A/N: This is an attempt to write about symbolism using two characters of mine from a story that so far has only been written inside my head. Matt is blind-mute and Rob is his best friend. They are neighbours, go to the same school, and all that. Jerold, a guy that's going to be mentioned but won't actually show up, is Matt's guide and interpreter at school.
If people like those two I might stop being lazy and write their full story.
Well, tell me if you do.
SYMBOLS OF LIFE
Rob was playing on his computer. He had gotten to the point in the game where almost all the zombies had been killed and his character was facing the deadliest enemy of all. He pressed combination after combination of keys, too fast for normal eyes to follow his movements, and sometimes even too fast for the computer to process the commands properly. Victory was near, at the tip of his sword. He could feel it, he knew it. Just another attack and…
And someone tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped in surprise and his character was killed by the beast in that second of distraction. Rob turned around to face the bastard who had destroyed his game, mouth ready to yell at him or her or it when he realised who it was. He immediately changed his mind:
'Hey, Matt! Good to see you!'
Rob's killer instincts were replaced by something much happier as Matt smiled to him and put his hands to work on a series of precise movements. The computer game was promptly forgotten as its owner interpreted and mentally translated the message delivered by the moving hands:
Good to see you too. Can you help me?
'You need help?' he asked back, making his voice sound much higher then normal. 'That's news to me! Since when have you become a dependable annoying bitch?' He paused for a second, willing to give his friend the right to defend himself. When Matt only frowned at him and crossed his arms over his chest, Rob decided he could strip off that right. 'I thought you had a policy of never asking us "normal" people to help you with anything. I thought you had a sense of pride that…'
Cut the babbling. I need your help.
With the frown still very much in place, Matt's protest came in a series of very fast and sharp gestures somewhat difficult to follow. Rob understood it all, however, and the muscles in his abdomen tensed as he prepared to exhale a gush of hot air through his mouth.
And don't laugh.
Rob coughed as his maniac laugh was abruptly cut before it could even start by yet another series of well-timed, very precise hand gestures. Not for the first time the boy wondered whether his disabled friend had secret mind-reading abilities. He had considered asking Matt about it before, but the fear of having his theory confirmed made sure that this particular question would remain unanswered.
It took a few seconds for Rob to recover from his friend's unforeseen intervention to one of his favourite quirks. As soon as he did, however, his voice regained its sarcastic tone:
'Ok, then. Sit down and tell me what you need. I'll do my best to serve you, oh my Grand Master!'
Matt's reaction to Rob's playful tone was an equally playful punch on the shoulder. He then sat down on the bed next to the computer and took a deep breath. He could feel Rob was looking at him and waiting for him to explain the situation. Anxiety and a sense of hurt pride made his hands move again faster than normal:
I 'm having trouble with my English homework. We need to write a story involving symbolisms – Rob raised an eyebrow at Matt's pitiful attempt at spelling that last word, for he probably did not know how to say it another way. – and I haven't grasped the whole concept of it yet. I don't know what to do.
'Oh, Matty… I see… I see…' Rob put his hand on his chin and looked calmly at his friend. Matt was biting his lip and scratching his trousers. It was such a rare thing to see the other boy act this way that Rob decided to enjoy the sight a bit longer than necessary before giving a proper reply. 'I think I can help you, but you'll have to go to the park with me. Alone.'
'Yep. No Jerold this time.'
'No "buts". The only things he does is being your interpreter and walk around with you, right? I can do that too! I can already understand almost everything you say, anyway, and just because you are a little taller it doesn't mean you can't hold onto me!'
But… Matt relaxed his shoulders, sighing. Rob's enthusiastic tone told him resistance would be futile this time. All right, but please be careful.
'Don't worry! I won't let dogs and balls and running kids hit you! I'll protect you with my soul if necessary! I'll face even death if it means you're saved from a demoniac football!
'Fine, fine… but we'll have fun! You'll see!'
Rob took Matt's hands and put them over his own face. The blind boy relaxed as his fingers touched the curves, tense muscles and wrinkles of a confident and energetic smile.
'So, Matt, basically symbolism means giving a special value and meaning to something that usually looks boring and common.'
Matt and Rob were walking in the park. It was a beautiful sunny day with a refreshing breeze blowing. Many kids, dogs, old people and weekend athletes had chosen this day to go out as well, and so the park was crowded and noisy. Matt clung firmly to Rob's arm, trusting his friend to keep him out of harm's way while his concentration was solely focused in hearing what he had to say.
'See this park?' Rob made a strange noise as soon as his question was out, realising a bit too late he had made an unfortunate pun. Matt turned to face him with an "I-don't-believe-you-just-asked-that" look, which was only made more intense and intimidating by fact that he was about a head taller than Rob and wore gangster-type sunglasses. The smaller boy lost his speech for a second before remembering he was supposed to apologize. 'Sorry, I didn't mean it…'
As soon as he said that Matt's lips contorted into a smile that showed all his teeth, a smile usually used by Rob when his pranks were successful. It told the professional prankster that he had been the subject of a prank this time.
'Ok, I get it. You're trying to embarrass me on purpose. Or because you're an ass. Or because I insisted you come here with me against your will and all your worst fears. Fine, whatever. But I warn you that it won't work again.'
Matt raised an eyebrow. He stopped walking and released Rob's arm in order to speak to him:
If you think you can have fun with me, then expect me to have fun with you as well.
'Damn you.' With that, the duo resumed walking, and after a few seconds of silence Rob spoke again. 'But back to what I was saying… everything around us can be used as symbolism. The park, for example: it represents nature, which usually represents tranquillity or even paradise.'
No sooner had he sad that, Rob had to stop because a football kicked by a group of kids was coming in their direction. Two very noisy kids came to pick it up and returned to their game of screaming and kicking. Matt took this opportunity to manifest his opinion again:
This park is surely very calm.
Rob caught on to the sarcasm and promptly joined in:
'Wait until we get near the skate ramps.'
Rob took Matt's hand to his face again, out of habit. Upon feeling the small bump in the cheek that indicated a broad smile, Matt pushed his hand back and moved it forward again with a little too much force, producing a "smack" sound effect and knocking Rob over a bench.
'We are now walking over a bridge.' announced Rob after a few more minutes walking – and more kids and balls and curious dogs dangerously coming their way. 'You can probably tell it's made of wood and is very firm. Bridges usually mean something related to transitions, because we're going from a place to another in a situation where that would usually be impossible to do by foot, like crossing a river or a deep crater.'
This bridge is firm. Would it mean we are going through a firm transition?
'It could be. Or it could mean that we are very sure of where we're going.'
But if it is made of wood it means it won't last as long as a bridge made of stone or concrete and it will soon rot.
'Then it probably means we're sure of where we're going, but aren't going to be there for long?'
You are the symbol specialist, not me.
Rob chose not to answer, taking his friend's arm again to resume the crossing. The bridge was not built over a river, but over a very busy avenue full of cars that cut the park in half and ensured the city's presence even in that small green island.
Rob, why have we stopped? Are we on the other side?
'Er… actually…' They had just finished the crossing, and ahead of them lay a completely green forest punctuated by sport courts and skate ramps. Rob had stopped suddenly, alarming Matt. 'The thing is: I haven't been to this half of the park before. I don't really know where the place I want to show you is.'
Too much for being sure of our way, then. And probably too much for not being here for long.
'Sorry. I should've thought about it beforehand.'
Matt turned to face Rob once more. He had a sympathetic grin in his lips, and in a sudden unexpected movement hugged his friend very tightly. When Rob was finally released, his voice gave away his astonishment:
'What was that for?'
That's symbolism, Matt answered. His hand then tapped the top of Rob's head, messing with his very curly reddish locks. You have to guess what it means.
After about fifteen minutes walking aimlessly Rob by chance found what he was looking for. He described in detail to Matt all the huge trees, most of them centuries old, which made up this particular section of the park. When the birds started to sing, Matt also described the little creatures and what they were doing. Matt seemed pleased with it all, and so they decided to sit under one of the trees and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
'So, what do you think? Do you like it?'
Yes. I can't hear any dogs or children. And the air is fresher as well.
'It is because we're surrounded by trees. Trees are a symbol of life, or of time passing when you show how they change during the seasons. It can be full of life and flowers in the spring and completely bare and desolate in the winter.'
Then what are they now?
Well, we're in the summer, so… they are all green and vibrant, and they serve as refuge from the scalding sun…
'Yeah… I like that idea. This tree symbolises our sanctuary. We're running away from the sun, from the noise, from the dogs… It's only us and the trees!'
And the birds.
As if in an act of revenge from being forgotten, a rather colourful bird dropped a little "present" for Rob in his shirt. The boy screamed and shouted obscenities at the little creature, which flew away from them. Matt, realising what was going on, smiled widely and clapped his hands enthusiastically.
'Oh, shut up, you!'
Rob pulled Matt's hands and put them over his frowning face for the other to see the damage his clapping had done. To his surprise, his friend smiled weakly and started manipulating his skin and muscles until he was sure to have turned the frown into a smile. He then grabbed a tissue from his pocket and handed it to Rob.
'I'm sorry, Matt. The walk in the park was a disaster after all.'
Back in Rob's bedroom the two boys were lying down in the bed relaxing their tense muscles and fighting off sleep. It was barely five in the afternoon, but they were already exhausted.
Don't worry. I think I learnt something.
'You did? What?'
That I can make symbols out of anything, and that you don't like birds very much.
'I don't like birds that think I'm their toilet!' protested the smaller boy, pointing to the dirty shirt thrown in a corner of the room. 'That's all!'
Matt smiled showing his teeth again, making Rob frown. When the red-haired boy tried to take Matt's hand to show him that, the taller one retreated and sat down in the bed.
You are a good teacher, even when you don't know anything about what you are teaching. Thank you.
Rob turned away in an unconscious attempt at hiding the emotions overcoming him. His eyes were getting wet very fast and he did not want his friend to see – or rather, feel – what was going on. It was embarrassing, even more when he had no clue of why he was reacting this way to a simple thank you.
But Matt understood what was happening. He reached out for his red-haired friend and, while Rob still refused to face him, took his hands and put over his own face. Startled, Rob begun feeling the soft skin of his friend's cheeks, the malleable surface of his nose and the hardness of his forehead. It did not take him long to realise Matt was worried, with his eyes downcast and his lips curved downwards. The discovery made Rob face forward once more. With a sympathetic grin, the red-head lunged forward to hug his friend very tightly. When he released Matt, he tapped the top of the boy's head.
'I think I understand your "symbolism" now.'