The man smiled at him a sly smile. As if they knew a secret between them, these two. Something of age and youth and their claims and the justice of those claims. And of their claims upon them. The world past, the world to come. Their common transciencies. Above all a knowing deep in the bone that beauty and loss are one.
His hands clasped behind him at the small of his back in a stance he had perhaps admired or read of but a stance native to some other country, not his.
“When you’re a kid you have these notions about how things are goin to be, Billy said. You get a little older and you pull back some on that. I think you just wind up tryin to minimize the pain. Anyway this country aint the same. Nor anything in it. The war changed everthing. I dont think people even know it yet.”
"Your friend is in the grip of an irrational passion. Nothing you say to him will matter. He has in his head a certain story. Of how things will be. In this story he will be happy. What is wrong with this story?
What is wrong with this story is that it is not a true story. Men have in their minds a picture of how the world will be. How they will be in that world. The world may be many different ways for them but there is one world that will never be and that is the world they dream of. Do you believe that? “Maybe. Anyway, some men get what they want. No man. Or perhaps only briefly so as to lose it. Or perhaps only to prove to the dreamer that the world of his longing made real is no longer that world at all. ”
periodic click like a misset metronome, a clock, a protent. a meaure of something periodic and otherwise silent and vastly patient which only darkness could accommadate.
“The dead boy in his arms hung with his head back and those partly opened eyes beheld nothing at all out of that passing landscape of street or wall or paling sky or the figures of the children who stood blessing themselves in the gray light. This man and his burden passed on forever out of that nameless crossroads and the women stepped once more into the street and the children followed and all continued on to their appointed places which as some believe were chosen long ago even to the beginning of the world.”
He said that perhaps death took a larger view. That perhaps in his egalitarian way death weighed the gifts of men by their own lights and that in death's eyes the offerings of the poor were the equal of any. Like God.
Where do we go when we die? he said. I dont know, the man said. Where are we now?
In the middle of my life, he said, I drew the path of it upon a map and I studied it a long time. I tried to see the pattern that it made upon the earth because I thought that if I could see that pattern and identify the form of it then I would know better how to continue. I would know what my path must be. I would see into the future of my life. How did that work out? Different from what I expected. It was interesting. It looked like different things.
"When you look at the world is there a point in time when the seen becomes the remembered?"
“I know it. There's hard lessons in this world. What's the hardest? I dont know. Maybe it's just that when things are gone they're gone. They aint comin back. Yessir.”
“If we do not know ourselves in the waking world, what chance in dreams?”
He said that the light of the world was in men’s eyes only for the world itself moved in eternal darkness and darkness was its true nature and true condition and that in this darkness it turned with perfect cohesion in all its parts but that there was naught there to see. He said that the world was sentient to its core and secret and black beyond men’s imagining and that its nature did not reside in what could be seen or not seen. He said that he could stare down the sun and what use was that?