Lyrics are from Fall on Me, by REM. Review if you like.
(keep your conscience in the dark)
isn't anything at all
(melting statues in the park)
The ribbon is red, probably pretty once, but now faded and splotchy and muddy where it's been sitting out in the rain. A little girl somewhere undoubtedly missed it a few weeks ago, but it's been here a while.
I don't know why I'm sitting in the rain watching ribbons fade to dull brown when I have a perfectly warm apartment to go back to. Well, it's not really rain, rather a light mist, more annoying than anything else, but sitting in the rain sounds so much more listless than sitting in the drizzle. I'm not really sad, or really happy, or really mad, or really anything, I guess.
There's a statue of someone I've never heard of off to the left, all nasty and broken and pigeon-dropping stained, and I can't help but think that if I'm going to be immortalized in a statue like that, I'll just take my gravestone.
It's strange the people you see in the park in the mist. A homeless man, who's now residing under my coat – he needs it more than I do. One of those upper-middle class housewives with nothing to do but jog around in her pretty, expensive jumpsuits. A little boy with an ice cream, lost and crying. His mother, running to find him and get him out of the rain. Tourists, stopping to look at the statue, asking who is this supposed to be?
No one knows.
No one takes notice of the ribbon, the only real color out here, in the concrete, and the mostly-dead trees, and the gray half-light. It seems odd to me that the only color goes forgotten.
"It's funny, isn't it," the homeless man rasps, "everyone's here and none of us know why."
I'm kind of cold without my coat.
Two lovers wander by, gazing adoringly into each other's eyes, oblivious to everything around them. It's a little disgusting, and a little sweet, and I'm just a little cynical. I'll give them a year, at most. My new companion gives them an almost forlorn look, and I get the feeling that he's been there.
It's hard to imagine, but I try. This homeless man wearing my coat, shivering in the mist, unshaven and unwashed, looking so hard-done-by, in love. Maybe he had a wife once. Maybe he has kids who don't want to speak to him. Maybe his wife died, or ran off with the mailman, or maybe he was an alcoholic and she left him, or maybe this, maybe that.
Is it that easy to fall? From on top of the world to licking up table scraps?
Never mind that year. I'll give them another month.
The more I watch people, the more I wonder what happened to the man. I've always been one of those people who gets some seed planted in the brain, and there it goes, I can't stop it. Fully aware that I'm opening up an uncontrollable spigot, I ask him what brings him to the park in the drizzle.
He glances at me sideways, and says simply, "Circumstance, opportunity… The company is better. You?"
"Nowhere else to go."
"Now, I have nowhere else to go. You, you're what? 20? College student?"
"High school dropout."
He doesn't say anything else, and I don't elaborate. Circumstance and opportunity, huh? Isn't that all life is? What happens, and what you make of it. We're all here, and none of us know why.
The silence drags.
"Why…" I begin, and he turns his attention from the ribbon on the ground to me. "Why do we fight so hard to stay alive, and press on, and do all those things, when there's no reward?"
He doesn't answer for a while, and I have to think that even dirty and patched as he is, he looks like some sort of intellectual, some sort of professor, a great thinker. What might have happened if he didn't end up here?
"I suppose that's why people have religion." He says softly, "To believe there is a reward. But anyway, why does a mother raise a child when she knows he's going to leave someday, and she's going to miss him terribly? Why do people who've been hurt by love remarry?"
"Momentary lapse of judgement?" I offer sardonically. He smiles humorlessly.
A man walks by, handing out flyers for something or other, smiling and being so congenial, and no one takes any notice of him either. He doesn't offer one to either of us, and walks right over the ribbon, leaving a thin strip of a footprint.
"So what is the meaning of life?" I ask, almost jokingly. The homeless man stares at the ribbon for a long moment, thinking.
"See that?" And he points to it. I nod. "It's still red, even though it's caked with mud, drenched, and probably been sitting here longer than we have. It's still the only color around. That's the meaning of life. To just be, even though you've seen it all, even if you're not shining, even if you're not perfect."
The flyer-man isn't smiling so big anymore. I see a few of his flyers on the ground, soaking up the mud, and another few are in the trash can. I figure it must be for a religion, because what do people want to hear less than that they should change? He still doesn't take notice of us.
His suit is as gray as the statue, and he stands out just about as much.
Little ice-cream boy and his mother walk by, and she's quietly berating him for something, holding his hand tightly. Was the man beside me like that once? He must have been, right? Everyone's a kid once. I was a kid once, but my mother didn't treat me like that.
Night is falling fast, and the man gets up. He nods at me, offers my coat back, but I tell him to keep it. He looks at me as though he hasn't been treated kindly in a long time, and thanks me, walking away to sleep who-knows-where. I know I have to go home now, I'm cold and wet and hungry, and the people in the city at night aren't the type anyone should hang around.
But I don't want to move. I guess I've grown comfortable on the bench, surrounded by the gray, and I know I won't be here tomorrow because I have work and all manner of things to do. As the night falls, the people filter away, slowly.
The lovers walk by separately. I make a vow never to fall in love.
Circumstance and opportunity… We're all here and none of us know why.
The ribbon is still red.