18 August, 2007

Par Avion

[This post originally appeared on my MySpace blog, which no longer exists. The date of the original posting has been lost.]

The card depicts Notre-Dame at dusk, in all its twelfth-century glory, rendered orange by the western sun. In the foreground runs the Seine. The haze of street lamps reflects from the bank. Their light is emerald on the water and dappled, making visible the subtle, intricate machinations of the current. I have stood on those ivied banks — right there, in the presence of antiquity — though it has been years, and the card’s sender had no way of knowing this. She and I have never met, nor, indeed, exchanged any words at all. We are strangers in the truest sense, only now linked, however tenuously, by this simple token of kindness from one human being to another.

I receive these cards from all over the world — Australia, Texas, Germany, South Africa — signed with compassion, solidarity, or sympathy, and always with a little note to keep my head up, to stay strong, to remember the impermanence of all things. They never fail to bring me a sliver of happiness. It is too easy a thing, at times, to forget that kind people are out there — kind enough to write a few lines of encouragement to this pariah, without ulterior motives or expectations. The economies of time and funds make writing them all back impossible. Had I my way, each would receive a simple reply of thanks, detailing how important such things are to a man who has such limited scenery, so few warm words to enrich him and fuel the fires of his hope. To them (though they go on with their faraway lives and will never read this) I am immensely grateful, and forever hopeful that goodness, in its myriad guises, finds them at every opportunity. But for them, the gray that surrounds me would have been that tiny bit more pervasive.