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The Looking Boy

By Leah Gray All Rights Reserved ©



From here, it almost looks like Jesus. Not the man himself, or the god, or whatever you want to think of him, but a statue. A bit like the one in Rio or something. There’s a gap in the trees, where some tall pointy thing sticks out behind it. And then from the trees, there’s two branches in this gap, that act like arms to the structure. A man on a cross. He would have a view up there. Only of the houses though, and of the planes when they come down to the airport. He could probably see the airport too, maybe even just the edges of the water.

Standing at the edge of a city office, looking between the skyscrapers at whatever suburb that is, I think he’d have a pretty view. All big views are really. If you look out from any side of this office you’d get a sight. It would be different for all, but you’d see the other city towers and maybe a few houses in each. From my cubicle, I get a view of two blank walls. If I looked behind me, I’d see rows of bent heads and coffee cups. The broadening picture seems far off. But here, standing at the window, it could be Jesus out there. But in the end he’s just a pole, or a chimney, or something like that, and really, he can’t see anything at all.

When a boy looks up to the sky, what is it he sees? “It’s a bird,” he says, but no one’s there to listen. Anyway, who cares about the faintest outline of a bird? “It could be a hawk.” He’s young enough to be ignorant to the rational possibilities of birds. “Maybe an albatross, or a pterodactyl.” He laughs at himself, a small chuckle, very light, and passed off in an instant like the darting flight of the bird. Dinosaurs are different to tooth fairies and jolly red men. They’re the ones that are real, but more people expect to wake up to wings and a sleigh than to a tyrannosaurus stomping around their yard. By the time people are old enough to learn about dinosaurs, they’re old enough to understand they’re not coming back. It’s different with people.

When she died, he looked for her for days and days.

“She’ll always be with you in your heart.”

He searched for his heart, but found nothing. He was too young, far too young to understand. He was now, just a boy, and one looking for his sister.

“Maybe it’s just a pigeon.” And he sidesteps the sky to look out at the houses. His eyes swept skywards when he heard the plane, but he wasn’t looking at the blue. It was a big one. “Maybe from Africa.” Because Africa is big. “But it has small people.” He was big because he ate a lot.

“If you eat your crusts your hair will go curly.” His sister always used to eat her crusts.

“Why doesn’t my hair go curly?”

“Because you have to eat your vegetables too.” His hair was still flat.

Maybe one day, he’ll wonder where he went, when his eyes left the view, to follow that unknown entity through the air, to disappear, to find a heart.

It’s hard to wonder where someone went, when you see their hands as your own. Perhaps you were just a breeze then, the bird your flight, the sky your limit. There’s little in the sky but space, you could never live from it. The sky has many limitations. Sometimes, I look into the sky, at the birds, at the air, at the endless space, and fear falling through it; falling through the clouds of an empty canvas. Everyone wants to paint their picture, but few earn a living from a brush. Perhaps if I could, in my picture I’d have curly hair, or when I found my heart, it would be more than a stone cold grave. I’d have everything, something, nothing. I’d be a boy, gone along his way, left of all purposes. Start afresh, but with no need to even be anyone anymore. There’d be something there. There’d be no need to find a heart.

There’s a little boy who stands on the corner of the department store, across from the bank. He always stands there, but not as if waiting, hiding more like. I can see him from here, a singular stillness from everything that passes. In his little groove, cut out from the building, his body of stone is always in shadow. You never see his hands, they’re thrust deep into his pockets. You never see his eyes either, his face enclosed behind a hood. You wonder if he even has hair. But you can’t help but think, that someone like that, that has so much character through the grooves of his jumper, must have hair.

There’s a plaque above his spot, but it talks about the history of the building, nothing about him. Sometimes someone will stop to read the plaque, and question a friend about the boy, but neither know anything. A tourist might come, eyes blazing, and crouch down to hide half their travel-weary body behind the boy’s, much to the approval of the camera. For the most though, the boy goes unnoticed, his unseen face frozen in time. And you can’t help but wonder that he was doing something, going somewhere, searching for something, when on the way he became lost, and every lost memory is one forgotten.

Sometimes, I think it’d be nice to be this boy; standing there with no name, no face, no identity. No heart. No one knows you. You can stand there all day, and each person that passes won’t know any more about you than the one before. You don’t have to be searching, you can be a frozen heart. You don’t have to be anything but the boy on the corner of the department store, across from the bank.

But I’m not the boy. Instead I’m a moving figure, traversing through moments, perhaps lost, but not frozen.

When lunch comes there’s a general bustle about the office. The elevator hums and clicks in the foyer, and people walk past, exiting easily whilst others return, already feeling nostalgic over their sparse break. I rise alone and take the elevator down with a crowd of other people. They talk loudly, as if eager to be heard after spending so long in hushed voices.

Gratefully I take to the streets, just as busy but with undistinguishable conversations. Nearby there are some people in blue shirts and as I pass I take a flap of what they’re handing out. There’s always someone there, and I find no harm in getting a hint about the newest cause. In bold it says something about discovering Jesus, and I throw it in the next bin.

“Who’s that?” The little boy asks.

“It’s Jesus,” his sister said.

He had heard of Jesus.

“What’s he doing on a window?”

“It’s a church, he’s always here.”

“What are we doing here?”

But he didn’t hear her answer, his gaze was fixed on the window, and the closed eyes of the man.

Back in the office, standing at the window, there’s a plane above, a solid thrum, and I shield my hand against the glare of the sun. There could be anyone on that plane, there could be something. I had been foolish, once foolish to believe that everything meant something; that crusts meant curls, and death meant finding hearts. Just like I’ve never gotten curls, I’ve never found my heart.

“You know there are stars up there.”

The boy turned to his sister. “But it’s daytime.”

“But they’re still there, just sitting and waiting to come out.”

“Do those stars hold wishes?”

“Of course. Every star will fall one day, it’s just a wish waiting.”

“They die then don’t they?”

“Yes. But when they fall, they bring someone good.”

“Is it the same with people?”

The little hand reaches out to touch the fingers, cold.

“Come on now.”

And he grabs the hand of his mother, to leave the falling star.

From here, Jesus is much too far away. Standing there, holding himself, he could be anything. He could be a tree, or a statue of a boy. The one in Rio in the end, is just a statue; stone, heartless. It doesn’t matter what he can see; the water, the airport. A pole can’t see anything.

When she died, I searched for her for days and days. I searched through stars, through boys, through crusts. But my hair will never go curly.

I take the elevator down to the bottom floor, sliding slowly through the revolving doors. The sun is rotting and I make my way through the heavy streets. I stamp my way past the little boy now. His face covered. There’s plenty of people milling around, but none stop to look at him. I don’t either, not at first. But then I go back, and take a look around at the people who pay no heed. I pause, falter, wonder. My two knees bend, a hand on his head.

“If you believe enough, yes, it is the same with people. All you need to do is look.”

The boy had curls.

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