay.”

“So if some days were better than others, that would mean that there would be days that weren’t perfect. Perfection, by definition, means that there is nothing better.”

“Hm. Is there such a thing as more perfect?”

“Maybe—I don’t claim to know everything.”

“What about you?” I asked. “Do you think there’s such a thing as a perfect day?”

“I had a friend once, he said that every day in the Garden of Eden was perfect. He said that once God banished Adam and Eve, that was the end of that. No more perfect days.”

“Too bad.”

“I know. He said that a day, no matter how incredible it is, cannot be perfect—that was the true punishment for eating the forbidden fruit. And no matter how great the day is going, something will happen that will make it less than perfect—even if it’s something as mundane as a broken pencil.”

“I see,” I said, although I wasn’t sure I did—mostly, I was just too tired to think too hard on the subject.

“Yeah. It seemed like he was pretty right on at the time, but looking back, it seems kind of defeatist.”

“So what about it? You think there’s such a thing as a perfect day?”

She pulled my arm tighter around her, moved it up from the waist, and rested her face on my palm. Her eyelashes tickled my fingertips, and her smile felt warm against my thumb.

“Yeah,” she murmured, sounding almost asleep. “I think this is it.”


“Do you believe in magic?” Her question catches me a bit off guard. Not because it’s a stupid question—although it might seem like one under different circumstances.

It catches me off guard because I thought she was asleep, and I thought I was asleep.

“Magic?” I mumble.

“Yeah.”

I try to gather my thoughts, but I’m mostly asleep. The rain is still falling, pattering on the barn roof and splashing in distant puddles, lulling me into unconsciousness. I force my eyes open and see the gray reality, shrouded in glorious fog, filled with mystery and promise.

The world seems like a magical place, and it would be easy to answer her that yes, I do believe in magic. But that wouldn’t be an honest answer, no matter how appropriate.

“I’m not sure,” I tell her. “If you had asked me five years ago, I would have said yes. If you would have asked me two years ago, I would have said no.”

“But I’m asking you now.”

“But you’re asking me now. And I don’t know. I’m not sure if I believe in magic as much as I disbelieve in reality. There’s something more, I think. Something…different. Something that the world doesn’t tell to just anyone. You have to look with a certain kind of eyes, and believe with a certain kind of soul, and love with a certain kind of heart. Is that too dramatic? Maybe. Maybe that’s okay, though. Maybe that’s accurate.”

“Maybe it is,” She says.

“I think there’s more to the world, more than most people realize, more than most people will ever realize. I think that even in the routine, there can be wonder. Is it magic? I don’t know. But I refuse to believe that there’s just that one kind of world—where Best Buy and Wal-Mart and Saks exist. Where there’s such a thing as an SUV. Where people laugh fake laughs and live fake lives, and the only thing that’s real is death at the end. I refuse to believe that.”

“But you aren’t sure if it’s magic?” She asks.

“Honestly, I’m not really sure of anything.”

She cuddles up against me again, and I smell flowers and rain on earth and sweet hay. It mingles in my mind like an aural work of art, and my last thought before falling asleep is that the flower smell is coming from her hair.


When I woke up, she was gone, and I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I looked at my watch, knowing what I’d see. Twenty-four hours had passed. Exactly. Twenty four hours since I had met her. One day.

One perfect day. I climbed from my sleeping bag and dressed. I looked around the barn, hoping that I’d see her shape in the darkness, sitting, contemplating, waiting.

But she was gone, and I knew it. As I rolled up my sleeping bag, I wished that she had taken it. Perhaps she would manage to find indoor shelter throughout the rest of her journey, but if not, she was horribly unprepared.

Even after I had everything packed up and strapped to my back, I felt that I was forgetting something. Without realizing, I reached into a side-pocket and brought out a pen and notebook—I did this without thinking, in the same manner in which I had taken her hand as we walked. I wrote a message, and then tore out the sheet.

I tucked the pen and pad back into my pack, and then weighted down the note—so short, only three words—with a piece of rusted iron.

Only then was it time to go. I’d be lying if I said that I enjoyed life as I trudged back through the muddy fields to the highway. It was wet and cold and I was lonely and sad. Because I was alone, I allowed myself to cry. I wished for her.

I arrived at the highway just as the sun settled down to the horizon again, just as reality’s day ended once more. I saw the note, scribbled out similarly to the one I had left in the barn, the one that read, “Life is magic.”

I picked up the note. The words were scribbled in haste, but they conveyed the same sweet, soft, lovely pitch as her giggle.

“Magic is perfect.”


posted 4/18/08


Comments:
Entered By rik From Unknown
2008-04-21 17:13:31

Exactly. Glad to see you decided to throw some non-fiction up on the site.


Entered By Ray From Austin
2008-04-21 18:41:05

I've never even been to Nebraska. No, whoever these people are, I'm not one of them. I'd be the friend that was briefly mentioned.



Add Comment:
Name: Location: