Synaesthesia Magazine Americana - Page 59

Watching

After what seemed like no time at all, I found myself on the grass, my mind dull as if waking from a long sleep. I made my way through the park, past trees and along the unfamiliar, tarmac pathways looking, always looking.

His name was Paul. I’d seen him through the classroom window and he was standing next to his desk reading aloud from a book of fairy tales. He was five years old.

“There’s the kind of boy I should get to know,” I thought. “He seems like the right kind, head full of adventures, dreams of rocket-ships and knights.”

And, of course, once I’d thought these things, I stayed to watch.

He read in a beautiful high-pitched voice, pure and unaffected. There was none of the knowing sarcastic tone that comes so easily to some children. His laugh was a delight.

He ran to play with his friends when it was time for lunch, I saw him slay a thousand dragons, and save not a single maiden, and he marched in line and wielded his cardboard sword and puffed up his chest and declared “I’m not afraid of you!” in his beautiful high-pitched voice.

In the afternoon he wasn’t nearly so interesting. His mind had filled with the mathematics of the very young, the world counted into apples and divided into slices of pie. I left him to the mysteries of fruit and pastry, went to the gates of the school and waited.

And here he came, running and whooping at half-past three with his friends close behind. They ran down the lane in front of their mothers, swung from the branches and peered into the river for frogs. They were great explorers, fearless men seeking treasure in the jungles, climbing the steps to the temples and exploring the endless caves. And then, one by one, they went inside, each waving to the other as they parted, shouting the names of the games they’d play tomorrow.

I stood on the corner of the street and watched them go, the others into their houses and Paul into his. And now I knew where to wait, it was all I had to do.

Days later, I was standing on the corner when Paul walked past me with some friends, his head deep in another book. I reached out for him from my hiding place and, as he passed, my hand almost brushed his hair.

I spent the summer listening to their games, hearing such grand adventures as their gardens were transformed into Agincourt and Mars. Great enemies were defeated; armies of knights and the huge purple creatures that lived deep in the mountain caves of distant worlds fell at Paul’s word and lay still. And the more they read the richer it all became. It was intoxicating and addictive, and I couldn’t tear myself away, even if I wanted to.

Then there was a sixth birthday, and a seventh, years sliding past unnoticed as the world changed around Paul and his friends. Men had landed on the Moon before he was born. Now they were shuttled backwards and forwards, commuting to the great office in the sky. Paul watched and wished that one day he could go with them, but contented himself by building models of their ships, swinging from ropes and imagining he was up there in orbit, saving the world.

I stood so close to him at times that he could have turned and looked up and seen me standing over him, my arms outstretched and welcoming, but his mind was always elsewhere, his friends close behind, wrapped up in their adventurous world, not ever wanting or needing to step into mine.

Seven becomes eight. Then nine. The mathematics of youth changes to become the >>