Writing and Music by John Kirnan

Shelter

Posted by John Kirnan on October 31st, 2011

Picasso had his Blue Period. Generations to come will no doubt call this my Bus Stop Period. Or not. In other words, here's another of my Bus Stop Adventures for you to check out. This one happened on the way home too, at the same spot, though it was a few years ago. Eventually, I'll probably gather all of these little prose pieces (hopefully, there'll be more) into a downloadable file. For now, blog posts seem to be the simplest way to go. I'm dedicating this piece to my wise and good friend Louis who likes owls.

 

Shelter

I'm standing at the usual late night bus stop downtown. It's an undecided evening, isn't sure whether to be Winter or Fall. I wonder how much of my life I've spent waiting for something to take me to a warmer place.

The third floors of the shops across the way always look empty, unseen from the inside as well as the street. I tend to wonder what those rooms are like. Does a slight heat from the bookshop below rise from a half-closed forgotten vent? How warm would I be if I stood in that emptiness? How muffled would that passing car be up there? There'd be dust, of course, like a light covering of grey snow that only remains where there's no traffic. Up there, that's most likely everywhere. A few boxes and a chair that no living person has sat on for seventeen years, three months, and five days. And then only for a moment, two flights of stairs being a bit too much for an older clerk. The ghost who lives there stood back against the wall because life was suddenly too close. Better to view the past from a high perch, look down on the business of living from a cobwebbed window on a rainy night. No one to look up and see the figure there, except for the one who always needs to feel the rain on his face. But his eyes never fail to quickly close.

The connection having been made with the sky, I wipe the rain from my face and step back into the shelter of the building's design. Did the architect imagine weather? Rain splashing spots and blotches onto his 2d blueprint world? Rain running down perfect paper marble walls to pool here and there on the city's soon to be imperfect sidewalk? He couldn't have guaranteed the placement of bus stops, so why this covered area beyond the door that takes the customer in out of the cold and wet? Maybe it's because there's something to be said for a moment of shelter, an out of the wind outside version of cozy where, safe from Nature's uncaring nature, our frail bodies can watch the possibly dangerous story of a storm unfold to its inevitable, peaceful ending. Though some storms never seem to end. Perhaps, the designer's heart already knew the value of temporary shelter from an unending storm. Perhaps he wanted his building to seem compassionate to passers-by.

The rain is easing off. I think I'll go back to the stop. I now notice that a young woman, a stranger, is standing waiting for a bus too. Because I'm writing her life story, it takes longer than it should for me to notice that she's looking up, in fact, never stops looking up. I'm wondering at what, when her peripheral vision catches me and my curiosity. The direction of her gaze doesn't change, she just extends her arm, points toward the roof of the guitar shop across the street, and says nothing. As I look up, I'm thinking of Dickens' silent and spooky “Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come,” pointing to Scrooge's possible future.

The roof she's pointing to is lower than the two on either side of it. Within that protective hollow, on the facade, sits an owl, looking to be about three feet tall, glowing pure white in the surrounding shadow. He turns his head, looks down the street. “Wow,” comes out, as it always does when I see Magic. The woman still says nothing. “What is he doing here?” I say out loud, though mostly to myself. There are possible, logical reasons, but I don't believe them for a minute. I watch the woman getting on a bus and leaving. I don't think I believe any possible reasons for her being here either.

I can't take my eyes off him. Seeing this creature in a natural setting would be an unexpected gift, but here, set against the equally impressive backdrop of buildings and sky, there is still that same beauty, but the word illusion comes to mind. I wait for the bus. He seems to be waiting too. Something's up to something tonight and I seem to be the only witness to whatever it is, except for the woman who drew my attention to it. But she's gone, and here's the last bus.

Settling into the bus world, I watch everyone watching everyone. We're only on the way, coming from and going to. And this particular passage of time seems no more than a necessity. I close my eyes and, out of nowhere, hear the owl's voice.

“Why are you still here?” He's talking to the bookshop ghost.
“This was the only place I was ever truly happy.”
“Ah, you mean with the woman.”
“Yes. She's gone, but there's still the memory. It's all I have and I can't take the chance of losing that too.”
“Before you found her, did you know that you would?”
“No.”
“As in the past, your future's not known. Many roads may lie beyond this prison of a place. You trade the possibility of another great happiness for the faint memory of one because loss and fear of loss have caused you to forget how powerful you are. Do you remember what it was like... to trust?”

Eyes close, memory extends, and something unlocks within a transparent heart, something opens. Tears fall from nothing now, clear the dust from a few small spots on an unseen attic floor. Within the emptiness, the owl's voice is heard, “Come, there are wings within us all.”

Two owls rise from the rooftop, disappear into the sky.


2 Comments to Shelter

  1. Pat says:

    Another good one…keep them coming!

  2. Raymond says:

    Nice work Jack, keep them coming.

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