Opening to “The Imagination Bomb”
He could either be a dysfunctional angel that fell all the way from the heavens, his fall broken by a pond of oil which covered him in black, or some kind of celestial body given flesh, but on his way here the darkness of space clung to him. Whatever the truth is, he’s not a drone like me or the rest of the people out here at the mall. For the past five minutes he’s been holding a door open, offering a solemn nod to those who bothered to thank him as they pass. Most folks seem more concerned about rushing in to do their Christmas shopping than acknowledging him.
With his black trench coat, pants, and shirt, it would be easy to assume that he’s one of those lame emo gothic types who believe the world is out to get them, that life has no meaning, and that everything is tragic. Light bronze skin, short black hair, parted on the left, and an expressionless Easter Island statue face. Without even seeing his eyes, my guess is that he has an unwavering stare behind the black sunglasses. Both of us stand tall above the crowd and look to be in our mid 20’s, but the similarities end there – he’s sleek and skinny, and being that I lack any ethnicity identification skills, I can’t decide if his features are Native American, Asian, or Hispanic.
The entry on the opposite side is closer to me, but I adjust my course to go meet him, because a voice inside whispers that he doesn’t belong here, that in fact he’s a fantastic creature hiding in plain sight.
“Please, sir.” I nod and take hold of the door, motioning for him to go inside.
He shakes his head and gestures me past. People walk around us.
“No, I insist.” The appetizing smell of sautéed onions coming from somewhere nearby, but I didn’t see any food stands on my approach.
“Door of meditation.” His attention remains is so focused on the rest of the world that I’m unsure if he heard me or if he’s talking to himself.
I raise my eyebrow in confusion. “You’ve been here holding the door longer than I have, please, let me take over.”
“Native Americans were the keepers of this land before we were, was it right for us to take it from them?”
Unprepared for such a bizarre question, I am given pause as I try to find a way to play his game. “No, but it wouldn’t be right for me not to at least offer to help you either.”
“Ah, a man who knows of ethics.” He turns towards me, still stone-faced. “Tell me then, if I say it is my duty to do what’s morally correct, how would you respond?”
“I would have to wonder what you believe is ‘morally correct’ then. Please.” Again I motion for him to go inside. The crowd continues flowing around us, oblivious.
“When holding the door for someone, it is courteous to hold the door a little longer if another is trailing not far behind. What is ‘morally correct’ then, is for me to hold the door open for those who pass by, until there is a reasonable enough break in traffic for me to proceed inside as well. You are a part of that traffic and should go in.”
My grip on the door tightens. “How long have you been doing this?”
He’s silent for a few seconds, lost in thought. “I’m not sure. Half an hour maybe?”
I blink. “That’s ludicrous! Please sir, go inside and do your business.”
“My business never transcends what is right and wrong.”
The sauteed onion smell grows stronger, and within a couple of whiffs I’m certain that it’s coming from him. “Besides morality, what is your business here?”
“At the mall? I came to see a movie.”
A habitual glance at my phone reveals that it’s 3:28 PM. For half a second I consider lying to him about the time, but the idea of lying to him seemed disgusting. “You’re probably late for it by now.”
“That may be the case.”
An incredulous snort escapes me. “Because you’ve been standing here holding the door?”
Again I signal him to enter. “Good sir, please go inside. You may yet be able to catch your movie. Previews usually take quite a while.”
“Not until there is a reasonable break in traffic.”
I pause and survey the rivers of people going in and out the doors, uncaring and unaware of us. A cunning plan develops in my head. “I will strike a bargain with you then, sir.”
“I propose that I will go inside first, at which point you will follow me and accompany me as I try to find a Christmas gift for my wife.”
He shakes his head. “Unless the traffic happens to subside at that very moment, I won’t be following you in.”
A wry smile spreads across my face. “But what if I told you that if you didn’t follow me in, I would begin acting like a madman, screaming, drooling, dancing, and rolling on the floor so that all these people would walk as far away from me as possible, forcing people to crowd themselves through the other doors? What then?”
Through the sunglasses, I can see his eyes dart away in thought. Concern spread through me – what will I do if he calls my bluff and refuses to move? At worst I can slip inside, be absorbed into the crowd, and never see him again, but that voice was right – he is something fantastic hiding in plain sight. At this point I have to find out who he is, and more importantly why he is.
Opening to “Good Guys Wear Black”
He fought the storm and won. Him. Built like a stick. Not a god or a demon or a mountain or a mythic figure of any sort, just a man, and barely one at that. He fought the storm. And won.
I watch this scene over and over : there he is in the wind and rain and night. At any moment the tempest could pick him up and carry him across the land, into another galaxy, throw him into oblivion. He knows this, and still he forges on. He’s a quiet fighter – no cursing, no whimpering, not even a grunt. Quiet fighters are the kind you have to be careful of because they’re the ones who have all the power. It’s the loud, boisterous ones that are worthless – all bark and no bite, as some would say. They throw their weight around all the time to make others think that they’re important. Not the quiet ones though – they don’t show their teeth unless there’s no other option, and woe unto those who back them into a corner. No, the quiet ones have a strength that comes from a courage deep inside, some of them so deep that perhaps nothing can kill them, ever. He’s one of those.
He doesn’t even know where he’s going, or does he? The wind and rain pour down upon him in solid walls, the darkness is so thick that he wonders if this place has ever seen the sun or any other light. Any lesser man would step out into this storm and be annihilated instantly, erased from history, as if they never existed in the first place, but he wears the cold and blackness like it’s just another article of clothing. To him it might as well be a clear spring day, because there is no retreat or surrender – there isn’t even hesitation. In some sense he’s already victorious because he’s here doing this, and most importantly he’s not doing it because he expects some sort of reward. He does it because it’s what the hero does – it’s the right thing to do.
I watch this scene over and over. He’s like a light, an inspiration, a guide, a hero, a star, illuminating the way. We share in his strength just by watching. Where others crawl along the ground, his nature is to fly through the air. Where others fall, he rises and rises until he towers over the mountains, and because of this, we are able to see the way.
Through destiny or perception or blind luck, he finds her in the night, through the storm. He reaches down but she’s too weak and frightened to take his hand, so he leans over and takes it himself, pulls her to her feet and takes off his coat to wrap her naked form in it. Refusing to carry her, he makes her move under her own power as they turn and head for shelter, and because of this, her own inner voice whispers that she can make it, that she’s not alone in this nowhere.
He feels the coldness of her skin and grits his teeth because he knows this cold – it’s reached down and frozen her all the way to the soul. Now we see the passion of a quiet fighter who’s been backed into a corner. His sheer force of determination alone may be enough to save her. There are no words. He looks into her eyes, she looks into his and sees a fire named “tenacity.” It’s purity scares and comforts her, as it does everyone.
I can’t stop watching this. I will always be watching this. He’s my guiding star. By saving her, he saves me.
Sometimes it’s the good guys who wear black.
Opening to “The Good Trouble”
I thought I was done for – a half black, half Asian kid who’d just streaked past a supermassive KKK demonstration, but as I was about to make my grand escape I took a corner too fast and ran into an old white lady. Glasses and groceries went flying, and I got skid marks in some rather embarrassing and painful places. Until that day I never knew little old ladies could spew such obscenities, but it was a day for magic, because it turns out that sometimes when the person you just ran into asks you “where are your parents?” and you’re lying there bleeding and naked on the gritty summer asphalt and you groan “I don’t know anymore,” that’s when amazing things happen and smallish senior citizens use nothing more than the power of foul language to hold off an entire armada of angry KKK guys.