When I was in high school I used to skip a lot of classes and aimlessly wander through town. Especially if it was sunny outside.
I loved staring at all these strangers, all of them fueled by their little dreams, hurriedly heading God knows where. I loved walking down streets, my soul overwhelmed by sweet surrender, because I knew and I could feel it with my entire being that I was and always will be different than all the strangers that melted together in afternoon crowds.
I would invent stories for each and every one of these strangers. A smile had a story behind it, a lover sending flowers or a gentle kiss. A smile was a memory of times of happiness. And what about those who were sad, who kept their heads down? Well, for them, I created stories that were going to make them happy. And so, I gave a past to those who were happy and a future to those who were sad.
I was the only one stuck in a murky present, the only one who had to kill stories when the strangers disappeared, swallowed by the incessant noise and commotion of the twenty first century. Somehow, and trust me, this hurts when I say it out loud, the world seemed to be distorted in such a poisonous way, and what appeared to be real before my eyes seemed to be but a hopeless prison for my soul.
One day I ended up in Brighton Park and fell in love. Inexplicably and inexorably.
You know the place, that little park with tall pine trees and intricate alleys and a lake in the center.
I fell in love with the sense of security the simple act of sitting on a bench and staring blindly at the sun gave me.
Waiting for something to happen seems at times the only thing that we must do in this life. The only thing we can do.
There was a huge apartment building close to the park. Such an old and odd building, so out of place and yet living in this perfect symbiosis with the park, with the narrow streets and small shops.
I am a bit old fashioned myself, so I thought it would be perfect for me. Brighton Park is such a lovely, quiet neighborhood. I can’t figure out why on Earth all these banks and corporations chose to build headquarters there.
And the mosque. Have you ever been to the mosque? I know you’ve seen it and, still, I want to describe it, but I can’t help but feel that I will, undoubtedly, fail. I find it peculiar that the most beautiful things in our lives, the ones we have explored for so long, are almost impossible to describe. But the tower, you must climb up to the top of the minaret or whatever it’s called. Overpowering, that’s a nice word. That’s how you feel up there, with the sea never endless and calm. There are a lot of stairs to climb, but it’s worth it. Every step you take, every calorie you burn, it’s worth it.
After Sebastian disappeared, I rented a small flat in the apartment building I mentioned earlier. It was a cramped and somber house; the small windows made the light that passed through them even more depressing. An unquiet silence seemed to engulf the bedroom.
In the months that followed I bought things that are needed to men of the twenty-first century. A television set, a bookshelf, a dinner table. A washing machine.
On the wooden frame of the door that connected the bedroom with the living room someone, one of the previous renters perhaps, had carved a small cross. Every time I passed it, every time I noticed it or my mind reminded me of that strange carving, I would go and touch it with the tip of my finger. For just a second, never more.
Soon it became a habit. Before I would leave my apartment, I would touch the cross, when I got home, I would gently caress the carving. Slowly, it became a ritual, and then it became instinct.
My father once told me that a man without faith is a man without purpose. I’ve always thought it to be such a silly, meaningless advice, like something he would have read in a parenting guide. But if I come to think about it, I never saw him go to church or pray. He wasn’t a religious man, and he never mentioned God, so I guess his faith had been hiding somewhere else.