© 2016 Melissa Volker

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Excerpt from chapter entititled:
"Gatsby II"

     I often have the distinct sensation, am quite certain in fact, that I am invisible.  I bet you think that's a sad thing, but I assure you it is remarkably pleasant.  Like being wrapped in a gauzy shroud.  Like being the reader, dear friend, an unknowable specter in the dark, ever-present, ever-watching, but never realized by the characters of which one reads.  Or observes.  But -- you know what that is like, don't you.  And how different our Daisy would have been had she been aware of the shadows beyond the page!

     Standing on the sidewalk at the foot of the Public Library steps, I feel quite certain that either one or both of the majestic lions are about to heave with life's breath and arch ancient stiffness from their great, concrete bones.  How I wish they would!  That would certainly startle the surrounding popula­tion out of their carbon monoxide and cement stupor.  To see one of them breathe one true life's breath would almost be more shocking and inspiring than seeing the same from the lions.  Like watching a loved one emerge from lifelong catatonia.

     Strange, don't you think, that they would place such fero­cious predators at the entrance of a building that welcomes one and all to the wealth of knowledge held inside?   And why not something more representative of the place itself?  Or is it that being the King, the lion must be wise?  Of course, I have forgot­ten we equate status with wisdom.  Don't we?  Or is that only age?  Ah, wait, I remember now.  The one on the left is Patience, the other, Fortitude.  Yes, yes.  That's right.  I remember now.

     I stand for a long while, directly between the two immense felines, people cleaving around me like wind around a tree; acknowledging my presence, but not paying it any mind.

     What will this place be like in another hundred years, do you suppose?  Will the ornate columns stand crumbling before a once-was building in weak imitation of the ruins of Greece?  Will the lions lose their noses or a piece of ear, or perhaps all their paws so they can no longer threaten to rise to life?  Will they be our feeble answer to the sphinx?

     Turning from the lions and visions of the future, I spy a man selling pretzels on the corner.  Steam rises from the grill where he cooks lunches of hot dogs and shish kebabs.  I watch him hand a hot dog buried beneath sauerkraut to a woman with long bleached hair in a Madison Avenue suit of respectable charcoal grey.  Daisy would never wear grey.  He hesitates just a moment before handing it to her.  I think to myself as I watch that he doesn't look like he belongs there.  He has the face and stature of a man who is accustomed to wearing a suit and tie.  Indeed, he carries himself as though he was wearing one now, as opposed to an apron dappled with mustard and grease.

     Perhaps feeling my stare, he glances up at me, catching me in my scrutiny.  I should be embarrassed, I suppose, but I am not.  He smiles across a greater distance than the space of side­walk between us and holds up a pretzel, offering. 

     I smile back, shaking my head no.

     He shrugs, replacing the pretzel and returning to the business at hand, suddenly looking very at home standing on that corner in his grease stained apron.

     There is always much to learn.

     Do you believe me?  No, don't answer, it doesn't matter anyway.

     How would things change if a law were passed stating that every building in the city had to be painted a different color.  Soft, easy, breathless colors of sand and sky and laughter, every building a different shade, no two next to one another the same.

     I think it would be like living in a Monet painting, were he ever to paint the city.