The sun was starting its descent toward the now-faintly reddening horizon, while an animated breeze frolicked in and around the trees, over the rolling green, sending leaves into a lively dance. Families and couples were slowly making their way to cars, bicycles or sidewalks leading home. The air was filled with smiles and buoyant laughter, peaceful and harmonic. Everyone had someone, and someone seemed to have everyone they wanted. Mystic communion of souls in celestial love, joined by indissoluble bonds of the unseen numinous. It might have been Zhuangzi’s dream of the butterfly, for all Effete knew … or cared.
Was this really real? This time here … in this place, on this majestic day? Her two greatest blessings were lying spread-eagle on the playground now, looking up at the translucent sky, quietly re-imaging the few clouds floating by into objects of their lively imaginations. Had someone told her she was but an illusory item in an artificial simulation being conducted in an advanced laboratory somewhere, Effete would simply have said “thank you” to the simulators. She might have asked to live in the simulation indefinitely, perhaps in this very place and time, with the sun frozen in course. She could not imagine a more alluring vision of heaven. The simulators could be her gods and goddesses; they had, indeed, fashioned an extraordinarily wonderful day. Or if in the dream of a butterfly, Effete prayed the butterfly would sleep just a bit longer … just a bit.
Angelica was home now with Morris, probably talking over his meeting with Judge Fairman. Able and Moxie were in evening classes at the college, and Lucent was doubtlessly talking to Joy while preparing something exquisite for her newest resident. Sage, Suijnwe, and Grace were probably at their homes, or on the way, and Blue… Effete suddenly felt a pang in her heart. She wished Blue were here with her and the boys. In fact, she felt sad that he had not met them all at the park that afternoon. Of course, she knew why and that made her feel more disquieted, even on such an amazingly delightful day. Blue Poorman was one of the kindest, gentlest men she’d ever known, and he deserved to be treated with dignity and respect … and affection.
This day was made for Blue Poorman – at least as much for him as anyone else – yet in the unreality of it all, Blue was not made for this day. He had been unmade the night before, and so this beautiful dream did not include him. He had faded away at the end of another, all-too abruptly. Like someone suddenly awakening, Blue was gone, leaving behind only an indistinct shadow and vague, dying echoes of an illusion grown in the soul of the sleeper. And where now was this tender man, so full of knowledge, endowed with so many gifts so often overlooked by so many people? Had he ensconced himself away in some dark hole, afraid to be seen by the world? Was anyone looking for him? Wanting him? Needing him? Everyone this day had someone, and someone had everyone they wanted … except Blue Poorman.
Effete noticed a millipede crawling along her left leg, her one left leg with its thousand legs. So much more for so much less, and yet breathtaking in the fascination of the tapestry of life. And the buckeye butterfly flittering around the grass just in front of her, perhaps just awakened from dreaming an entire world now vanished. If the grand, old hickory against which she rested could talk, what tales might he tell? Doubtless sagas of sorrow and romance, intrigue and justice, fighting and playing; legends of the splendid forest that once claimed this land, and the myriad creatures that scurried about, and the people of different skin, who came and left, lived and died. He would tell tales of millipedes and butterflies, and days like this day.
“Are you ready to go home?” Bane called.
Home. Where was home now? Joy’s home had been their home for a little while, but Joy’s home was now at Lucent’s home. Was Lucent’s home their home? They had no home, yet for Rue and Bane home really was where the heart is, and their hearts were wherever Joy Brighterday, Moxie, and the rest of their new family happened to be at any given moment. Home for Effete was the park, this park, this day, and she didn’t want to leave … but it was leaving her. Someone or something was waking up. The dream was ending, or was it beginning again? Had she, perhaps, just spent an afternoon and early evening in reality? If so, she’d rather not fall asleep again to reassemble the nightmare reality she’d been blessed to leave for such a sliver of time … sacred time. She had none; time had her, and she coveted the peelings Father Time doled out for the rest, peace, and joy she had rested and enjoyed this day. Would he give her another such morsel?
Would the Grand Old Man throw some crumbs of warmth and serenity and love to Blue Poorman? Or might the divine simulators create an enjoyable day for such an enjoyable man? Perhaps enter another mockup appropriate for someone so lonely? Could they engineer a soulless soulmate for another soulless simulation? It would drive away the loneliness, at least for a sliver of time … for a sliver of time. Effete gently placed the millipede on the ground, stood and stretched. Her boys ran to her with arms open, and she held them tightly … relishing yet another sliver of time that passes all too quickly, and more so when we try to hold on. But Effete held on for as long as Rue and Bane would allow, and that provided enough satisfaction for the moment because she knew there would be other moments, and they would all be real enough to her.
She started in the direction of the Keener home – their home, Joy’s home, Able’s home – but then turned abruptly at the moderately-sized granite statue of the Archangel Raphael, the Healer, and headed toward the residence of Blue Poorman. Rue and Bane should have asked why, but the day was strange and different and so they said nothing. They just walked silently, contentedly with their mother, who was going to visit a now-cherished friend without any idea of what she might say, or how she might explain their abrupt presence at his door … and he might not even be home, but Effete knew he was, and so she marched on to somehow share the dream, or reality, she was still enjoying so thoroughly.
If Father Time would only give her one more sliver of time this day to sail the tranquil waters of peace and rest and joy … with a dear friend.