We went to the jungle first, where we picked bananas and tapped a tree for rubber. I’d always wanted to do that—tap a rubber tree—and before this day, the closest I had come to it was picking off a leaf from my Ficus Benjamin and watching the white goo ooze out of the wound. I took out an old jar from my satchel and started filling it with the sap, now flowing freely from the trunk. He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and I beamed at him.
Out of hunger and boredom (probably boredom moreso), Harry whittled a stick to a sharp point and harpooned a salmon with it in the little stream. I couldn’t watch him do it. “I need more than bananas for supper,” he said.
I looked up, and looming above us was a canopy of wide, leafy leaves, thin and translucent and overlapping as if to one-up one another, hiding the sun. I missed the sun.
Harry was a funny man. His jokes were the corniest of them all, but he was so adorable at making them that you had to laugh. He didn’t do it to please anyone; he did it because it made him happy. He loved chuckling at himself.
I loved Harry. I don’t know why, really; he was often unreliable, forgetful, and moody. If you happened to catch him in one of his spells, everything turned grey, starting from the distance between the two of you and seeping into the air, out the door, around the block, until pretty soon, you were submerged in the pool of sadness he had created. And there was no getting out of it. You just had to meet him another day.
The last time I saw Harry, he looked good. He was as lighthearted and curious as ever, and as the night went on, we changed our plans on every whim, as we always did. The clink of brimming glasses. The ringing of the car bells, the candle lights, yellow bulbs, and disco rays reflecting off bottles and cigarette cases. My hand reached for a cig; the tobacco crumbled into a fine dust between my thumb and forefinger, and he took it from me.
There was a bus to the club district waiting outside the bar, but we hopped into a taxi instead. We resisted the temptations of the night and the city and escaped to better places.
Somewhere better than this place—that’s what we always sought. And seekers find each other, Jamie would say. But I didn’t find Harry so much as run into him, at full speed. We were just two kids looking for fun. And we didn’t care about anything else.
She trudged on, directionless but fueled, her rage focused on the patches of pavement shifting and trembling beneath her favorite shoes.
He’d looked at her with unfocused, uninterested eyes. He’d shaken her hand. He’d politely led her into his office and waited for her to sit.
The wind snuck its way into the hole between her scarf folds. She covered it absent-mindedly and walked faster. A pigeon scuttled in circles in her path. She stopped and thought back to the clock.
It was round, standard, white. She’d stared at it at the start of the interview, trying to recall the Stranger’s emotions. She didn’t mean to stare at it; it merely interrupted the path of her gaze, and she found it alarmingly blank. The priest? “I don’t remember,” she said. She couldn’t remember any of the plots of the books she mentioned, only impressions, the smoke that trailed off, the “faint remainder,” “the gentle indifference of the world.” So what if he didn’t visit the priest?