Old Spirit – or the Miracle of Central Park
"Will you ever be free, Vincent?” asked Catherine quietly and added, "and the little one....?” A warm smile formed in Vincent's eyes. He looked at her lovingly and put a log into the sparkling fire. They often spent their winter evenings in front of the fireplace in their old brownstone house. Devin put down the book he was reading in the old armchair that used to be in Father's library for so long. He was enjoying one of his visits at their home, just a few days in the holiday season, before he moved on.
"Just wings, no roots,” Vincent thought. He remembered when he had heard that the first time.... He looked at them - suddenly noticing that he had been quiet for a while.
"Tell me, what you were thinking,” Catherine begged, touching his neck softly, caressing his ear.
"I just remembered an adventure I had – partly with you, Devin – but part of it all by myself. I don't think I've ever told anybody about it. Maybe, because I have never believed in it myself until…until now.” Vincent did not know if he had thought the last comment, or told them. He sat back on the couch. Catherine poured them some tea and cuddled up to her love.
After a little pause, he looked at them:
It was one of those bitterly cold nights of New York. Even in the tunnels it seemed to be colder than usually. I was snuggled in my bed, under the warm, colorful quilts the women in the tunnels made in the evenings when drinking tea and talking about the latest news. But now it was quiet, everybody was sound asleep, even Father had left the library and gone to bed. No mouse was stirring....
The last flames of the fire in the brazier died and cold darkness filled the chamber. It was as if the light left to make room for the wings of our dreams.
And what a wonderful dream it was! I was high in the clouds, flying through white fluffy mountains of mist, floating through the colors of a rainbow – and I was not alone. Devin, you were always by my side. We were free, just wings - no roots, nothing to hold us back.
Below us were the beautiful houses of New York and we almost touched their highest tops. We didn't stop, we moved on. I looked down, and saw Father and Mary walking hand in hand in Central Park, and our friends waving at us, laughing and singing. Music was in the air, trying to hold on to me, to pull me back to the ground.
"Don't look back, Vincent. Come on, let's conquer the world! We have to - I want to take you with me ….” I turned to you, Devin, I reached for your hand and we traveled to the moon and smiled at the Little Prince. Bright colored birds showed us the way through the beauty of the greenest rainforests, eagles called us from the highest mountains.
Wind in our hair, sunlight warm on our back – we needed no rest, everything was light and clear. I was free. And you, Devin, you were free, the first time in your life, really free.
Vincent looked into his brother's eyes and smiled. He took a sip of tea and picked up a piece of the wonderful Austrian chocolate Catherine always bought for him. Before Devin could say a word, he continued his story.
Suddenly I awoke - I felt something tugging on my blankets. I tried to hold them and pulled back my feet, because they were cold without any covers. There was a whisper, like the sounds of my dreams. The voice grew louder and a little flashlight was pointed right into my eyes. I opened them and listened to a voice say, "Wake up, Fuzz. Open your eyes, sleepy head.” I looked at the person I trusted the most, loved the most, the person I shared my dreams with – you, Devin. I knew you were up to something – something that Father and the other tunnel dwellers would not approve...maybe even something dangerous. But it would be worth the risk - it would grant us the moments of freedom we both needed so much.
You pointed at my clothes; I took them slowly and followed you out of the room. Without speaking a word, we reached one of the hideouts that no one but us knew. On the shelves there we kept everything that could be useful for our nighttime adventures: flashlights and batteries, blankets for picnics, a little jar of cookies, old thermoses.... Here we also hid our greatest treasures: colorful stones, the picture of the naked woman that we once found in a book a Helper donated to Father's library, a slingshot, some marbles, and a few coins that were the beginning of our planned fortune, or at least the ticket for our journey around the world.
While I got dressed, I saw that this was one of the trips that you had planned well ahead. Our backpacks were full, and you told me that there was hot tea and other stuff in each of them to warm us, because we would stay out for the whole night.
I was so excited, though a little worried. But I knew then what I know now, that these little glimpses of freedom made it possible for you to survive in the tunnels, where only your dreams were able to fly. So I didn't hesitate when we reached the tunnel entrance and the crisp cold air welcomed us to the park. We looked around and you took one of the old branches from a snow-covered bush to destroy the footprints in the fresh white snow behind us, until we reached the path others had been using before. This way nobody could follow us, in case they found out we were gone. On the other hand, our footprints could have led somebody to the tunnels.
Of course we left the path after a while – as we had read in lots of books that real discoverers have to leave the known places and go where no man has gone before. And here we were – where no man had set a foot on the ground before...at least for a while. The surface of the snow was untouched and we were in the middle of a winter wonderland. The treetops were glistening, the meadow was bright with snow, and the only thing that we heard was the crunching of our steps. It was breathtaking. But we were kids...so we pushed each other in the snow, rolled in it and started to build the biggest snowmen of all. Though Father would not have approved of it, each of us built one that looked like the other.
Devin, do you remember the blond wig you brought along? I think you found it in the garbage behind a bar after Halloween....
We carved each other's faces in the snow. When I did yours, Devin, I somehow felt a little sad, though I did not know why. Suddenly a snowball hit my back. Surprised, I turned around with a growl, and looked into your sparkling eyes, full of joy and life. Bang - another load of snow covered my shoulder. I took off, to find a safe spot behind the trees and to make some snowballs myself, but you were too close. More snowballs came flying, so I ran on. I was fast and I knew that I could gain an advantage if I found a place to hide a little further away, so you had to look for me. I decided to head for the Delacourte Theater. There I wanted to take cover behind the bench with the little sign. It had to be full of snow and could be my fort.
When I reached the bench, somebody was sitting on it, snow-covered and not moving. Even with the hood of my jacket covering as much as possible of my face and my scarf wrapped up to my nose, I hesitated, but I moved closer. I knew that I could get into trouble, not only with this person, but also with you, Devin, since I went off alone. I could not leave this human being without checking on him or her. "He is dead anyway,” I tried to convince myself. I had never seen a dead person before – so this idea didn't calm me at all. Just at that moment, the snow on the bench stirred a little, and I could see an old man with a wooden stick. His face was almost as white as the snow, and his beard so long, it seemed to have no end at all. He looked older than time.
I didn't dare to move a toe – you know, Devin, you have always been the brave one of us – so I was standing there, looking into eyes deeper than the sea. "Mister…you have to go home,” I stumbled. "It's too cold to stay in the park!” I opened my backpack, took out the old thermos with the hot tea. Leaning forward, I tried to give him some of it, without stepping closer. Only moments later he smiled at me and nodded thankfully.
Suddenly someone grabbed me from behind. I jumped back and dropped my bag. "Are you nuts, Vincent? You know the rules – stay away from strangers! You will get us into huge trouble! Come on, let's go, and take your stuff with you.” Your words gave me back the power to move. But do you remember our argument, Devin? I refused to leave this man alone, so you told me you would meet me at the little lake near BelvedereCastle in 10 minutes at the latest, or you would come back and drag me home and never take me along again. You knew that was the biggest threat for me.
You turned away and I pulled together all my courage and asked the man, "Mister, can I help you? I can't leave you here. You'll freeze to death....” I poured more tea, tried to get the snow off him and put my blanket over his shoulders. "Have you lost your way? I can ask Devin, he can help me take you home...but you can't stay here.... Please...” I begged him, rubbed his arms, to make him warmer. He just smiled, and I really didn't know what to do. I almost gave up, when he suddenly murmured something.
"Boy, you have the most wonderful heart. Hundreds of people passed by me today, and nobody even looked at me. And here you are, escaped from your family for a nighttime adventure, and still you have time to take care of an old man like me. You even preferred rescuing me over sliding on an icy lake with your best friend. I have to admit, I'm surprised. But I think, you will be surprised by what I'm about to tell you.”
"I'm not only an old man, but an old spirit. When I was young, I granted good people three wishes, right away, and usually they wished for the wrong things. Still, I did what I promised. I'm old now, and I wanted to go home tonight, to become one of those stars that you can only see in very dark nights. I just dreamed of meeting one more person with a good heart. I waited for 3 days...I want to give you your 3 wishes, but since I'm not a young thing anymore and my powers have become weak, the wishes will come true after some time.”
"The first wish will come true in about half a year, the second in 20 years, and the last one, about 10 years later. I know this is strange, but that is all I can offer.”
I have to admit that I thought he had to be senile. But I liked him, so I tried to tuck him into the blanket and thought for just a short moment – I wasn't able to take time, you were waiting Devin.
He had to agree that he would go home where it was warm, if I would tell him my wishes.
So I did:
"First of all I wish for my brother to be free. Even though I can't stand the thought of not having him around for more than hours, I know that none of us can make him happy as long as he is not free to go and conquer the world. So from the bottom of my heart, I wish for Devin to be able to leave us behind and find the life he seeks. My hope is... that he might find his way back whenever he is ready to.”
I was surprised by my own words, but the spirit said nothing.
"Secondly, I wish to meet my soul mate, someone who loves me no matter what.” I thought to myself that this would never happen at all. "I want to share with her laughter and happiness, sad moments and grief, and our own little family. I want to be bound to her by day and night.”
Eyes with the deepness of the sea looked at me knowingly, and I found the courage to form my last and most daring dream.
"My last wish is impossible, but I'll tell you, if you promise not to laugh or tell my brother...I dream of being free. I dream that my friends and family can go wherever we want to go, Above and Below, without the borders of society and prejudices. I dream that people in the world Above find out what everybody can see anyway: We are all different, so we are all equal. Tolerance makes our world colorful and peaceful. But I guess, this is something that can't be wished for....”
The old man rose from the bench, shook the snow from his long coat and smiled at me. "You can count on your wishes. Just give me the time I asked for.” I turned around, since I thought I heard you, Devin, and when I looked back at the bench, there was only the sign there, saying: "Even the greatest darkness is nothing so long as we share the light.”
There were no footprints except ours, Devin....
I thought I had dreamed it, but the blanket was gone, and the tea as well. So I picked up my stuff and ran toBelvedere Castle to meet you. We slid on icy paths, and I enjoyed every minute we shared in that wonderful winter wonderland in that dark night. We walked by our snowmen and made snow angels. The moonlight painted sparkling stars on the trees, where our footprints disappeared in the slowly falling snow. Again, we shared dreams and hopes for a future that might never come true, but on the other hand, it might....
Vincent had finished his story, and his eyes rested on his little angel, who looked almost like himself, a magic smile on his face. He knew there was not only hope.... He knew that his brother was free – he had left the summer after he had met the old spirit. He knew he had found the love of his life about 20 years later, and though they had to fight for their love, they have been connected ever since – and would be so forever. So he just had to wait and fight for his dream and the last wish to come true.
He looked at his brother, who still was his best friend, the one to share the closest moments, the most daring dreams. Devin would leave in a few days, and come back – he was free. By letting him fly, he became Vincent's wings. Catherine was his roots, she gave him love and stability and hope.
Vincent got up, gave the love of his life a kiss, and walked to the back yard to get some more wood for the fireplace.