To Remember to forget
By Corey Benziger
He stared into the dry pipe drain, aware at first of its stink, and then, quite satisfied, of the length of time that had passed since he´d last left it. The clouds above rolled in a thoughtless slide, south-east, and he watched them for a moment before he followed suit, both in direction and fashion. Today was a day of reflection and he was going to enjoy it in its entirety, for he was amongst the clouds.
He passed a great many things he´d once been too depressed to hate. Now with a fresh perspective, he planned to take a moment to properly reflect on each establishment that had once spurned him. First the corner store, owned and operated by a haughty man, whom had never offered him any assistance whatsoever. In fact, far too often the store had refused him usage of their restrooms, despite his many frantic pleas. You see, regardless of his stature in life, he´d always managed to maintain a grasp on that final straw of dignity. The simple act of using a restroom was a glaring indicator of the vast difference between animal and man. He was a man of pride and no matter the circumstances, would always stick to this principle. He considered for a moment entering the establishment, but instead walked past.
Turning a corner he entered a dirt road and slowly shuffled along as he listened to the sounds of birds overhead. The road had changed quite a bit since the days he´d frequented here. Once, trees and shrubs choked at the fringes of the lane, but now it seemed man had fought bravely back and implemented a defensive row of flowers along its edge. It looked lovely but seemed rather pointless. On this particular road there lived only old, lonely men, and as they always had, they cared solely for the ridiculous trifles of life, such as roadside flowers.
As the first home came into view, a sense of fear overcame him and he thought briefly of venturing a different way. These men had often given him looks of contempt. The fear abated quickly, as the homeowner, sitting in a lawn chair, beckoned to him with a pleasant countenance. They spoke briefly, and the old man was warm and welcoming, much to the joy of the wanderer. The old man offered a piece of homemade bread, and after disappearing inside, returned with the steamy treat. The two said their farewells, and the wanderer, bread in hand, walked briskly for he was happy.
The bread was a disappointment. After tearing a piece off, the man was irritated to find that the snack was dry and crumbled far too easily. He quickly disposed of it into the woods as he reached the end of the dirt lane and began to trek towards the strip mall in town. He didn´t think, for the path was deeply embedded in his memories; he passed an old bridge, one he´d camped under for many months. He purposefully ignored a stop-light that he´d spent a year standing beneath, forcing himself to continue his pace. Glancing to his feet, he gained a sense of confidence looking at the new, clean shoes he wore. The shoes perfectly matched the slacks and t-shirt adorning his frame. Nothing could, and nothing would, bring him down today.
Entering the strip mall, he walked slowly, eager to consider the various storefronts. He thought these stores a bit classless for his taste, and instead aimed for the supermarket. He wasn't hungry, so he stood outside the entrance, admiring the beautiful aroma of the flowers for sale on the sidewalk. A sense of peace comforted him as his eyes fell to a small lily plant. He decided to purchase it.
Offering a sigh to the sky, the wanderer and his lily made their way towards an intersection. The late afternoon air had turned brisk, as the sun hid from the views of the world, and he admitted it was almost time to return home. He had fifteen minutes or so until his bus would arrive, so he decided to pay a visit to an old associate.
He walked along the road until an old barn came into view. While the wood retained its red coloring, the roof and walls were dilapidated and badly required mending. Veering onto a dirt path, he approached the barn door, finding the man he sought in a heap amongst the filth of the ground. The man stared blankly at him, unsurprised and uninterested.
The wanderer offered a handshake which was ignored, as the man in the dirt turned his back. Angered, the man with the lily pointed to his shoes. He pointed to his slacks, then to his shirt. He threw the potted lily at the man on the ground, missing his target, but gaining the attention he desperately desired. The lily no longer mattered, and as such, it deserved its sprawling fate among the dirt.
The man on the ground sat and gingerly picked the lily from the broken pot remains and dirt. He caressed it gently in silence, angering the wanderer further. None of this mattered, as it was all beneath him. The man who no longer had the lily stomped off, back down the dirt path towards the road. He turned, just for a moment, to see if his old associate was watching him. He tripped.
His face hit the dirt. He slowly opened his eyes, seeing for the first time in a long time, a view he had long tried to escape. The dirt tasted as he remembered. It smelled the same. He felt it in his hands and began to cry. His clothing was tarnished. As he came to his senses, he gagged. No longer amongst the clouds, he was, once again, as low as the dirt. He closed his eyes to the world, while behind him, the man with the lily began to laugh.