The Augmented World

The Augmented World – And He Weeps

There’s a house. It faintly glows with a warm, golden light, the bright stones that make up its walls storing the translucent light of day and amping it through the air. Like a monitor for phosphorescence. It’s large and opulent but somehow humble, cleverly built to blend in with the other buildings which surround it. It has a small yard, no more than a stone’s throw in size, where a wizened tree bends around air. It has a sturdy door, almost never open, a fixture that somehow invites while being forbearing at the same time. It has porches and silken curtains covering wide windows, wooden shutters fending off winds and rain when the mild winter comes, a fence covered with vegetation and a gate. Not the stuff of myths of castles, a wide gate made of sturdy oak with a menacing moat, but a fair affair which radiates the feeling that it doesn’t want to be opened. That it wants to be left alone.

And yet, despite the fair amount of coldness and rejection that might be gleaned from its external nooks and crannies, it seems inviting. Perhaps in an old way? Like a man who, no matter how rough and ragged looking, has stood at the crossroads for so long that you have grown as used to him as the posts which mark the meaning of the roads, the non-terminal destination to which they lead, just nodes which in turn branch off into more crossroads? Perhaps like that. Regardless, the house stands on the outskirts of a square named after a forgotten king who had visited the city years ago, softly humming with the early morning wind as it stirs the leaves of the massive trees which dominate the square. Other buildings face it, some grand and some not so much, but they are all slightly less than that house. Perhaps it is because they are inhabited; more of a function, of a protocol, these buildings serve transient purposes. But the house, the blended house, is filled with presence. Even though the curtains stay drawn and the shutters shut, and the door closed and the gate barred, everyone knows that someone lives here.

In fact, it would be impossible to imagine the house without imagining its denizen. When he exits the house, once or twice a year for festivals or crucial supplies (crucial only to him, vague and seemingly unrelated items purchased at the local market for outrageous prices), he always wears blue. Funnily enough, or perhaps not, the blue faintly radiates warmth, just like the house. It is not a blue of somber skies, or of stormy horizons or even of clear, crisp, cold-day skies, though it hints subtly that it might have been one of those or all of those at some point in the past. No, it is a blue of a bright morning, before the sun has quite established itself, when the color of the day is deep, primary, initial. It is the blue of a soft breeze blowing across the back of your neck as you walk between buildings, bringing sorrow tinged with wonder, bringing stories to your fingers. The man often smiles; his smile reaches his eyes, engulfing them with momentary mirth. His fingers are dexterous as they are lanky, efficient, long wires that are attached to a supple yet thin arm. The man is old but the weight of his memories seems to be borne not lightly, but perhaps with a resignation, an acceptance which lends their wearer strength, like a good cloak. When the people see him and he is gone, what is left behind is a hint of laughter, a faint touch of those gentle fingers and the smell of a field under bright skies. They sigh then, the people of that city, thinking of places they had been, places they now miss, thinking of that house and its balconies, and its silken curtains and its fullness. Not knowing why or how it is full and why they feel so empty but somehow refreshed, empty in the sense of readiness to be filled, empty in the sense of a sweet goodbye, of a faintly morose embrace, of a greeting that falls slightly short from expressing exactly how happy you are to see your friend.

The nights are warm. They are not so much filled with stars as they are at peace with stars, complacent towards the place starlight plays in the shadow-act that creates and un-creates the supposedly, and foolishly, fixed locations that are called “streets”. The house is still bright but in an unassuming way, almost as if it doesn’t want to draw attention itself but still would like to light its surroundings, perhaps in order to better accentuate the fair qualities of the buildings around it and, through them, to draw attention to its own beauty and grace. Silently, with a fluid hint of light the house says with fingers made of minarets, “have you seen how pretty the leaves on the trees are today? Have you lingered a while in their shade and looked at the way the spaces between them cast cross-stitches on the buildings besides them? Have you stopped and thought to yourself in your heart today ‘oh god, I live in the absolute nexus between what was and what shall be and the beauty is constantly beating upon me and my heart is a strained muscle and the blood is soaring within it until suddenly I must rupture and what better place to rupture than here?’? Because if you haven’t, there really is no place better to rupture than here as evidenced by the million million tears that have made up the spaces of the cobblestones in the square”.

As the light says all that and a heart softly beats in the square below, decoding the message the building is broadcasting, the man in blue gazes behind the silken curtains. The people of the city do not know what he thinks or how the world looks to his eyes but they believe, in that quiet place where believing emerges, that through the faint trails he leaves with his fingers in the spice stalls in the market, and through the leaves and the way they hiss softly in the wind, and by marking the paths that he takes through the fluid streets, shying away from this corner or that, that they can decipher what the world must be to him. And each one imagines something slightly different, a story that differs by a word or maybe two, variations on a theme that nonetheless manage to sync up in some fashion, creating the man in blue, casting him over and over again into the communal tableau, tenderly hammering his place in their stories into shape, make him communal, making him mean something to them. Even though, and perhaps especially because, he rarely leaves the house. Through all their stories, the different landscape renditions of what must mean a man’s mind and gestalt and tale, runs a single thin thread, a single idea etched over and over again like love upon encountering the new day. The man must be sad. Something inside must have broken, something unleashed an inky vial of fluid that has washed over his heart and blotched all his margins, something that makes him bleed a bit too much, makes him cry a bit too often, makes him shun the world and its ways almost every day of the year, makes him be gentle and curious and crucial and deft, adept, dextrous, present but gone, a faint efficiency, a slight beacon in a shifting world, a strangely anchored presence, chained to the places he knows and nothing more.

And they are right. To an extent. The man in the house is sad but the vial hasn’t broken. No margins are blotched at the center of his Heart, no words have been crossed out with red lines, no phrases forgotten, breaking the rhythm, no notes misplaced, breaking the key. On the contrary, his cup overfloweth and in overflowing it blazons, it bedazzles, it brings into sharp contrast the edges around him and the edges in himself and the trees in the square and the way the shade plays in the leaves and the wind softly dictates a verse on the lore of sitting. He cuts himself. He cuts himself on the ever changing streets, he cuts himself on the love he feels for the impossible infinity of places that a city can be, on the never-ending song that strangers can sing, he cuts himself on the life he feels when they look at him, on the notes he hears on the sweet wind when the morning is bright, he cuts himself on the moments before the sun has quite established itself, when the color of the day is deep, primary, initial. He is lacerated by the blue of a soft breeze blowing across the back of his neck as he walks between buildings, bringing sorrow tinged with wonder, bringing stories to his fingers, stories which ultimately bring him back to the surging start, the tidal wave of beginnings, the floodplains of love.

But, most of all, he cuts himself on the stars. He walks the halls of that house, peering between the silken curtains, across the wooden shutters. He runs his hand across that door and hums a song to make it humble. He fixes the gate when it needs the fixing, deploying the art that is never quite forgotten, of mending and making until the thing is itself. And he looks at the stars. Wherever he is, whether on the threshold of his home and the square, whether on the threshold of the window and the night air, whether on the threshold of himself and the world, he looks at the stars. He smiles at the leaves that softly beckon to sleep, as he names the ever changing streets, he looks to the stars. And he weeps.

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