Friday, March 11, 2011

48. Wonder

Just as I left the back door of my condominium building, I looked up saw a grown man skipping down Ferry Street. Yes, skipping—in broad daylight. I immediately turned and fumbled with my key, trying to get back inside the building.

“Hey, Big Dope. Wait up!” The figure skipped up. “Going for a walk?” it asked.

“C.W., what the hell are you doing?”

“Exercising. What are you doing?”

“By skipping?” I ignored him as best I could but noticed that several of the children at the church school across the street were watching. Their little faces were pressed against the wrought iron fence like prisoners watching a “free world” drama, every mouth open.

“Don’t you skip? It’s a great way to get around. Ever try it?”

“Not since I was five years old.”

“You humans certainly tend to forgo the joys of life as you get older,” he said. He had assumed a familiar shape. I couldn’t quite place it but it was someone from my past. “Taking the air, are you? Come on, I’ll go with you.”

“I am not skipping with you, C.W.”

“Calm down Big Guy,” he said, then “Jeez.”

“You can come along if you behave.”

“Moi?” he said in mock surprise. For reasons unknown to me he had been struggling to learn French. “Je suis le pire?” he said.

“C’est votre faute.”

“Merde,” he said. “Let’s walk.”

We walked around a former school, now serving as an apartment building for artist and writers. It was spring and the tulip trees were blooming. C.W. ran ahead and examined them, sniffing and touching the petals of one to gauge its substance.

“Simply beautiful,” he said. “We have nothing like this where I come from.”

“Come on,” I said. “We have to keep up a pace.

He turned and stared at me with a look of such mournful sadness that my mind flowed to an imagined gallery where I could picture the face of Christ in a painting by one of those Renaissance painters, captured in soft and subtle chiaroscuro. Then I was snapped back to reality.

“Come on then, Trou du cul.” This wasn’t starting out well.

We rounded the corner and walked along the front of the building. I was trying to pick up the pace when C.W. emitted a shriek and a stream of Falloonian that I couldn’t understand.

“Lookee, lokkee, lokkee,” he yelled and ran over to a sculpture standing on the corner of the apartment property. I had passed it dozens of times and hardly noticed it. It was a standing figure created from bits of broken glass and pottery, resembling a pair of giraffes.

“Oh my,” C.W. yelled as he ran over to it. “Would you look at this?”

I stopped and waited.

He seemed surprised that I wasn’t sharing his excitement. “Does you planet have a lot of neat stuff like this?”

I didn’t respond.

He turned back to the sculpture and caressed the broken pieces forming its surface. He hummed for a minute and then spoke rhythmically in a long, unbroken string of sounds in his native language, almost seeming to create a mystic union with this inanimate piece of work. After a minute or so he stopped, patted the sculpture a last time and walked back to where I stood.

“Tell me something,” he said.


“At what age and by what process do they remove the sense of wonder from the bodies of your species?”

I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Une tragĂ©die,” he said.

We moved on. It was going to be a long walk.

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