This is the opening to a novel which is bouncing around the inside of my skull:
A pair of lines. Running not quite parallel.
These are the things you notice at first. It takes a minute for them to resolve. There are sidewalks flanking the lines. This is how you figure out is a road.
It is not foggy. Or blurry. It is almost foggy-blurry, here, but it is not quite that. It is more like living an illustration, a place where the details are only hinted at by the illustrator in the hopes that the imagination will furnish the rest.
There is a figure down the road, walking toward you. He is still far away. In a few minutes, he will be in the circle of pale yellow, so perfectally round it looks like a cookie cutter stamped it out of the blackness. It comes from the street light that is nearly directly across from you.
His walk is slow and methodical. He is undeniably heart broken. You ask yourself how you can know that, from just the way he holds himself, just the way his slow strides gradually eat up the distance between him and you.
Have you ever thought about that cliché? Heart broken?
Here is living proof of a reality behind the words. This boy-man is broken, deeply broken. He is past a point of tears, of surrender, of giving up. In the way he walks, there is something deeper than resignation.
If you can watch such a thing and you do not wonder what might cause this to happen, perhaps there is something broken within your own heart. That, though, is not the story we are here to hear. We are here for the story of what happens next, after the heart break.
He walks slowly. As he nears that pool of light, you begin to suspect something subtle is changing. It brings to mind that painting, The Ascent of Man, but only if that painting had shown man and his ancestors not just walking in a line but slowly transforming one into the other.
But it is not some evolutionary progression being passed, ever so slowly, here. It is age. If he was barely a teen ager at that far end of the street, then now, as he crosses into the light, he is a young man.
He does not agnowledge you as he passes by this place. He walks on.
He seems to be still-aging slowly. He is lanky now, perhaps in his early twenties. The point at which he should have stopped growing.
Look closer, would you? You will see that he is not growing at all. At first you might think that the setting he walks into, that generic suburban landscape is shrinking. But if you were to look closer still, you might find that this is not right, either.
There is the breeze. Not a breeze. Not a specific breeze. It is, like the rest of this place, an archetype, not specific. A breeze in the abstract. It makes the noises a breeze should make, and yet, there is something else.
It is carrying words. The words become clearer as you focus on them, as though tuning a radio station.
“Perspective lines are straight lines, drawn at an angle from the edges of objects, back into space.” You look to the sides of the road again. Those first lines you recognized here. “Finally, those lines converge at the horizon line.”
“The horizon line. It is a fool’s errand to chase after it. It would be like a shadow trying to catch the object that casts it. The horizon line moves with us, keeping an equal distance, forever away.”
And as you hear the strange words, this pseudo-lecture, you see that the figure is not growing and the setting is not shrinking. Instead, what is happening is this: the young man, nearing middle age, he is gaining on the horizon line itself. He will reach that point where the almost-paralell lines converge.
And what then?
It is a terrible impossibility. Unnatural in the deepst sense imaginable. You wish that you did not have to be a witness to something like this, I think.
He is there now. It doesn’t seem like he should be, but he is.
It hurts the eyes to look at this. No, it hurts somewhere deeper than the eyes. It is all wrong as he steps up and over the place where the lines meet. He steps past the horizon line. And mercifully, you won’t have to see him anymore.
But I want to tell you what happens next.
A man stands before a canvas with a brush. He is impossibly solid, unimaginably real and concrete.
His brown and wiry hair is thinning. He is not an attractive man. His skin is blotchy and his nose is too big for his face. His white smock is splattered with paints. A first impression, before one quite realizes that they are looking at the man, is of a clown.
But his demeaner belies this image. His profile is to the heart broken man. He is absorbed in the painting. The painting is of the street the heart broken man has just left. ‘
The artist turns slowly. There is fear in his eyes as he sees the other man.
“You” he says. His voice is familiar. It is the voice that was carried on the wind. “You can’t be here.”
And then, the heart broken man was gone.