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12 May 2018

Krzysztof Wirpsza

Arlequin

You'd obviously find it hard to believe. There he was, down among the magnolias, moving shakily from tree to tree. His flimsy silhouette trembled like a thin paper figure touched by wind, the tight fitting checkered costume, a funny hat and a black half-mask suggesting an actor, a mime perhaps, or a student who made pocket money by posing for photographs in touristy hangouts... But why here? Why in the shady, backside part of park, adjacent to the industrial district, where no main avenue led and no people walked by?


Something strange hang in the air. The magnolias, yes. They enveloped him, devoured as it were, absorbing into an aura of sweet smell and exploding freshness. His delicate silhouette merged into the surrounding pink and fuchsia, only to reappear a few seconds later, giving a sensation of a whole scenery being some kind of a puzzle, a game of of light played with flickering glints. One of the pieces, formerly seen as distinct, now melted into the flurry disappearing as separate entity. You could retrieve it, you could take it out but that left a hole in its place, and that hole, that gnawing emptiness, you didn't quite know what to make to of it. And it persisted, it was there. You could pretend not to see, of course, but it wouldn't change the fact.

It was as if he looked for something. Scanning with patience, methodically, like a person who'd just lost his watch, he seemed unfinished, like a figure just appearing on canvas under painter's brush. Could whatever he looked for be hanging down from a tree? Or perhaps lie on the ground, haplessly abandoned, half-burried in the freshly fallen petals? That searching, that searching movement made him look even stranger, an apparition perhaps, a noiseless sylph you glimpsed on the zebra crossing, or almost bumped at at Wallmart's, and then instantly forgot. But do such things happen?

Encounter

The world is incomprehensible. We won't ever understand it, we won't ever unravel its secrets. Thus we mus treat the world as it is: a sheer mystery.
Carlos Castaneda

Most of the time we spend convincing ourselves they do not. They do, of course, but in the movies. Children's books. Pulp literature. Not in reality, much as we would want them to, much as we would imagine them, write stories, screenplays, embalm them in the soft cocoon of fiction. Reality is just so much, erm...whats the word? Thicker? We are quite used to circles left by our coffee mugs on tabletops, we bear the sound of metal chairs grinding on tiles, or the greasy stains our fingers leave on the surface of clean glass. Still, it's quite different to spot an Arlequin.

It was a shady place where he stood. Next to a meadow, all discreetly squeezed in behind the row of plane trees. An area of separate reality, a niche hidden discreetly on the wayside of civilized life, a small bit of a dream somehow left out by picnickers, forgotten by lovers, still waiting to be discovered by one curious soul.

And then there was the dog. It loitered freely on the grass, big and thin on spindly legs, perhaps an Irish wolfhound, but I wasn't sure. Wait, it was huge. Almost up to his waist, with thick fur, too thick and tangled for any dog I had seen. Was my friend really a mime preparing for show? This could more easily explain the dog. If it was a dog, after all, and if it could be explained.

Beckoning

There is a huge silence inside each of us that beckons us into itself, and the recovery of our own silence can begin to teach us the language of heaven.
Meister Eckhart


The park was full of twenty somethings cuddling in curious poses, spread out on grass and benches drinking from plastic cups, laughing, or crowding around stalls with toys and candy. But clearly nobody saw him. They just did not pay attention, which is natural, I guess you have plenty of time when you are twenty, and not much pressure so you can hang out on benches and talk about things mostly imagined like movies or dates or college grades, or latest trends in this or that. I would guess magnolias are just flowers to you then, fact that they'll die in a just few days, this fleeting memory of transience, remaining never quite grasped and never quite there. Or anyway, to put it short. There's an age, and a whole life for many, where all flowers are just this: flowers.

He kept maundering among the blossoming trees, slim, nimble, unsure of his next step, holding on to branches like he was a groping blind, a stranger here, not exactly sure what was real – and what just make-believe. How could you tell, say, a glass vase from a soap-bubble if you saw both for the first time? And so he touched. And smelled and contemplated, and got astonished, and literally froze each moment then moved again. What kind of pantomime was that?

Then he made his beckoning gesture towards me and it indeed was strange for I was standing quite aside on one of the main park lanes. Could there have possibly been some friend of his in the crowd? Maybe a girl who'd helped arrange the performance and then gather money into the hat? Or did he actually beckon at me?

Frankly, it gave me creeps. Did he know I'd noticed? Perhaps he was a spirit, a mischievous one, and in fact not Arlequin, the romantic lover, but Mercury, the god of beggars and thieves? Well, then he'd obviously be here for some precise, and possibly tenebrous goal. Curiosity just didn't let me stop thinking about that, I had to find the missing piece of puzzle, it was a foregone conclusion at that point. And so I suddenly and without even a slight warning sign started in his direction determined, come what may, to unveil the mystery.

Chase

You see all of us go through some doubts. We are afraid of being mad; unfortunately for us of course, all of us are already mad.
Carlos Castaneda

Then it is always the same. The moment you reach to catch, it is not there. Ah, and mind you, never was.

So when I just began walking, in the same moment both the Arlequin and his dog (or what looked like a dog at least but was not) turned their backs on me and disappeared into the bushes.

I felt a sudden pang of indignation. Could that be they just left me there, no explanation, no nothin'? But that was not okay, right? I sped up and reached the place, then plunged into the thicket, heart thumping, and I pressed forward as little twigs hit my face. And I confess it to you, I had no faint idea how and where this would all end, what to actually say and so on. I think I just simply was curious. No, wait a minute, not just that. I was eaten by sharp raving unextinguished curiosity. And, you know what? All I wanted, was to follow the White Rabbit all unto its lair.

I emerged next to a hole in the fence, in a place of trodden earth full of cigarette butts and broken glass. The air smelled of fresh paint and sunny tarmac and across the fence I could see the industrial part of town, with almost no people in sight, only some parked cars against ugly buildings. And then I saw him. Topped with that flat hat that made him similar to one of the musketeers, his head bounced up and down behind the row of parked cars, and I followed it along in secret and stopped when we reached the crossing.

The sun got quite hot although this was only April. With his dog which was surely not a dog at all, the Arlequin turned towards the ruins of an old tram depot. Hidden behind a poster pillar I watched them both walk past the depot's entrance, unused barrier and empty gatehouse. What was he up to in a place like that? Those were areas you where advised not to wander alone, not to wander at all, everybody would tell you that. I ran quickly towards the entrance and hid behind the gatehouse. Then, slowly, I looked out and saw them crossing the sunlit yard, waiting till they both disappeared into the murky depot's building.

I went out into the empty yard, all paved with mortar stones, with some remains of crossing rails and what used to be a city pump in the corner. I looked around and took a deep breath. The place was dead for at least a half of century. Huge windows gaped onto the street, inner walls partly collapsed, rubble, broken glass and junk piled everywhere. Making sure that nobody saw me, I sneaked behind the pump and squatted behind what used to be one of the windows. From my new wantage point I could see the inside of the depot's main hall.. It looked more like an old church with light falling through windows, shadows mixing with bright smudges, air full of swirling dust. Clear and crisp, like cut of from pages of a comic book, Arlequin moved now silently across the hall, very close to, so close I was wondering if I should perhaps say aloud his name. Believe me I was about to.

But then, suddenly, he and his dog just walked straight into the wall.


Wall

Door:“Why it's simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don't you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing's impossible!”

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass



I owe you an explanation here. No, there was no door nor window nor a gate nor even a hole in the wall for that matter. It was just an old grey wall with chipped plaster and some faded out graffiti. Both Arlequin and his dog turned towards it and walked in and disappeared from sight. I blinked – and they were gone.

I remember I racked my brains on it for a longer while. Surely no psychic guides exist, except in imagination, and also no secret doors, and hidden universes, but what to do when suddenly reality flips showing you the antipodes of everything you have ever been thought or known?

I know you will think I am crazy but what could one do? If on your very eyes a somebody you've never actually met walks into a wall, you try to duplicate it, no matter how hard that would seem, no matter what anyone else would say or think. Say, wouldn't you? For what other meaning it could have than that you too could enter? Have you ever thought of that?

I felt like stupid there, standing and staring, hearing people approach on the sidewalk behind the windows of the opposite wall. They laughed and chatted and I could almost feel their curious glances, almost smell their innocent perfume and sweat. I just surely didn't want to explain anything to anyone at that point, caring even less for how surprised they'd be when they see me alone inside those ruins. One thing for sure, portals in walls didn't ever get activated by accident.

I sneaked into the hall, trying to move as quietly as possible. I came near that wall, put my palms against the wet, cold surface and closed my eyes. The young people appeared behind the windows all in the midst of their lively conversation. Maybe one of them looked in just in time, maybe they even glimpsed the thing itself but immediately shrugged it off as irrational (or even completely thrown out from memory or told themselves they'd smoked too much pot last night)?

Anyway, I just walked in.

Room

Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!”
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass


On on the other side there was a room. A modern looking room, completely white, with almost no furnishings, and a long metal minimalist style table with two chairs situated opposite each other. There was also a long, fancy shaped lamp hanging from the ceiling above. It felt much like a hotel room, basic in style, yes, but with a kind of a neutral touch that somehow made you forget you needed any rooms, any chairs and any tables at all. Well, it was definitely not a room like most rooms you hear of these days. The room itself did not matter. What mattered, was Arlequin, sitting at one end of that table, waiting for me to join.

When I too sat, he looked at me and for the first time lifted his mask. I saw a face of man in his forties, with steady gaze, seriously examining me, as if asking, will he fit?. Somehow the smells of hot rust and ancient brick walls were still there in the air with us.

„Congratulations” he said seriously.

„On what?” I asked.

„Why, on reaching that far” he answered. „I see that I managed to tickle your curiosity a bit.”

„I just wanted to know what was going on” I said simply. „And why nobody else sees you. For they don't, do they?”.

He smiled. Only then I noticed he was playing with a Rubik's cube.

„The first lesson,” he said. „The first lesson is here for you to learn. But you already know what I am going to say.”

„I do not,” I said, „I followed you because I was curious.”

„What struck you most?” he asked.

I tried to think.

„You were, well,as if, intertwined. The rest was obvious, it was there. Plain, never missed. People walking, the Sun, the trees... And you....”

„Like I was dissolved into it?”

„Exactly!”

He chuckled. Although naturally solemn, he could suddenly turn cheerful. He switched.

„See, this never happens but the last moment, and is never here but there, and it's never this but something else.”

„Sort of” I agreed.”And it's never what you thought it would be, right?”

He nodded. Then he suddenly flipped back to serious.

„Welcome to Doorway One”, he whispered putting the Rubik's Cube down, fully solved.

„The what?” I asked.

„The Door,” he kept whispering moving his lips in an exagerrated way. The lamp suddenly started to flicker.„And it leads you beyond the Universe,” he continued with a more and more of a theatrical face,”...beyond the known. And it comes at the very beginning of things, of course. That's why we call it the First.”

I was really right there, trying to digest, to chew and swallow all he wanted to say, but ah, it still was tough.

„The First Doorway” he continued. „talks about dissolving into the world. Like losing any personal significance, while you are still alive. See? They used to call me Alkahest, the universal solvent. This was in the times of alchemists. I was then shiny quicksilver among the greyness of world, a hidden though impalpable catch. „Catch me – if you can.”

His face was completely straight now. And then, unexpectedly as ever, he grinned.

I tried to imagine how old he really was.

„Say, did you do that by magic?” I asked.

„Ha, ha,” he laughed. „No. No magic necessary.”


to be continued


First publication on Author's blog: www.doorwaystheory.com


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