Stories

Larry Sits

Copyright (c) 1999 J.D. Chapman All Rights Reserved

*1*

Larry shelved the groceries, doffed his shoes, and plopped down on the sofa with nothing to do. The morning glared like searchlights through the vertical blinds -- he pried himself up to shutter them, then slouched back onto the couch. Razors of light sliced through the cracks, illuminating specks of dust as they drifted past the rays. His mom used to call this "down time," the gaps between playing, buying what you need, eating, picking up from the kids, whatever a person had to do to survive and be part of society. The "down time" rubric made Larry envision something like a Marine brigade landing ashore, digging into fortifications, and now waiting for the next order. Gunfire. Bombs exploding in the background, gobs of dirt are flying. General Mom here... nineteen hundred and down time... roger.

This happened every so often -- he would write down the tasks to accomplish, get on a roll, reach a zenith of activity, a frenzy of accomplishment, and quite suddenly he'd be syncopated in advance of himself. He would run out of things to do. Well, he usually still had things to do, but nothing immediately: nothing at that exact moment. He might turn on the TV or go out for a walk and wait for his soul to catch up to him.

Sometimes he collapsed the other way and fell behind. Not too frequently though: it scared the shit out of him. Perhaps if he was sick or had somehow been sidetracked by a stupid addiction -- playing too much bridge, or becoming entangled in the yarn of a good book. After catching himself, rowing back to shore after floating adrift, he could do the right thing to stay alive and remain involved in the world. Slowly starting up his engines again, he set his sights on his soul running right there, up ahead, and got the things done that were required to catch back up to his soul. To once again be Larry.

Occasionally he encountered a man who had really fallen behind. Seriously ill perhaps, or terribly down and out on his luck, living the strife of a street junkie. Tattered clothes, a shopping basket full of junk and trinkets. The drifter's soul astray somewhere in the future, almost completely on its own; his body just a remnant, a nearly deserted shell, stranded for a brief while before dissolving away completely to allow his soul to continue on its journey unimpeded. Larry, sad and sorry, would feel oddly helpless -- he wasn't sure he could even explain to the poor person his predicament, much less help him overcome it.

On the other hand, he commonly found people pegged in high gear, with their selves left completely behind. With their soul panting in the background, trying to catch up, they kept running, changing directions, increasing the stretch, and straining the distance. Always on their cell phone, or running from one meeting to the next, never missing an opportunity to tell somebody to make a copy of something or fax a document to an associate. They would get so far ahead of themselves that they ceased caring about people: they became Accomplishers, caricatures of what they thought they should be. It could be financial achievement, or power achievement, or social achievement, or, quite oddly, even spiritual achievement. There was nothing stranger than to witness someone who had left his soul behind in pursuit of spiritual achievement. A preacher who lost God marooned at the altar. THERE'S NOTHING TO DO. THERE'S NOTHING TO DO. There's nothing to do.

Larry waited for his soul to catch up. He would know when there was something to do because, driven to do something, he would feel the underlying famine. Larry watched a curly speck of dust float downward, stop and change its mind, and slowly rise, finally disappearing as it moved out of the sliver of light.

There's nothing to do.

Larry turned on the TV.

As he flipped through several channels the images flashed and blended like a bad nickelodeon; he paused to watch a slick commercial he had seen once before. He half-smiled at the humor, one corner of his mouth raised. He clicked to the PBS station -- a local reporter told of a downtown ethnic marketplace. A narrator dubbed over people who spoke a different language amongst an outdoor setting of colors and unusual vegetables. Larry watched for a while, without actually seeing, listened, without actually hearing. His mind drifted, thinking about women at work, projects at work, waiting for his soul to catch up. Maybe he should go somewhere with more people around. He turned off the TV and got up to grab his laptop computer, wallet, and keys, and left for the neighborhood coffeeshop.

Larry perched in a corner of the coffeeshop with an iced mocha and a bagel and tapped quietly on his laptop computer. The flatware and rectangular napkin holders, a uniform silver, reflected the old but clean Formica tabletops. He typed in anything that came to mind -- it didn't even have to make sense... it was just "free writing," writing just to loosen up the thinking muscles, writing just to get the feel of writing and the tone and rhythm of words on paper. He watched disconnected, enjoying the rhythm of the tapping keys upon his fingertips, glancing around at the patrons while his fingers and mind worked on their own. The noise from a blender interrupted his thoughts, then as the busboy got a little too rough washing the dishes, some clinking glassware from the back. He hesitated at a lull for a moment and took a suck of his iced mocha, looking up over his tumbler as a young lady walked in. She stood at the counter and peered at the overhead menu: black letters stenciled to an off-white background. Cute curly blonde hair, nice breasts and hips, well proportioned, with curves everywhere. To avoid being rude, Larry hastily looked back down at his computer.

Partly it was his habit of living small and avoiding engagement. Also, he had become an increasingly fast scanner... he could touch the brain and soul of a person and in a few tenths of a second recognize if there was any future interlocking of souls. He did a quick scan of the woman at the counter: no future interest. A beguiling past though, with overlapping appreciation for some beach environments.

Larry scanned the two women and a downtrodden man sitting at the counter. The more attractive woman scanned him back, but they made no connection to a mutual future. Larry did a quick soul check of the other patrons, detailing the code of his soul. No matches. Hmm, Larry thought to himself, I guess I'm more or less alone today on this one. Larry listened to his internal dialogue and turned his lower lip down. This was getting to be an all too common situation: a room of people, Larry alone. He was ill at ease about his pattern of avoidance -- going to the amusement park and always riding on the bumper cars, nothing else. The clang of the metal, the sparking of the overhead curved conductor, the force and momentum of bouncing into other cars, but after awhile really just driving alone quietly around the empty arena. The strange thing was that he couldn't remember how he got here.

When Larry thought back he could remember a time when he had a premonition -- a premonition that despite all his battles and sorrows, all the knowledge gained from scratching the surface of surviving would gradually fade. That the only remnants enduring would be the trappings, the habits, the ghost outlines of wisdom. Once in the full glare of enlightenment he turned briefly and became entranced with the outlines of the shadow. And then, touching his future, he saw that he had become his shadow. After awhile even the connection to his premonition would vanish, leaving him only with mannerisms and perplexity.

The man sitting at the counter rose, left a couple-dollar tip by his coffee cup, and took his paper check to the cash register. He waited patiently as the waitress warmed the women's coffees, replaced the carafe, and turned back to rally the register. She smiled at him and he returned a courteous smile, although from the inside he slowly leaked his glumness. He walked toward the glass door, cleared his throat, nodded, and left the coffeeshop.

Larry could remember when his life wasn't always so jaded. In fact he could recall several distinct points of view, from pure hedonism to being purely God-driven. Each time after following his ontology to its ultimate conclusion, some life- changing event shattered his philosophy into shards and slivers, a topsy-turvy mess of a cataclysm. Looking back, it had always been a learning experience, a change worth making. Many times it could have even been clearly destined. In hindsight.

So now he was settled into the mode of survival first, balance of mind, body, and soul second. Courtesy of the soul, living small. Not terribly enlightened -- but still, at this point in his life, the right thing for him to do. And it was starting to slowly kill him. It was like gradually having the life sucked out of you from being too long in a sensory-deprivation chamber, or like living in the midst of a vast desert, every direction identical, the scenery always the same. It wasn't exactly life's routines. Well, maybe it was. The same job, commute to work, food, non-relationships, the same perception of love from similar people. He was alive and healthy, even well-balanced, but still bored. He knew what it was: he needed to get involved again with a woman. He needed a new job. He needed to move into a new apartment.

No, maybe not.

Larry sipped his iced mocha and relaxed. Two young ladies walked into the coffeeshop, clearly twins. He watched them share thoughts with one another. Blockage level 5?, the girls asked each other. No, he's a writer, level 1 is okay. Larry watched further -- they communed at a much deeper level than he had ever seen in two people, even best friends. They could portray the whole situation and control their own personal environment, even their local physical reality, with just a two-bit love packet. He traced their thought connection back in time... all the way back to before when they were born. Whoa. Communication in utero. Hey, did you catch that last tummy rumble? Hey, move over, you're crowding me!

Larry tried to imagine being that inseparable with someone. What would it be like to know everything about your twin's feelings? After a while recognizing the infinitesimal differences between what you felt and what your twin felt. With every experience. Tasting ice cream. Hmm, this tastes like... a complex idea packet describing the taste. No, the other twin might think back, more like... and a slightly different packet, their brains both simultaneously subtracting and proffering the difference. After a while perceiving reality on three levels simultaneously: how it tastes to me, how it tastes to her, and the difference. After a while knowing the differences beforehand.

Then what of lovers? What would happen if one of the twins became involved with a boyfriend? Maybe the other with a different person, maybe these twins in love with another set of twins. Larry sent a telepathic question: do you girls have lovers? But they ignored him. Apparently they had finished scanning him, disclosed with one another whatever they needed to resolve, settled insignificant differences, and moved on. They sat at a table at the opposite end of the shop and reviewed their menus. Larry finished his mocha, picked up the bill, and left a sterling tip at his table. The waitress caught his eye as he approached the register, sunlight glinting off a nearby canister as he approached. She smiled, he paid his bill and received his change, nodded his head, left through the glass door back into the bright sunlight, and drove home.

Maybe it was time for a little relaxing and sitting on the porch. He took off his shoes and socks, grabbed a bottle of beer from the refrigerator, opened it, and drink half of it while standing barefoot in the kitchen. His concerns disappeared into the fizz and bubbles of the beer, the tang of hops, the overlapped warmth of alcohol and coldness of liquid. He went into his room to fetch his guitar and a plastic chair and brought them outside. Larry propped his feet up against the porch column, his guitar on his lap, his half-empty beer bottle on the ground beside him. The sun glared hot, straight overhead. He strummed a few chords... A, D, G, E minor, then experimented around a little, a flurry of riffs, a handful of barred chords. The alcohol from his earlier gulp now fuzzed his thoughts and caused the sound of the music to echo and distort just subliminally.

He reached down lazily for his bottle and guzzled a long swig, then placed it beneath him on the concrete with the slightest muffled clink of glass. The heat and humidity bordered on uncomfortable. Two cars sat parked on the opposite side of the quiet street about five houses down, in the shade. Should he light a cigarette? He strummed a few chords, amazed at the silence: no kids around, no cars driving past. The still air moved just slightly, less than perceptibly. A cricket chirped across the street, in the middle of the daytime. Larry pressed his lips together at the distant creaking. A brain connection with somebody unknown. Something different than this mass of nothing was dawning. An awareness of the brain connection, back to the sender. A photon infinitely bouncing between two parallel mirrors.

Another connection, from someone distant. A reverse connection, a link to the future, yes, I suppose that in the future you do know me. A subliminal sense of movement to his right. Goosebumps and hairs standing on end. As a slight whiff of a breeze passed and then disappeared, the cricket stopped chirping. Larry transposed the guitar from his lap to the porch, still holding the neck, bottom peg resting now on the cement. The city dissolved into the heat and love connections. Larry turned his head slowly to the approaching sentience from his right and saw a distant figure advancing, faster than walking. He smelled onions cooking a few houses away. Skating? He sensed that the distant figure had discerned his presence as well. Well then, to be presentable, Larry picked up his guitar again, looked forward, and rested the guitar in his lap. Feeling ungainly, too much like a mannequin.

He felt a tug on his heart. Wait... inspection, hmmm. A disconnect: she must have looked away. Should I look... probably not, just be patient. Larry slowly, quite slowly, turned his head, the scenery across the street registering across the panoramic movement of his slow scan, apartments, shrubbery, roofs of houses, the two parked cars, various trees. Where would this person be, not here yet, not here yet, not here yet. There, a girl on a bicycle. Larry looked at her face -- she was twenty feet away and slowing, her head turning, her eyes looking toward him. He saw her eyes rotating the final cycle to meet his eyes and catching one another synchronously.

Thought waves churning yet matching, matching yet churning. So, Larry thought, I love you too. I see my love for you in your eyes, in the awareness in your brain, in the love you have for me in the now and in the future. This will be my husband, she thought. So? Larry thought. They both recognized, together, that they had been staring at each other. Should I look away? both of them thought, and saw in each other's thoughts simultaneously. Larry gave a brief nod, flustered by the brain lock, but also intrigued. Here was a remarkable person. Someone with thought patterns more like himself than anyone. Although she was probing beyond his understanding he felt quite comfortable, even resigned. Like being in a warm bath.

He took the guitar off his lap and placed the bottom peg on the cement, "Hello," Larry said, unsure of what motivated him to speak, it just seemed like the right thing to do. Again the distant smell of onions cooking, caramelizing. He sat up straighter, just slightly, slowly. "Hi," the girl said back, resting one foot on the curb, the bicycle beneath her now stopped, slightly tilted toward him. "My name is Larry," Larry said, inviting. She blushed just slightly, then realized it wasn't necessary. "I'm Lisa," she said.

They both simultaneously scanned the full and complete brains of one another. Up high, parents and grandparents immediately joined in, intervening at first, then examining. Hmm. Actually, rather well-matched for one another. But geographically quite separate. Larry and Lisa looked back at each other's past and forward into each other's future. Things would be different, maybe with sorrow and separation, but still overwhelming love. Larry and Lisa both blushed. Both of them tried to look away, but couldn't... they had fallen into each other's souls and were enamored by their revelations. They both blushed deeper.

Then quite suddenly they realized where they were. The sun beating down on them. A car rumbling past on a side street. The cricket across the street chirping under the bushes. Birds in a distant tree chattering. The smell of the humid summer air. The brains and thoughts of neighbors. Bees humming around fuchsia shrubbery one house down the street. The subway trolley car passing a quarter mile away. The whole subway system, people on their way to shopping, jobs, summer school, visiting friends. The whole city. Billions of people in the world.

"Do you go to school here?" Lisa asked. "Yeah, M.I.T.," Larry answered. "But I'm working for the summer. And you?" "I'm working down at the park during the summer," Lisa answered, "I go to B.U.". They gently touched each other's hearts, namaste. In each of their brains, the piece of God connected and they recognized themselves as part of the whole, a tiny piece of the Big Plan, destiny carried out in fate. All their actions the results of twenty years of socialization, hundreds of years of acculturation, thousands of years of evolution. "So then, maybe I'll see you around," Lisa said, pushing off from the curb, pressing her lips together and smiling. "See you later," Larry replied. Larry watched as she rode away and then picked up his guitar, strummed some chords, and noticed that all his breath had been sucked out of him like a deserted seashell.

*2*

Larry visited Lisa at the park the next day, chatted with her briefly, and got her phone number. He called her a couple days later and asked if she would like to go out for dinner and a movie on Saturday. He felt skittish at first, but he figured it could possibly be something magical and, what the hell, you only go around once. They chatted and flirted a bit at dinner and afterward, instead of going to a movie, they sat in Larry's car in the restaurant parking lot for a while and talked. A bluish mercury streetlamp a few houses away lit up the inside of Larry's car; angles of light tinged the dashboard and upholstery a bluish-gray. His brain became entranced in her love tractor-beams as they conversed, while she latched onto every single thought and mental connection in his past and future.

Of course, there was Larry's mother. Lisa first reviewed Larry's relationship with his mother from his childhood and didn't reach any terrible conclusions -- no babies dropped from cribs or locked into closets -- but then she ran head-on into his mother's hook into his brain, her safety tether. Now, she'd been here before with other men and even with other Jewish boys. But Larry's mother made a quick feint, faster than Lisa could react. Like a mouse ducking into its hole once the owl comes swooping down. His Mom and Lisa touched each other through him: Lisa noticed the world-travel spirit of his Mom. Lisa smelled money, which was okay by her; it meshed well with her formerly higher class position. Larry noticed the glint of chrome out of the corner of his eye and a whiff of garlic from the restaurant.

Then Lisa connected to Larry's grandparents. First on his father's side things were fairly sublime... his Grandpa had been an architect, very engineering- and creative-oriented, with a certain refined outlook. She lingered there briefly, but since she had dated mostly engineering types she knew his demeanor implicitly, like a sculptor knows his marble. Larry's Grandma, more the intellectual, led the role of the old-schooled family matriarch. Lisa and his Grandma didn't have a single thing to offer each other. Not because of their differences, but because of their similarities. They were sisters in approach -- in fact, Lisa had previously dated an architect, so they had much in common.

His mom's parents, however, were entirely a different matter. Strongly psychic and protective, Grandma Flo skipped straight over Lisa's connection and went for Lisa's Dad. Which was curious... he was deceased, but at one time had been a minor captain of industry. A good deal of sparks and righteousness flew between the grandparents. Was he a just employer? Was he a good family man? Was he spiritually enlightened? How was it that he left his wife widowed?

After five minutes or so Lisa and Larry felt like outside detached observers. Out of the corners of his eyes Larry noticed the movement of shadows as people left the restaurant, entered their cars, and left the lot. Occasionally he heard the sound of a car door closing. The gods and the spirits of the past had an agenda of their own to settle however -- Lisa and Larry were merely conduits for the communication between other souls. Eventually, Lisa somehow gained the upper hand again and began a more critical scan of Larry's business skills, with a background check for odd acquaintances or occurrences. Being the peculiar introvert that Larry was, this proved a bit frustrating to her: she had difficulty understanding how he could progress only by means of mental love, without firm relationships, and continue to be a creator. And he couldn't find a direct way to explain it to her. To some extent this piqued her interest. She would become involved then, to see how this was done.

Finally she ran into Larry: his own love for himself. The self-referential alliance of his soul from his death to his birth. She could see a circle, but couldn't quite connect it with her earlier observations. The echoes of her scan from Larry's love of himself only seemed like prattle across the wide scream of cosmic background; she missed that the subtle backdrop had already chosen its target. She felt bewildered but curious at the same time and hung on until she was sure that she had traced out the full delineation. Then, after what seemed like ages, but was probably only four minutes, she gave up. She would just have to continue without knowing. Then it occurred to her that maybe it was just Larry's loneliness, the hollow vibrations of the emptiness in his soul. She wasn't sure. She could see the stars, galaxy, and universal Gods he touched. She pursed her lips.

"I wish this would last forever," Larry said aloud, knowing of course that it wouldn't. Even by speaking of it the experience was slowing, winding down, coming to an end. But he also knew that now he would love her forever, the rest of his life, and hold her in his soul, take her around the horn with him, back into his reborn body, and carry the seed from his beginning to allow the recognition of eyes meeting again for the first time. Larry sighed and instinctively looked at his watch. It was half past midnight.

*3*

Larry and Lisa had been married for several years, with two young children, a boy and a girl. Larry sat outside on the patio and relaxed, enjoying the coincidence of the clear skies, cool June weather, and welfare of a Sunday afternoon. He glanced around at the tall potted plants: they looked healthy, the one nearest the yard needed some water. Tim would be out soon, no doubt. Larry felt fortunate to have an intelligent and loving son like Tim; whenever Tim was around, Larry felt that they would each gain some new perspective.

Tim slid open the glass door and came outside. "Hi Dad," Tim smiled and bounced around, with a freshly cleaned Popsicle stick in his hand. With a slightly curious look on his mind, he was still exploring the world, learning with each interaction. Larry could softly hear the stereo from inside and the voice of his daughter. "Hi Tim," Larry smiled back, reaching his hand out to tousle the boy's hair just slightly. "Wanna shoot down planes?" Tim asked, closing the door. He treated his Dad like a gigantic toy: an incredibly complex plaything that could be moved and talked to and explored for reactive intricacies. Larry smiled and nodded once. "Sure," he replied, having played this game with Tim once before.

Larry couldn't remember how it started. Oh yeah. He was out on the porch when Tim had wandered out with a napkin-full of cookies from Lisa. After sitting for a while Tim had asked "have you ever been in a war?" (Larry answered no, he hadn't). A plane flew over, high up, no bigger than a high-soaring eagle. "Pkew," Tim had started, aiming his fingers in a gun shape at the plane. "What are you doing?" Larry asked. "Shooting down the plane, here it comes," Tim played. Larry touched the back of the young boy's brain with his thoughts -- Tim had no malice, it was just a game to him, a sport, like playing pinball. "Sure," Larry repeated, to return himself back from his memory of last time, ready to deal with whatever the present would bring.

"Here," Tim said, handing Larry the Popsicle stick, "you use this. I'll use..." Tim glanced around, and picked up a stick from the ground -- a foot-long stick had fallen from a nearby tree. "Okay," Larry agreed, considering how he should hold the Popsicle stick. He took a quick glance up through the sliding glass door into the living room: beyond the antique dining table and chandelier, his wife worked in the kitchen, talking to their daughter. His wife sent an acknowledgment thought packet back to Larry; their daughter, noticing the packet, gave a quick glance, noticed that Tim was outside with Larry, and turned back to talk to Lisa.

In the distance they could hear the thrum of the freeway. Then just a slightly different drone... incoming plane. They both raised their eyebrows and looked around at the sky. "Over there!" Tim said, pointing to the hills to the South. Sure enough a small prop plane approached from that direction. "Still too far away Colonel," Larry said. "Okay sir," Tim answered back, "tell me when." Watching the enemy approaching Larry saw a Nazi Luftwaffe, Tim a combination of imaginary enemy crafted from films and cartoons. "Ready guns," Larry commanded. Tim held the back end of the stick about an inch from his eye, precisely following the plane's trail. "Fire!" Larry commanded. "Pkew pkew pkew pkew pkew," Tim sounded out. Then "Got him! Here he comes..." Tim reached out and made a grabbing motion with his hand, grabbed the air, and squeezed a tight fist. "Here dad, put this in the bag," Tim said, holding the fallen and captured enemy plane in his hand. Larry reached down for the imaginary bag, opened it, and Tim dropped in the plane.

They waited patiently for another plane, and then another. "Is the bag getting full yet?" Larry asked. "Nah," Tim replied. A mid-afternoon breeze gave a slight ripple to the potted plants. "Oh look," Larry pointed to the side at an approaching jet. "Pkew pkew pkew pkew pkew pkew," Tim said. He reached out his hand and grabbed the fallen plane; Larry opened the bag, and Tim gingerly set in his prize.

The glass door slid open "How you two doing out here?" Lisa asked. "Just fine," Larry answered. "Yeah, we got six of 'em already," Tim answered. "That's good," Lisa said, although with her eyes looking at Larry she raised an eyebrow of concern. Larry gave a marginal shrug to indicate that it was only a game -- nothing to get concerned about. "April needs a ride to ice skating soon," Lisa smiled, halfway closing the glass door, then furling down her lower lip.

Larry broke off his shooting game with Tim and waited for April to get ready. He picked up a handful of other small twigs from the patio and brought them in to the trashcan in the kitchen. He sniffed around the kitchen, which still had a lingering scent from baking cookies. Passing on the cookies, he took an apple from the fruit basket. April appeared wearing her skirt and legwarmers and carrying her skate bag, so they headed out toward the car and drove to the ice arena.

April had been attending ice skating lessons for about five months, every Sunday. Once in the car they entered into their little routine... they chatted a bit. April had a peculiar mix of angst and relief about her graduation from elementary school -- relief that it would soon be summer, but a twinge of sorrow and vexation that she might miss her friends. Almost like eating the last brownie, enjoying it but also missing it.

"So what activities do you guys have planned?" Larry asked. "Sports day, picnic day, and signature day," April pursed her lips. "What's signature day?" Larry asked. "That's when you go around and get everybody's signatures," April answered, as if the answer were all too obvious, duh. "Well," Larry raised one eyebrow, "when you get your friend's signatures, then get their phone numbers too. That way, you can call them up and visit them in the summer." Larry turned and nodded once to his daughter, feeling that he adequately resolved the problem of impending sorrows.

They sat in silence for a while -- April in her thoughts, Larry listening respectfully. After a few minutes he turned the volume up just slightly on the radio.

As they entered the main door Larry looked up at the nearby thermometer: 52 degrees. Larry undraped his jacket from his arm and put it on, zipping it up to the top. As the Zamboni smoothed the ice before class, twenty or so kids and teens milled about in little groups, some just chatting, some putting their skates on, some of the younger boys chasing each other around. April and Larry sat down in their usual place; April opened her bag and took out her skates, careful to avoid scratching them on the zipper. Larry watched her normal skate-putting-on routine: special socks, three taps on the backs of the blades, the lacing rigmarole, stretching. The Zamboni beeped once and exited the ice.

Finished stretching, April put on her classroom sticker, turned, smiled and waved to Larry, and gave a little point to indicate that she was heading out to her class. Larry nodded and got up to go sit by one of the back windows to read. As he sat down and opened his magazine he glanced up to see April already chatting with one of her girlfriends.

Behind him were tall windows, sill to ceiling. The sun shone outside on a garden, a meeting place, banquet rooms, and places for weddings. Another world beyond the windows -- warm and sunny outside, a beautiful green lawn, the flowers of late June in full bloom. Inside -- synthetic rubber floors, wood walls with Plexiglas tops for hockey protection, and ice. Outside, people being inspired by their plans, or crossing the spiritual bridge to married life. Inside, people enjoying the thrill of living in the now, slide and wind, glide and grace.

Larry thought back to when he was seven and used to skate here. The first tentative steps over the wood threshold onto the ice, the clink of skate on hard ice, the change in gravity, the slide and movement, the smell of the cold air, the feel of bumps and tiny potholes in the ice. Larry wasn't anywhere as near an accomplished skater as his daughter. When he was younger he skated just for fun. After skating a while his nose and ears would be freezing. Huffing into his hands over his mouth and nose, the warmth and moisture helped briefly. He was too embarrassed to cup his ears, however. He tried different gliding motions, simple at first, skates out to the side. Then a more serious push, slight crouch, quick pushes diagonally to the back. When he was really moving the cold air slipping through the hairs on his arms would give him goosebumps. After twenty minutes on the ice, after working up some sweat, the rim of moisture along his hairline would evaporate and be quite cold. He still remembered the strangeness of taking a break from the ice, skating over and lifting up one foot at the threshold, stepping onto the rubberized floor, the other foot following, gravity returning, the sudden change to thunk thunk walking. The oddity of various body parts all being at inappropriate and different temperatures. Then looking up, past the windows, at the strange world of grownups and marriages.

Outside, next to a stone fountain, a soon-to-be-wed couple in their early twenties posed for a picture. Children of relatives were running around. The groom glanced up, his gaze passing Larry's seat and into the rink, watching the kids, mostly seven- to ten-year-olds, skating. Larry, feeling his age, watched the gazes of the children and the young adults passing, each into the other's world, wondering where they were going; Larry pondered where time had gone, and how it had taken him here.