The man is staring at a cobalt blue planter. He is smoking a cigarette on a deck in south Minneapolis. He is at work in the studio. It is in a typical backyard of fifty something baby boomers who made it this far. They have wonderful perennials growing everywhere; daisies, lilies, cone flowers, hostas and annuals spread throughout. The geraniums have dropped their petals and the birds have decided where to nest. The petunias are flourishing and are ready to glow. Their sticky leaves vibrate among velvety colors of the imagination. Ants scramble around. They look like the sky has licked them to make them shine, make them smooth. It allows him to believe that the air makes everything heavy, not just him.
He is smoking a cigarette and thinking about the girl. He rolls the butt in his fingers. Staring into it, he feels it old and worn out, a habit of his hereditary being. He moves slowly, trying to describe in his head, the moment in words. The moment dissipates like 52 pick up and he is left smoking a passing thought.
The thought returns distant like a water tower on the horizon. It seeps through him and he attributes it to the heat.
The mosquitoes are biting and leaving itchy bumps. He lies in the half dream state, hearing their methodic hum in his ear. It resonates like the cobblestones in Prague when the spires ring. He waves a hand above his ear, moving the sweat balls leisurely. It is so hot and he is reminded of the helicopter like mosquitoes in Cambodia who buzzed him in a brief night. He had taken his second dose of Larium and had just bought a half ounce of grass off the moto driver. The papers cost twice as much. He is only thinking of strange, far away places in this moment. He is thinking about places he has been. It is an honest trait to ooze into the memory of delight. Easy to wish for a moment back. Honest and easy define him as a great art critic plagued by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are his buzzing past. They harbor scary disease; West Nile Virus, Malaria, they inflict itches. Damn beasts. When he was away, he grew strong. He had beaten the figurative mosquito. He tuned his memory and senses. He was able to remember the moment beyond emotion. Smell and Sound captivated him, but he would never trade his sight. This was the day when he saw it.
The transition to intelligent being wasn't as difficult as it may seem. He was a natural, waiting in the sidelines until his name was called. Funny thing is, no one could pronounce his last name. Teachers, coaches, etc, would roll call him on the first day, find him present, note him and simply refer to him by first name only, Alan, until the end of the year. It wasn't such a difficult name if you could roll your R's. He was never called, only pointed toward. This was an understood gesture on the playground.
His youth spread so far that parts flailed and sputtered out. He flew to far away places with the people in his life. He sent them postcards and the love he had for some, lived in him. He bounced over waves and bounded over claymores. His soul became everything it should have been.
Then he returned home. Everything changed.
A talisman he carried broke on the trip. He thought this was a message from the gods. It turned out that his father died a week later. He popped a few leftover Valium from Thailand and made it through. Then he had to continue.
For a long time, depression consumed all of his faith and love. He sunk. Bottomed out. Till he swallowed hard and jumped ship. He landed on his feet but it wasn't no gymnast feat. He wobbled and stumbled for a while. Until he found the flower petals at work.
A purple Petunia was torn. The flapping remnant of the petal, waved in the soft breeze of the pollen heady July day. It was afternoon in a shady remnant of South Minneapolis. He was taking a break. The velvety purple petal fragment was in a heart shape. It looked like a folded Valentine of youth.