“The sky is gray.”
Sound reverberated in a large space of oddly arranged seating but he was sitting so quietly. I had noticed him even before entering the room. He was the kind of fixture I would have expected to see in such a place as this. He could have been waiting for a train, or sitting in a large government building. But it was here, and I guess a therapist’s waiting room too has its place — and a disquiet that sometimes gets played out even as we wait.
“The kind of gray,” he continued, “that colors everything with the threat of annihilation. Perhaps that’s only a feeling. Not the gray but the tragic end.”
He was talking to me but facing forward. He hadn’t moved since I first sat next to him.
“But that’s all I have to go with, you know. Not the gray but the depressed feeling.”
I then felt his imposing features turn my way.
“But the gray persists, even if …” And then he paused. “Even if one knows the feelings that go along with it. You can see the gray through the windows. You can feel it in the air and on the insides as well.” And then he pointed at my book, his finger in my peripheral vision. “You can get a sense of the gray yourself because there is hardly any light for you to read by.”
I didn’t want to look at him, to see what he was like. He was a fixture and I didn’t want to give the commonplace a face. With its potential bite.
However, I couldn’t help but follow his chatter to the windows, not by raising my eyes from the dark pages of my book, but by imagining its texture. I was thinking: The windows are filthy. That’s what’s causing the gray. The fluorescent flickering too. All of that is true. The gray is out there, you just need to open your eyes to see it.
He grew silent, turning slowly away.
“Some people don’t consider the real impact.” He went on. “At first, they only anticipate it, so as to avoid it. Then they end up brushing up against it before turning away. But before you know it, they are sitting within its reach, conversing with it, going back and forth, offering dialog. But it has to start off with a platitude, you know, like The sky is gray.”
I didn’t respond. I turned first – finally – to look at his features. My book had fallen to the ground but I hadn’t noticed this until long afterwards.
“Why do you insist it’s gray outside when you can’t even see outside?” I asked.
“It was like that when I first entered.”
“Did I say I was interested in the weather?”
“We weren’t talking about the weather.” And then he said my name. “I was talking about the light in here. It gives the impression that it’s gray outside. I don’t really know what’s happening outside.”
“I’ll tell you, then. It’s more than gray, and it’s not just about your feelings or mine. It’s raining a storm. It’s the worst in years. Hundreds of miles an hour, those winds. Structures and living things are being pulled out of the ground, uprooted. I was crushed by my father … by the rain … I don’t know why I stayed in it so long. The rain.”
“Because people do what is familiar instead of taking risks.”
“Did I say anything about familiarity?”
“You mentioned your father. Family. Maybe it has to do with loyalty?”
Again, his commonplace was biting at my skin. This time I looked right at him and nodded.
But he added: “Our parents are role models.”
“What gave you the idea that my father was a role model? He was an imposing figure, crushing. Not a role model.”
He struck back with what began as another of his generalities. “What fathers do …”
“What my father did, you mean. Speak about him, not others.”
“Ok. What your father did was provide an unambiguous way of being that offered no place for an alternative, such as you. Most importantly, he made himself mandatory. This is what I meant by role modeling. And so I repeat: you have chosen to stay in the familiar – the rain – because that’s family, your father. And your precious alternative – that unabating, seemingly inner feeling of uniqueness that you have – remains in the shadows of your ambivalence.
“What’s got you sitting here,” he continued, again, inserting my name, “is not even hope, just delay.”
The fluorescent bulbs finally flickered out, one-by-one, fighting one another to see who would finish first. We stopped talking as the room went dark. We stayed like that for a while.
“Those were heavy words.” I finally said.
“Words don’t have weight, Gregory. Only the paper they are written on does. Cut out the words, one by one, peel away the paper, squeeze out the ink, strip away all materiality. Your words, mine, are weightless.”
“But haven’t you forgotten the substance of meaning? Or overlooked the strength needed to carry on a dialog? Or the materiality of meaning?”
“Words come and go. It’s the body that holds together their weight and meanings.”
“If you – or my dad, for that matter … No, let’s focus on you, Sir.” And I stared at him. “If you were to write down everything you have ever said, every word and insinuation – even your godforsaken non-verbal utterances – it would all amount to an unmovable bulk. I mean, look at you. You’re unmovable. Even if we were to do as you say – cut out your words, peel and squeeze them, as you say, separate them from paper and ink and all that – even if we were to do all that, the remaining gravity of your verbosity would nonetheless crush. You wouldn’t be able to move from that chair.”
“And yet sometimes, Gregory, a few choice words can clear it all away. Make it all better. Lighten the load.”
I thought about asking, “Such as?” Or stating, “But that’s never happened.” But my time was up and I walked out of his office not saying anything else, and he didn’t stop me.