Unless We, There Is No We
Scenes of houses, suns, stars, families, animals of all types and sizes, and flowers, drawn in shades of pastel chalk covered four blocks of sidewalk. The pictures followed a logical progression. Unfortunately it was a logic that belonged solely to the artist. The viewer could only guess, or bypass the interpretation phase completely and simply absorb the scribbles on a base level.
The drawings converged on a child. He was sitting in front of a lovely prefabricated house. The way the dwelling appeared to be a pile of boxes assembled together over decades, with no real plan, made it appear out of place in the suburb. The designers called it French Provincial, as if evoking Europe was enough to mend the “sore thumb” effect the house had.
The young one’s fingers pressed against a piece of green chalk. The residue deposited on his skin, covering old layers of pink, purple and blue. He took his time looking at what he had already drawn, absorbing the image, placing it in the proper spot in his mind, before violently scribbling again when a change was necessary. The scraping of the chalk against the concrete gave the silent neighborhood life, the only source it seemed.
“What are you drawing there?” She asked the child.
It was true. The street sidewalk flowed into a sizeable walkway to the house’s front door. The young boy had almost filled the walkway with the image of a woman. There weren’t many details. A triangular dress, more symbolic than representative, hair of yellow, red and dull brown, and green eyes. Large oversized pink lips showed no sign of a smile or a frown. They were emotionless, focused lips, set on a mission, with no time for expression.
“Daddy’s inside.” The boy said.
“Why do you think I’m here for your dad?”
“People don’t come here that much no more. But the ones that do, want to see daddy. It’s his day off, he’ll be in his office.”
Revelation was a dubious thing. The woman knew immediately that she had arrived where she needed to be. It was much easier this time around. The child wasn’t there before, maybe this meant that she had finally gotten the pieces in the right order and he was the confirmation.
“Your dad doesn’t see you very much, does he?”
“He’s busy. He buys me a lot of toys though, I wish they talked.”
She prayed that it would be painless for him. She hoped that when everything was over he wouldn’t realize that he ever existed. She didn’t know exactly how it would happen, if there’d be some great sundering of the world, or if it would just snap back in the eons it takes for a blink to start and stop. It had to be the latter, in order for her to put an end to the journey, she couldn’t believe that the child would suffer.
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“All the people that went away. I know it’s my fault. Or it will be.”
“How could you know that?”
“Rhys told me.”
“I’ve heard daddy talking about Uncle Rhys a lot. I think he misses him. My last birthday I wished he’d come back and he did, but only for a little bit. He told me that I had to be really good at school, and learn a lot then he’d come back for good. I tried to tell daddy about it, but he didn’t believe me.”
There were many things that didn’t make complete sense to the woman. Everytime she found herself in a new place, with a new name, a new identity and a whole new set of people to use and manipulate, the amount of unexplainable occurrences grew. But there was always one piece that never seemed to make sense. The brother.
His disappearance was in a way, the genesis of the whole mess. Yet, she had met him. He existed, his mind not how it should, but he existed. In fact, now that she thought about it, he was the only piece that doubled back. Sure, there were people who were misplaced, there were people who suspected the world had become something it shouldn’t have. But no one other than Peter and herself had seemed able to retain the knowledge of the places they had been to. She had her theories about why they had this ability while no one else did, but the theory had no explanation for the brother.
“Did he tell you anything else?”
“He was kind of weird. He said that when I got older I’d think it was a dream. He said that I would remember his name, but not why. I don’t get it. Do you?”
“No, but I think I’m starting too.”
“Do you want to draw with me?”
She absolutely did. She kneeled down next to the child. She looked in his ice cream pail and pulled out a darker blue piece of chalk. Next to the woman the boy had drawn, she began to draw a smaller person. The lines were a little more sophisticated than his, but the newly drawn child managed to fit regardless, especially after she drew one single lined arm reaching out to the chalk woman.
“Is that me?”
The woman then rose and moved to the other side of the boy’s drawing. She pulled out another blue piece of chalk and repeated her previous drawing. Her two pieces of artwork were mirror images of each other.
“That’s you too.”
“Why is there two of me?”
“I wish I knew.”
The woman stood up and brushed away the dust on her hands. She wanted to say goodbye to the boy. But, as she watched him add various pieces of flourish to the drawings, more stars and flowers, she couldn’t bring herself to pull him away for another second. She moved away slowly, making sure that he didn’t raise his eyes up from his joy.
She had made it to the front door before. The last time she arrived with a heart full of curiosity and a determined mind. Now she carried only reluctance and spite for the man waiting for her. He had placed the blame on the right person, but made sure that the punishment fell on another. She hated him for having that ability, the foresight to see that conclusion.
She looked back, one last time. As she suspected, no one was there. Her theories had changed and for once she was seeing evidence that suggested she was finally right. There was something else walking the path with her, there always had been. She couldn’t believe that she once thought that she was invisible during all of her actions.
Her knuckles struck the door firmly. She knew exactly how long she’d have to wait for it to open. Her mind ran down the seconds like the pages of a calendar falling away.
“I know you’re there now and I’m sorry about all of this. When the time comes though, please don’t pretend you don’t know me. We’ve all come too far, it’s ending soon but I want to talk to you, again.” She said to the sky.
The door opened.