There’s a feeling inside all of us that we can only grasp momentarily. It’s like a deep icy hot burn in the darkest crevice of our hearts. There was a man once who said he lived in that crevice and that it was the brightest place on the face of the earth. But so bright that it didn’t blind. Sight was based solely on color contrast, he said. Not not on contrast of light and dark. He was a strange man who had very poor eye sight, but refused the use of glasses.
“It’s unnatural,” he said. I asked him if he was able to record much of his experience in the crevice.
“Unfortunately no,” he said. “That would be pointless. Nothing would make any sense to anyone else. I’m not sure if words, pictures, or music could do it justice. It was beyond all of that.”
I grew uncomfortable at this point. It was like his eyes began to turn into his head, as if he was beginning to crawl back into his crevice. I took a drink of water, for I could feel the radiant growth of his passion. Was it the feeling of love? of Ecstasy? of meaning? Maybe it was all of these and more. I suddenly felt as if we were standing on a desolate mountain, growing with the most striking and colorful vegetation I’ve ever seen.
“What is happening?” I asked and suddenly, it was all gone. We were back amidst the busy chatter of the downtown coffee shop.
“We were almost there,” he said. I asked him why we left so soon, but he didn’t answer fully.
“You can’t analyze this,” he said. I had so many questions to ask him, but I couldn’t keep them straight, so we sat there. I was looking down at the table, and him with his eyes clothes, a blissful smile overtaking his face.
“I would like to write a book about his,” I said.
“Don’t,” he said, not all at interrupted from his apparent state of bliss. “It’s not about words. All a book will do is confine.” And then, as if that’s what he had been wanting to tell me all along and there was nothing left for conversation, he got up and gently touched my shoulder as he walked away.
Days passed, I continued to work a busy life delivering packages to people’s doors, but that state of wonder never left me. I needed more, but confused and overwhelmed, I tried to avoid further seeking. I continued to work, and when I wasn’t working, I kept busy. Why is it that the most natural feeling of meaning is so intimidating, that it takes such courage to seek?
“You’re being ridiculous,” my friend Conner told me. “I think I know what feeling you’re talking about. It’s just a matter of perception. I could feel it right now if I wanted to, but it’s highly impractical.”
“I don’t think you understand,” I told him. “It’s not something you can just call up. It’s like a tornado, or an earthquake. It just happens sometimes, whether you want it to, or expect it to or not.”
Soon, my experience with the man who lived in the crevice faded from my consciousness, like a childhood memory. When it did occasionally pop up in my mind without warning, it seemed so distant that I viewed it like a dream. The reality of it became lost and I continued on with my life, delivering packages to people doors, going to the bars, dating girls – some successfully, some anything but. Life continued and it was good. I was happy and content. There were few problems and the ones that came along did not seem very significant.
Then, years after my run in with the man, I felt something deep in my heart. It was so foreign by this point that it gave me the chills. I was at a concert, one of my favorite bands, and I became overwhelmed with something resembling an intense passion or maybe love. It confused me as I had to casually make my way to the bathroom stall, where I broke down and wept. There was something that was telling me that my life was too easy, that happiness was not in ease. Happiness was in struggle and difficulty, and triumph.
“Hey,” a voice sounded beside me as I made my way back to the crowd. “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?” I immediately recognized him as the man I talked to years ago. He looked aged from the last I saw him, his eyes sunken further into his face, his beard less tame.
“You’re him,” was all I could say.
“I’m a him,” he said with a gentle smirk.
“You’re the guy who lived in the crevice.”
“That’s right,” he said, his face lighting up with epiphany. “I knew I recognized you. We talked in that coffee shop a while ago. How have you been?” he asked.
“I’ve been fine,” I said, trying, but not quite hard enough to hide my recent realization of uncertainty.
“Hmmm,” he said and seemed to be straining himself with deep thought.
“How have you been?” I said.
“Fine,” he replied. “You seem to be struggling with something.”
“No,” I said. “What makes you think that?”
“I can sense it.”
“I don’t know what to say,” I said in denial.
“Have you tried it again?” he asked.
“Tried what?” I answered, hoping he wouldn’t ask about the crevice.
“You know, the crevice.”
“Oh,” I said, disappointed. “No. You?”
“No,” he said, surprising me.
“Really? I thought you were like, an expert or something.”
“There’s no such thing as an expert. I’m beginning to think it was chance that it occurred at all for me. It’s hard to find meaning now, you know?”
We stood there as the band played in the seemingly vast distance. I wasn’t sure what to say, or how to react.
“I was hoping you had figured it out after we met,” he said. “When I saw you – I thought it might have been you – I was hoping you’d figured it out.” I stood, too confused by guilt to say anything.
“I guess that proves that it was chance,” he said, staring into nowhere.
“Do you want to get a beer?” I asked, not sure what else to say. “After the show, of course.”
“No,” he replied, still staring into nowhere. “I can’t. I have plans. I have to go.” He walked away, now resembling a lost mental patient. He stormed out through the glass door and I never saw him again.
I wondered for weeks how he could seem like such two different people after our second encounter. The only thing that was consistent, and even that was a bit of a stretch, was his appearance. He was so sure and confident before, so filled with passion that it bled into me, and then, only years later, he was just the opposite. His uncertainty bled into me, equally as contagious. I felt lost, confused. Suddenly, my life seemed meaningless, everything seemed mundane and unimportant. The thought crossed my mind occasionally to take out a loan and start my own business, a used book store that I would later add a coffee shop to. But for some reason, I never found the courage to do it. I never even told anyone, not even my wife, when I married a year later.
At first, I thought she was the answer to all these uncertainties. My life, for the first year or two of our marriage, seemed to have meaning again. I experienced glimpses into that crevice in my heart, but that soon faded. We got divorced before having any kids. And I was back to where I was before, only more lonely than ever before.
Now, I sit in a bookstore/coffee shop every day and read books, everything from self-help, to poetry. I feel at home in this place, but more lost than ever. At least I feel something, I tell myself. At least I have some place to go that strikes something inside me, no matter how conflicting and unidentifiable it may seem. I sit here, waiting for someone like the man who lived in the crevice to converse with. But waiting only turns into more waiting and that, I fear, will turn into despair. I will die alone, I’m afraid, longing to experience that mountain peak that seemed so real inside my heart. But it’s not real. It never was real. Like my friend Conner said, it was nothing special, I just dramatized it. I shouldn’t do that. I should focus on something else.