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.