I see him standing on the fringes of the crowd. It is the evening of the star party . He is drifting in the entirety of his own universe. Galaxies , like people whiz by .A loner but not lonely .
His pools of intense thought intrigue as much as his unfocused attention drifts in the seas of his imaginings ; and because this place of his in time-space eludes me ; can even infuriate me .
Because for him there is another dimension to time and space which others agonise over. He has a watch but when I ask him the time he studies the dial and at length he will cautiously speak the time in hesitating phrases ; and then with his gentle manner he will nudge me , and apologise . He was an hour out . I was counting it differently - he says and somehow I understand and maybe envy him. For time does not matter . Not if there are answers to the thousand questions which have bundled up like layers of that soft pastry in his mind . Each one he struggles to articulate, and his frustration causes him to twitch and blink in spasms. No point to try to phrase his query . It will not be his question.
Then sometimes I wonder if he ponders the words he has hoarded from the astronomers , and wants desperately to use them. To be part of their community.
He stands up to ask a question of one of the lecturers , and the professor leans to meet him half way and with the utmost encouragement he says ‘’I’m not sure I understand the full meaning of your query ..’’ And so he resumes his seat as the professor address a lengthy answer to something quite obtuse and far beyond Bob’s understanding.
The myriad mysteries wrapped in confusion in his young head ; I am unable to reach in and pull back the sheets , the mental duvets of bewilderment that struggle within .
He asks me if he will like boarding school. I tell him I never went to one . But I would have been lonely . That’s for sure. No . he says .No I don’t think I’d be lonely . But I see him standing on the foot ball pitch ; An easy ball glides by him and despite the roars of his team mates and shrill whistle from the referee. ; He watches ;imperturbable .One thing he cant figure is what is the point of running against a wall of boys on the other side to touch the ball down in their half . It has no meaning .
I see mean spirited youths ridicule him with a punishing cruelty and I pray that his insulation will buffer him from their spears and slings . For they are deadly and intended to bully him into submission.
Maybe he’ll surprise us all one day and win the Nobel prize ; doubt it -but just maybe; a very outside maybe .
I gave him a book today to study ; the Universe from the first millionth of a second . It’s a weighty tomb . I see his eyes flare at the vivid images on the massive page. His imagination will take flight and I think of solitary birds ; like house-martins flying North to breed , or Artic Terns: a round trip of 50 thousand miles , only breaking their journey when they see an opportune perch , maybe on a mast of a sea going ship. And onward he goes , As he was bid by nature.
Bob too is on his flight , but he doesn’t know its purpose . Or maybe ..?
I remember too , a night of dazzling bewilderment when crossing the bog coming home ,with my father and my uncle .My uncle pointed out the Milky Way , spilling, like faint molten silver, with such splendour across the heavens.
My uncle always referred to those crisp night November skies , as The Heavens : when the only sound in that vast stillness was the shivering pelt of the Sparks the Red Setter , and the night held in all our private silences and you daren’t think too hard lest your very thoughts be heard .
What does he make of the firmament of the Heavens ; The quarks and Neutrinos and parts of atoms that are yet undiscovered , but must be found ; otherwise all our Unifying Theory dies and Einstein’s epitaph fades from the galaxies in our dimming Cosmos .
Go with tenderness , all your days boy-child . The world is vast and it awaits your gentle inquisitiveness .And may you too some day reach out for the Milky Way . on some marsh on a crisp November night , when all is as still as the slowly tumbling fog , and you can hear the thoughts of a love I pray you find ., and kiss her under The Heavens you will find with her ; there under the bewildering Galaxies and with the ephemeral fog falling in frail lace curtains at your feet..
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