It's been easy, up 'til now. To watch, to wonder why he comes every day. Where he's from, why he's alone. The dark-haired boy in his clarett duffle coat. Not a boy any more, I suppose. I think of him that way because that's how I know him, how I've seen him, all these years. From the first time, when he came with his Mother in the rain, jumping in puddles, laughing as she sighed and hurried him along. Still in love with the world, not having inherited her weariness of it.
Different, now. Taller, but stooped; hunched over, slender and wiry, not an inch of puppy fat left on his bones.
The others come, try to peer past me through the window, whispering to him. Calling. I urge them back, like always, in case he turns, in case he sees. It would break my heart if he did, if he ran and never came again. There will come a time, of course, when he does, when there's nothing but aching absence, day after day of his not being here. Of awful, awful hope that he'll round the corner, lean against the wall or lamppost, take a moment to check his phone, catch his breath.
I know. It's always that way. Unless they come to the door, unless they ask to be let inside. Then, things are sometimes different. Not better, but different. I remember a time when I was the boy in the rain, before I found myself this side of the window. Strange days, strange memories; hazy and dreaming. Not entirely real.
They're the same. The cold and whispering ones at my back. The ones who've forgotten. Well, not quite the same. They remember less, don't see as clearly as I do.
How beautiful he is. What he dreams of. There, on the street, at the bus-stop. Sometimes sitting on the broken garden wall, sometimes smoking a cigarette. Sometimes smiling and muttering to himself, some story that he'll never tell. Except to me.
I want to call, like they do, want him to turn and see and not run, but want to know us, to be with us. One of us. But I won't. I can't. No matter how desperately I want to, how viciously the songs sting my lips.
I want him to live, even if it means he doesn't come tomorrow or ever again. I want him to have his life, as I didn't, as I never wanted. That world, beyond the glass, with its rain and concrete and disappointment. . .it was never for me. I was lucky; the ones that saw me, sang to me, did so when I was very young, no older than he is now. I never had to suffer what I'd already seen so much of, never had to worry or wonder where that world would shat me after it had chewed me up and swallowed me inside its diseased belly.
No, I was allowed to be a rumour, a myth, like the rest of them. My housemates, my brothers and sisters. Blessed in that condition, I rode the stories once told of me, the dreams once had of me. Until they stopped, and there was no one and nothing for me to know or be any more.
Maybe he will, some day. Maybe some stray or errant half-myth will reach his ear, and he'll know me. The doors in his soul will open and I will slip through like a strain of forgotten music, a childhood dream. And I'll meet him there, in the chambers and corridors of his mind, that I know so well. So well.
Until then, I watch, as he rakes trembling fingers through his hair in the rain, as he looks up into it, smiling so sadly, as though reading the sorrow his life will write in the heavens. As though knowing I watch, I want, I know and need, yet unable to meet me, to turn and see.
That's all right. As it should be. No place for boys, this. Especially pretty ones.
It hurts to tear my eyes away, hurts to divorce myself from the story I know would have been, had I continued to look. No. I won't allow it. He has his own, and I have mine. Here, in this darkness, this insect-hive uncertainty. Here, where so many tomorrows come to die and forget themselves.
Here, amongst the other vermin-souls, where we can mate and murder and cannibalise ourselves endlessly, until we don't know where one starts and the other ends.
The door knocks, the world stills and bleak elation fills my shattered heart.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.