Paradise Lost & Found

It used to be vibrant; this snapshot of a sparkling, aquamarine pool lined with uniform white tiles and laid out in front of a fire sky, saffron fading into tawny and together floating on the midnight-blue evening that crept slowly up. High contrast, completely cloudless and still, as though it is a nostalgic memory of this very place and not the place itself. There is a young man sitting on the edge of the pool, his jeans rolled up to his knees as his feet dangle in the freezing water. He has just decided he’ll be chasing his dreams, that he’s got too much to offer to stay here.

(HERE: It is hot, it is sticky, it is blue, and today, it is bright.)

His dreams have no substance, no before and no after. He expects them to make him anew; there are people here, people he loves, that would like to know him before he goes changing. This is a selfish endeavor. People don’t do that here.

(HERE: This is where people stay, this is where they lay roots.)

He is a stray dog. He tells them all that he’ll remember them when he’s a star. The young man stands in the middle of an empty desert highway, the sun impossibly high, surrounded on all sides by low-rolling sandy hills and smooth asphalt road that leads, untouched, beyond visibility. And he experiences divine vision; that is who he will be soon; he has always contained something great and it has been pushing from the inside of his chest cavity out, bullying his ribs apart. He is better than what he loves, but he wouldn’t say it like that. “They don’t understand that there’s more out there,” is how he would put it, “they just don’t, like, get it.” He hasn’t considered that the world he left behind will not stop and politely wait for his return. What he loves will move on without him. He gets there.

(THERE: Bathed in relentless sunlight. That is where dreams come true. Be careful.)

And success finds him. He calls back home weeks down the line, he calls back home to tell his brothers “You’d never believe it.” And he regales them. “A twenty-four karat gold watch.” it’s exciting, he tells them, “The paint on my car sparkles.” it’s new, he tells them, “So many chicks, and they’re all decked out in fur and diamonds and shit.” it’s intoxicating, he tells them. “You’d never believe it!” and he says it all from a payphone on the side of the road. And then he stops calling back home. A life that so easily takes you in will be just as quick to spit you out. It’s just too fast for the young man there.

(THERE: The place that has now abandoned him.)

He leaves just as recklessly as he entered; there is no after, so he seeks out before. THERE wouldn’t take him for long; THERE is not built for long-term stay; HERE has not forgiven him; HERE has no space for him to return.

(HERE: Lethargic, cobalt, thunderstorming. Hail strong enough to crack a window. Be careful.)

That which was prying apart his rib cage and displacing his lungs to escape has, in fact, escaped, and it has taken everything inside with it. Here has been in perpetual dusk; the sky dull, clouded, gray, the colors have gone sick. His hands distort in front of him and melt into the background; he takes steps forward, unable to see nor to predict his own movements, totally unaware of his trajectory. The mosquitos make a feast of bare skin and the water has darkened and the young man wonders if it always looked like this, if he’s just misremembering the pristine white tile and glimmering pool.

Marshall Kopacki is a junior studying Theology. Marshall says the inspiration for this piece is that, “There’s just something about pools!”

Heartland Hub. Missouri State Archives through Missouri Digital Heritage.