|When something returns from a fold within time, is it more or less than what it was, or is it simply different and changed? Or is it the same, and the person who perceives it is changed? Time and change are so much linked that perhaps both change or neither change but it only appears as if one of the other changes.|
Like all men cursed from the beginning of time, Theo's work consumed his mundane life, leaving only abrupt holidays and fleeting weekends to feed his soul, which starved for more than simple existence could ever give. Saturdays came and went, seasons pasted without lingering, and Theo's mind dreamed of spinning ideas for new sculptures, new creations that only his hands and soul could mold. Today, he promised his thick fingered hands, today I will find my tools and sculpt a man selling cactuses, or perhaps a boy eating a lollypop in the street. But even as weekends promised peace and relaxation, teasing him with a taste of lingering excitement from past finished dreams, they came and went, its teasing unfulfilled, leaving nothing except ideas faltering in their own shadows. Not once did he dig his box of clay tools out from under his half-made bed, or his bags of clay from under the bathroom sink.
Theo tapped the side of his ovalish head with his index finger as he lay on the ragged couch in his rather small and untidy living room. His dark hair perched uncombed on his head, which rested gently on the couch arm. I've always had ideas before, he told his withering mind, what is wrong with me? Have I let some part of me slip into the folds of time without even noticing? His finger pressed slightly on his forehead, as if his hands could make his thoughts flow. All my life, thought, ideas and dreams danced inside my mind, solid and pure. He closed his eyes for a moment, begging his mind to see what it once saw. But there was nothing, just a faint whisper that vanished before he could even grasp it. I just feel so tired he told himself; work crushes whatever glimmer of imagination I have left. I mean, who could dream with torrents of people saying meaningless things all day? And theses hands of mine, he muttered, looking at his fists clench weakly, the very same hands that had once created beauty, are now reduced to counting money, stacking boxes, doing such useless labor all day. It's no wonder they've forgotten beauty. He let his hands relax again, letting the excuses comfort his mind, yet still, excuses were not enough. Was if really work and the drudgery of it all, or was it something else inside him, a lost sense of wonder? Could if be some sort of curse of adulthood?
"Ring, ring." His phone sounded, interrupting his self-examination with its usual untimlyness. Instinctively, Theo quickly sat up; his dark eyes blind to the messy clutter that could be called a living room. He let his black stockinged feet take him across the brownish-carpeted floor, into the kitchen. He picked up the phone, listening for an instant before letting his voice speak. "Hello?"
"Hey," It's Karol. "Oh, hi Karol," Theo walked over and sat on the stool he used as a chair in the kitchen. Really he didn't want to talk, but sometimes, Karol still seemed to think they were roommates in college. "So, how are you, what are you up to?" Karol asked, though from the tone of his voice, he really didn't want to know, and probably didn't care, but asked because it was what people nowadays did.
"Not much," Theo answered, duly, "I've been thinking about given up sculpting -- I haven't made anything in a while."
"Sill thinking about that mud?" Karol asked with a laugh, "I wouldn't worry about it, hobbies are like that, but really, I knew you'd finally see the real world and get over your obsession with that messy stuff."
Theo hummed a response, his mind amazed at the predictability of Karol's belief. Really, it didn't make much sense at all. In his mind Theo replied to Karol's words, how could giving up a dream be seeing the real world? It everyone throws out dreams, then it was a small wonder the world seemed dim and dull. How could people with real imagination truly give up dreams to embrace a life of mediocrity? But he said nothing, letting Karol continue the conversation as if nothing mattered.
"Oh, Theo, since you're not busy of anything, I just wanted to know if you felt like coming over with me and a couple of the guys for a movie night? Karol waited for an answer.
"Hmm," Theo replied, thinking quickly, he didn't really want to go, but in a way it was better than sitting doing nothing. He stood up, pacing quickly, "well," he finally answered, trying to find a good excuse, "The movie night sounds good, but I think I'll just relax tonight, thanks for the offer."
"No problem," Karol answered. "If you change your mind, just give me a call."
"Ok, thanks, by." Theo answered, ending the call as quickly and politely as possible.
After grabbing and eating a slightly dry sugary cookie from a crinkly package, Theo navigated expertly though the cluttered living room, back to the couch and sat down. Theo didn't tidy much, and depending on your perspective, you could blame laziness, his imagination, or his work schedule on the general state-- or unkempt state of his small apartment, which was naturally covered with piles of old unfinished sketches, bits of dried powdering clay still clinging to edges of things here and there, telling of projects done and swallowed by the past.
Theo sat still for a moment, Karol's words still lingering in his mind. Friends were good and sometimes fun to be with, but half the time it seemed that Karol, and the others didn't understand that true life wasn't about money and success or what others thought or did, but about understanding beauty enough to strive for it in your mind, and soul, searching, listening, feeling for it with your eyes closed. . . which was exactly what Theo wanted to do at this moment.
He slowly laid himself back down, letting his slightly cold feet stretch off the end of the couch. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting his body and mind relax. He closed his eyes and willed himself to think. How long has it been, he asked his memory, how long has it been since my hands and thoughts combined to sculpt something real. Theo opened his eyes for a moment. The last time he's made anything was last year, and that had only been a simple mug for his mother. He sat up suddenly, stunned at how much time had passed.
"Has it really been a year?" He asked himself frowning. What is wrong? Could my mind truly be adapting to the humdrum of work and other people, becoming like them, with the mind of a settled adult who was happy talking about weather and the neighbor's kids?
He clasped his hands together tightly, wanting to know that really happened and sighed. Who am I now, Theo wondered, his mind tangling with who he was and what he had become. What changed that made the spark of energy and creativity leave? Whatever caused the drought in his mind? What a dullard I've become! Instead of thinking and sculpting, I spend my time searching pointlessly online or playing some lonely game that is barely one step from doing nothing but staring blankly at a ceiling fan. Actually staring at a ceiling fan might even be better than playing those games.
Theo's arms reached out to the small dark green trunk he kept as a coffee table. Through the dust, junk mail, and random pencils, his fingers found the egg-sized lump of grayish molding clay he used to carry everywhere. It was almost like holding his own past, like remembering something almost forgotten.
Theo stared at the ugly bit of clay, "This small bit of molding clay once held the answer to my question. In just holding and feeling the possibility in this bit of clay so small, I would have know that creativity and imagination were and are valid in this world, and as proof, I would have taken this very piece of molding clay and made it into something wondrous-- right on the spot for anyone who questioned its rightness. But what is it now but dry play dough in a dullard's hands?
Theo squashed the clay between his fingers, come on, he begged his hands, just make something at least slightly interesting. Prove I should continue daydreaming; show me that creativity doesn't die. Yet the clay seemed lifeless in his hands, his mind and soul felt nothing in the clay, letting it become less than a squashed nothing. Sadness slowly crept into his heart like a small vine creeping up an ancient willow tree that forgot to bloom. Could sculpting, wanting to create something that everyone would stare at in a museum far in the future and say, "that sculpture contains something more than beauty" be nothing but a childish fantasy that could and never would be true? Was imagination truly a foolish and lazy thing to desire?
Ah, To be creative again, to create a work of beauty and truth once more would be wonderful, to know that his hands and mind were not useless against the boredom and grayness that sucked the color and truth from the world like a mosquito that ate beauty and left only cement. To have something to hope for, to dream, that is what he had forgotten -- if only that could somehow be renewed.
Theo signed, letting his eyes wander to the small patch of sunlight streaming in through the window like a patch of life in a barren land. This isn't helping he grumbled, laying here thinking only make it worse. I want to be doing things, I want to be alive, and here I sit like a feeble old man crippled with age and despondency. There must be something to do outside in the sun that's better than being cooped up inside with my misfortunes looming over my head like tornadoes about to erupt. Before his mind could argue, he let his hands grab his keys and pocket then with a loud dissonant jingle. Where there is light there is hope, he muttered to himself and smiled slightly for no reason at all.
Theo pulled up his holey socks, pushed his feet into an old pair of grayish sneakers, not bothering to untie them. If I don't go now, he thought, I will never go, besides, maybe I'll find something interesting, and at the very least, the exercise will do me good. Letting his apartment door close behind him with a click he walked to the stairs, jumping two at a time purely out of habit, past obscure neighbors he did not know, and out the main door that locked behind him with a quiet click.
Taking a deep breath of air, Theo blinked in the bright sunlight until he could see the yellowing grass in the small yard without squinting. How odd that the grass is yellow and dry, when in the sidewalk, weeds and dandelions grow like oasis in a desert, proving life can exist anywhere, even amongst the dirt and cement of the suburbian desert. He smiled, forcing his dark thoughts to sink into the depths of his mind. He glanced at his dark blue ten-speed bike chained to an ancient bike rack that held only one other rather old and slightly rusty bike. Poor old bike he thought, absently as he unlocked his bike, I hope someone comes for you.
Mounting his bike swiftly, he navigated the beginning of a maze called town roads. Wind blew through his uncombed hair, across his skin and though his shirt, making it billow like a balloon. Cars zoomed past, humming and rattling clumps of metal, ignoring him but to honk occasionally. Silly humans in cars he thought. As soon as people get into a car to drive, they become part machine. Like the sci-fi cyborg on wheels. Cars really do seem to act more like animals than humans, Theo thought, as he rode on without much more than a quiet rattle. He trekked down a few roads, across several streets, past the large abandoned parking lot, and onto the small path leading into the woods.
Theo slowed down once inside the cool shade of green leaved trees. This is almost like the path behind my parent's house, he thought as he had many times before. The once paved path wound its way though the small forest, trailing along the side of a stream that usually flowed only after a rainstorm, and then became the perfect breeding ground for frogs and mosquitoes alike. Prey and predator he thought, the only way of the swamp known to man.
Theo slowed his bike to a stop. What is wrong with me. He cried How can it be that even here, surrounded with nature's beauty, I feel so little? The sound of water rippling reached his ears, trees whispered ancient stories of men and creatures alike, their leaves fading slightly between sun and shade. The birds seemed eager to add their whistling to the rippling of water and wind. He took a breath, closing his eyes for just a moment, begging his soul to feel with the wind as it pulled at his face, to hear and rejoice with true splendor, so that his eyes could again sparkle with the light that only comes form being alive. But effort alone cannot stimulate the barren heart.
Theo stepped from his bike, leaning it quickly against a thick tree, pushing his hands against the tree's roughness of bark and dried moss. If my heart is frozen I don't deserve to create anything at all, he lamented. Even in the brightness of day, sadness began carving lines into his face. Theo stood away from his bike, his head bowed; no spark of joy, no sudden realization, nothing but a dim emptiness that consumed emotions as darkness consumes the night. But true silence does not exist in the wild, nor can sadness stamp out a man with spirit.
Standing with his head down, he could see water rushing along the small banks of the stream, racing past rocks, pulling dried twigs and moss along without a thought. This is my river of tears, he thought, this river flows with the water that wants to break from my soul. I am like a dried twig, once part of a living tree, with leaves, flowers, life and dreams, but now I am pulled along without knowing or seeing, dead and dry. Yet even as he stared, the water contradicted his thoughts and glistened with light. Its gurgling sounded like quiet laughter in his ears.
He blinked, for a moment, forgetting where he was, letting his mind wander with watery swirls that splashed quietly past the world of men and time. Something is odd here. A voice from his subconscious whispered, look and you will find it. Barely registering his own thoughts, Theo looked upstream, water gushed with white splashing over the fallen rock pile as never before. Yet with all that splashing, the water continued along, clear and sparkling, not brown and murky as it always flowed even weeks after a rain. In these woods, old cans and trash from careless teenagers usually littered the small muddy banks, but now, signs of man's negligent disappeared, leaving only moss growing with green life.
Did someone actually pick all the junk out of the mud? he thought. If it was a person, it must have taken hours or days to get it this clean. But the real question wasn't the absence of trash, but the water. There hadn't been a good rainstorm for weeks and it took more than a few buckets of water to make a stream full when it's practically dry -- more than that, how did they get the water to be so clear that it shone. You can pick trash off a path, but you can't pick muck out of a stream. I haven't ever seen it so clean he thought again, I wonder what it feels like-- if it feels as pure as it looks. Maybe if I can just touch it, feel its coldness in my hands I'll be able to know.
Ignoring his bike, Theo squatted at the riverbank, letting his hands drift in the water. A slight chill went though his fingers, the water felt cold, not shockingly so, but wonderfully soothing, like a glass of cool lemonade after a long day. Theo watched the water swirl around his fingers, letting his hands feel the water, feel the soft ripples circle his wrists, between his fingers and past his palms. Time flows past men as it does my hands he thought, each swirl changing, flowing forward without truly changing anything. Slowly, his hands drifted deeper into the coolness until his fingers dug into dark dirt, causing small bits of mud to rush away in the water, past bushes that had once been dry, past wild flowers and frogs hopping overhead, to settle eventually in another part of the river until once again disturbed.
Theo lifted his hands from the water, drying them roughly on the sides and back of his pants absently. This water deserves a man who is full of life; someone who can laugh with it's rippling and sense this place as it should be. Even the water knows its way better than I, who am now just another mud maker. He signed, I might as well just go back home. Then, out of the corner of his eyes he saw something white resting just below the waters clear surface. A plastic bag left to drift he thought at first. But no, it couldn't be. He let his eyes stare at it, mentally searching for its description. It was too big and solid to be a bag, and the water didn't ripple around it the way it would with plastic.
Hmm, a small sound escaped his lips as he thought. Maybe I can get closer look, and if it is trash, it shouldn't be there. His dark eyes quickly surveyed the ground for something helpful. Most sticks looked too short or two old to be useful, but there, just a few steps away sat the perfect stick. It wasn't brittle with age, nor to heavy to lift, but would reach much farther than a mans arm.
Perfect, he muttered. Holding the thicker end, he held the stick until it poked gently at the white thing. The stick's end went into it slightly, as if object was slightly soft. He pushed the stick harder, trying to dislodge the object from its spot without success. Come on, he said, giving his stick a push hard enough that it broke with a snap, its tip still lodged in the mass of white. Ah, I should have known that would happen he said in frustration, throwing down the piece still in his hand.
Staring glumly at the white thing a moment, he stood, watching as the water pushed its way forward, into the place the stick stood lodged in the object. When will things ever change, he said, is the world truly the place it seems to be? As if to answer his thought, a sudden gush of water rushed forwards, splitting the white thing like cake, pushing one half closer to the soggy bank where Theo stood. He bent down, knees in the mud, hands reaching out, come on he thought, putting his hands onto the white thing quickly before it could be swept away like dirt.
Clay? He muttered, as his fingers felt it slip and depress in the water. Yes, there could be no disguising the texture from his hands. White clay he thought one eyebrow raised for a moment in question. It was indeed white, the whitest clay he's ever seen. Could it be porcelain? He thought for an instant. But it just didn't have the right texture for porcelain. What is clay like this doing in the middle of a stream, he muttered, I could ask the same thing about my own place in life. How does anyone get into a worthless dark place? Are we placed there or did someone trick us into being something we are not? Not knowing the answer, he concentrated in getting the clay out of the water.
Reaching both hands around the clay, he pulled the heavy, slippery mass from the water, ignoring the white drips that fell to the ground, onto his shoes and coated his hands. In the sunlight, the clay gleamed, almost as if the clay itself was made from daylight. Beautiful, he whispered at the unshaped lump in his hands, this is the most beautiful clay I've ever seen. If this clay looks so wonderful shapeless, he thought, I wonder what it would look like once its made into something. I want to give this shapeless thing form, to make it truly shine and live he thought. That is all I ever wanted, but to bring order out of chaos, and form to the formless. His eyes began to shine and his fingers twitch at the thought. How funny he thought, I came here just to get out of my apartment out of boredom, and instead I find clay. He laughed aloud as he carried the dripping heavy clay carefully to his bike, which still rested against a tree as if nothing had changed.
But something had changed, I feel better than I've felt in a long time. Theo thought, Clay on my hands and clay in my heart, as it should be he thought, still smiling. Creativity is just beneath the surface of beauty, and now that I have seen beauty, I cannot help but want to create more.
Theo looked at his bike's back tire, for just an instant, not caring about the clay dripping onto his bike's tire. I just don't want the clay to fall off he thought. The clay was his and the rest didn't matter.
Without looking back to see if anyone was watching, he got onto his bike and began to peddle. Theo's legs pushed against the metal and plastic peddles until the world became a blue or color, the wind a fierce gust upon his face. I'll clear off my table he thought, and find all my tools, and then I'll make something wonderful. Funny he thought, I don't really know what I'm going to make, but for some reason that doesn't matter like it did before. Through the same parking lot, past the same roads he peddled, his heart pounding in his ears, his breath hot on his lips. Excitement gives energy to even the most weary of men, so he peddled until he was in the shade of his apartment.
Quickly locking his bike, Theo took the clay in his arms the way a mother carries a child, clay stuck to his arm in tiny bits. He opened the door and carried the white lump to his apartment, ignoring the bits that dripped off here and there, marking his path on the staircase and to his door.
Finally he gasp, I am finally home! He pushed a few dirty dishes to one side of the table to clear a spot, and let the clay drop with a thud. After rinsing the clay off his hands and taking his shoes off, he removed a stack of dirty dishes and an old pizza box off the table. I never used to be so messy he thought. Why didn't I pick all this junk up before? He asked himself, already knowing the answer. He hadn't felt like doing anything, not sculpting, not going to a movie. How crazy he thought, that just wanting to sculpt keeps me from boredom and disaster. More quickly then he could have imagined, all the dished were stacked in the sink, the table wiped and everything ready for sculpting to begin.
Looking at the table, he lowered himself to his stool. This is the first time in over a year my eyes have seen this site he told himself happily. His brown eyes feasted on the site of each thing, the blue rimmed bowl filled with water, the stack of aluminum and wooded tools piled together, and the big sheet of plastic as it dangled off the table's edge.