It was the last day of August and sprinkling rain. This first it had rained all summer.
“It’s been almost a year,” he said sitting there on the park bench. He was sitting by himself, though, and not really talking to anyone.
This first day of rain meant the promise of another dark, emotional fall and of a long and apathetic winter. Already, the tip-tops of the trees were turning pink but the day was still warm enough to sit outside. And so despite the rain; he did. Because one just never knew around this time of year when everything always felt like a last chance.
“Yes,” the voice was clear.
“I don’t think I can take another one. I don’t think I want to.”
He was the only person in the park and somehow, to him, it only seemed fitting. Up a slight, little hill there was a small pond where some geese were floating around. One of them kept honking intermittently but because of the distance it was a soft honk. Softer than the breeze brushing the leaves.
“Why do you always wear that dress? Even in the summer when everyone else is wearing white?”
“Because I invented blue.”
The park spanned acres of uninterrupted grass while the land rolled a little here and there but it was mostly flat. The few trees there were, were of the Japanese Maple variety. They didn’t grow very high…just to about double overhead. And this left plenty of room for that sky.
“That dress is black though,” he pointed out.
“No. It’s just a very deep blue. I’m surprised that you can’t tell the difference.”
“Well, it is a really cloudy day.”
Like a grey rag soaked with dirty laundry water; the sky was both everywhere and nowhere at once like one of those Eastern paintings where they leave the background blank on purpose. He felt as if he could reach out and touch the grey and that that same wet grey reached out for miles. It may have covered the whole world so far as he was concerned. An unholy blanket causing him to constantly have to look down less the rain should hit him in the face. But would a blue sky have been any better?
“Nothing really helps,” he confessed, “Sometimes I sleep with a razor, you know.”
“Well, I wish I could say that that surprised me.”
“I wasn’t really looking for sympathy anyway.”
“I am sorry. But I didn’t invent compassion.”
“Did you only invent one thing?”
“Yes. That’s all any of us ever do. And I invented…”
“Blue. Yes. I guess, I sort of knew that all along.”
After talking like this for a little while longer, the man decided to move over past the goose pond and towards the sandbox with some swings. He sat in one and tried not to think about anything swinging slowly to-and-fro and hearing the chains creak. His feet were flat, though, and never actually left the sand.
“I almost bought you a sapphire once.”
“I would have liked it. But I wouldn’t have kept it.”
Sometimes lower-lying furls would pass by forming a foreground against the rest of the rag. Sometimes it would all go back to matte. Part of him kept expecting to hear thunder but another knew that was only because there was thunder where he’d once grown up. They were much too far north now. The silence was worse, he thought.
“Are you going to be around forever?” he asked hopefully but then realized that he was scared to death of the answer either way.
“I’ll be around as long as you are.”
She rocked back and forth in the swing beside him. Her single buckled flats crossed at the ankles.
“I get it now,” he said without excitement, “That dress. It looks lighter when it’s placed next to black. Right?”
“A little. I guess, none of us are really anything until we’re placed next to something else.”
“Like the Impressionists.”
They swung in silence after that until the sky cleared and it was night. A few stars twinkled up there but not many. It was late and starting to get chilly so the man stood up and thought about leaving. Slowly, he walked to the sandbox adjacent and stopped there facing an empty playground.
“Did we ever have a chance?” he asked, “I mean, either of us? Even individually?”
“Then what about together? What did I invent?”
“No,” she shook her head and had to stand up on her tiptoes so that he could hear her whisper, “You invented absolute.”