Why the Grey Man Finds the City

Because the trees were all but motion­less. Because the sun was low. Because he was not bound. Because he was nim­ble; he was curi­ous; he was uncer­tain and unafraid. Because of the pres­ence of colour. Because of the pres­sure of time. Because of hope. Because he rose from sleep. Because he found plea­sure in the doing of it. Because of the bur­geon­ing of lan­guages. Because of speed. Because of the way a sin­gle turn is so often suf­fi­cient to taunt the nerves. Because, in the end, the road was there. Because The Grey Man knows this and wants to trav­el. Because, from the rise, the high point on which he stands, every­thing is con­tin­u­ous. Because sky meets riv­er meets for­est and lawn, hillock and the roots of moun­tains. Because the wind is impa­tient in its touch; more­over, it touch­es leaves that through the theur­gy of pho­to­syn­the­sis turn sun­light into ordi­nary life. Because for the first time, the Grey Man sinks in the sense of expanse; space opens all around him. Because winged things can fly. Because they do. Because those who can­not fly, run. Because the air rings with an absence that is syn­ony­mous with joy. Because all of this aim­less plea­sure hap­pens, all the time. Because every­thing overflows.

Except the road, The Grey Man rec­og­nizes its pur­pos­es: one goes one way or the oth­er. He sees, at last, that a road is defined by its ter­minii: it begins and ends and takes on mean­ing only in being exhaust­ed. That is why it leads some­where. At the far end of the road, The Grey Man sees some­thing like a knot: it doesn’t expand, but traps shape, traps colour and move­ment and noise. That is the town, he thinks. Over­come, he sees what choice is.

dube_cutout_postPeter Dubé is the author, co-author or edi­tor of eleven books includ­ing the nov­els Hov­er­ing World and The City’s Gates, the short fic­tion col­lec­tion At the Bot­tom of the Sky, the novel­la Sub­tle Bod­ies, which was a final­ist for the Shirley Jack­son Award, and Con­jure: a Book of Spells, a col­lec­tion of prose poems that was short­list­ed for the A. M. Klein Prize. His most recent work is the short fic­tion col­lec­tion Begin­ning with the Mir­ror.