He was convinced that if he could lay his plans out on a flat surface, and organize them, order would repeat itself into infinity. It was, after all, a geometric possibility. He made lists out of full sentences, pages and pages of them, looking for the five lines that should be used to construct his repeating design. I plan to have love. I plan to have knowledge. I plan to have work that satisfies…and so on. Once he felt a list was complete, then he carefully hand wrote each line in block print, and prioritized by importance.
Each plan being different, it created a unique length, not as balanced as it needed to be for the pattern to work into infinity. He had to adjust the words, enlarging or minimizing and sometimes repeating. So for instance, plan to have a community of friends, he reduced the lettering in size to achieve a length equal with love life (repeated once). But he worried that the manipulation of size might influence significance of plans in relative terms.
This process of creating, adjusting, doubting, reorganizing and prioritizing went on for years. And as he aged, his plans changed. He questioned his youthful wishes, certain aspirations fell away, others took their place then vanished as quickly as they had come to mind. He couldn’t find the perfection he sought, but he didn’t give up. He married, raised two children, changed careers several times, owned a house, divorced, moved into an apartment, began dating, remarried, moved into another house and grew a beard. His hair turned white. Everywhere he went he took a shoebox containing the lines and though not consistently — sometimes an entire year passed — he continued to try to solve the puzzle he set for himself. He became a grandfather. His second wife died of cancer.
When his daughter was helping him move to another apartment, she came across a raggedy shoebox. It was grimy, the sides had softened and needed the lid to hold the box together. “Plans” was written in black ink on top of the Hush Puppy signage.
She opened the box. Instantly the air smelled of lilacs and brewing coffee. A rush of rivers and squawking seagulls, raindrop patter and a small child’s voice playing somewhere in the distance filled her ears. Before her, she saw an image of her mother clouded in a thick purple fog.
She put the top back on, shook her head and breathed in the old man smell in her dad’s bedroom. Again, she opened the box. Out swirled a cloth of repeating patterns. It glittered with silver, purple and blue as it unfurled like a dancer across the room, spreading from one corner to the next, rising up toward the ceiling then floating down and repeating the movement as it reached toward the window and spread further, moving into the air, across the lawn and over trees.
“What are you doing, doll?” her father called as he slowly limped down the hallway toward the bedroom. Like a child secretly finished the last bit of cake, her heart quickened with shame and she reached to put the lid back on the box. But she couldn’t find it in the purple haze and undulating pattern.
“Nothing. No need to come in. Why don’t you keep working in the guest bedroom,” she yelled so he could hear through deaf ears.
It was too late. He stood in the doorway so much less the man she had known in her youth and at the same time so much more. He was reduced in statue by a quarter, she thought. His back stooped, one leg markedly weaker and slower than the other. Yet his eyes shined as brightly as ever, wiser now than when she was a child. She marvelled at his beauty. As she stared, transfixed by this man so familiar and so mysterious, her sight cut through the purple fog and dynamic pattern. She forgot about everything except what she felt in her heart for him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. Looks like you’ve seen a ghost.”
She remembered the box, the smells and sounds and the pattern that could expand into infinity, like a bee hive, or a turtle’s shell. She blinked. Her gaze widened, searching her surroundings for the memory of what had just happened. But it was all gone. The room was empty except for the two of them.
She looked back at his face, and there she found a trace, ever so faint, of this amazing pattern, and watched as it slowly sank under his thin, wrinkled skin.
“Not a ghost, dad. Not even close,” she said as she placed the lid on the box and moved it into a larger packing container where it would be taped inside in preparation for the move to a new home.
Not really a Biography
I have always been inclined to move forward, roll the stone, down, and often up, hills. I've tried to write through it all. Everything on this blog is written by me.