It doesn’t sneak up on you, it doesn’t hit you over the head with an existential shovel, it doesn’t come from thin air. It’s always there. That will to do nothing, that ability to pacify yourself.
Contentment is like a boomerang. You make a stand, and you shove it off into the world; thrust yourself into a life anew. A new project, a new love, a new year’s resolution, a grocery list, fresh paint, an old book, a riveting drama, a crisis, the fear of loss, remembering your mortality, a photo album, employment, investment, destruction, nostalgia, suppression, control.
These things that inspire you, or disgust you. The hopes that carry you along, the memories that chain you down. You can push these away, but somehow they always return.
A list gets checked off, fresh paint dries, photo albums get put away. The houses are rebuilt, all the fires have been put out. And then what?
That is where I am at. There is no great war to fight, no devastation to conquer. I constantly observing other people who do not seem to function on anything but dramatics, there always has to be some crisis. My biggest fear is turning into something of that nature. But isn’t that how it always works? What irritates you the most is the reminder of your own worst traits you see reflected back to you in other people?
Once upon a time, there was a bear. This bear lived and breathed and felt and did things. He was a brown bear and talked, but very rarely. He talked so rarely, people forgot he had a voice. The truth of the matter was the bear had no need for a voice; he had a need for folding paper. He loved origami, and one did not need to speak to create things out of paper. He loved how he could start with something completely blank and flat, and within his imagination, he could see other creatures, and with the same motion over and over he could make something beautiful, but not exact. It was a representation of everything he admired about his world, as small as it was, and it could fit in the palm of his hand. These creatures wouldn’t be afraid of him, and he couldn’t hurt them. These were the thoughts the bear had as he made more origami.
The bear loved to make origami in his room or in the library; sometimes he would stay up all nite trying to figure out how to make a new bird. Birds were his favorite, but he did not know why. During school he would fold up his tests into cranes, at the store he would fold up his receipt into a pelican, in the bathroom he would fold up paper towels into robins. Sometimes, even at dinner he would fold his napkin with one hand, while he ate with his other. He would stir honey tea, his daily nitetime comfort, and read origami books before bed. And sometimes during the day, he would sit outside and feel the wind on through his fur and sun on his nose, and fold slowly. In his dreams, he made amazing round spheres four times as tall as him if he stood up on his back legs, all made of little origami boxes he could shred with this claws forever and it would never fall down.
One afternoon, while sitting outside working on a new type of star with seven sides, a kite fell into his lap. He picked it up with his paw and saw the design. It was a combination of flat paper and sticks and string, and it had teal ribbons on the tail. He noticed there was a long string attached to the center, and he started to follow it, but only made it short distance when he was at the feet of another bear. She was lovely and majestic, she giggled and she helped him up. She had the shiniest black coat he’d ever seen, and his fur was dusty and brown and unmanaged because folding paper had nothing to do with washing fur. She asked him questions, and he only answered some. They became friends. He marveled at her kite, she saw his paper art. She decided to hand him back the kite, and showed him how to fly it.
They would both take turns with flying the kite, but the black bear enjoyed teaching someone to fly for the first time much more. She would hold the kite, and he would hold the spool, and they would run at the same time. They did this over and over, tripping over each other and laughing. Sometimes tumbling over one another, and staying on their back in the grass. Then at one point they didn’t get back up, because they held each other’s paw, and they were talking. And the bear didn’t realize it but he had talked with the black bear more than he ever had ever talked in his whole life. He would listen to her speak and he would hold a paper crane in his hand, and he would feel that he was the luckiest bear to be alive, and how funny it should be that they should meet by chance. They talked about paper, they talked about sticks, and they talked about how these two together made flying possible. They stared at clouds and asked each other what they saw, and they saw everything and every animal but bears. They rolled in the grassed and smelled flowers, and thought it was funny they had always been in this same meadow but never noticed each other.
Then the sun went down, and they could no longer fly. It was cold and dark, and they both knew it was time to say goodbye. The black bear asked him to keep her kite, as long as she could call him his friend, and as long as he promised that he would fly kites with her tomorrow. He asked for her to take his paper crane, and said that every time they saw each other, he wanted to give her another crane. He usually never makes the same thing twice, except to practice, but he read in a book in the library that if you made a thousand paper cranes, it was good luck and that you could be granted a wish. The black bear said she’d never had a wish come true before, and the brown bear instantly wanted to help her make that happen. They said that they would meet in this same spot, in this same meadow tomorrow. They gave each other great bear hugs, and rub each other’s fur as they said goodbye.
That nite, the brown bear thought about what he told the black bear. He had no actual knowledge of dreams and wishes, but he wondered if they could come true. He was so consumed by this thought, he didn’t have his honey tea at nite, and he didn’t sleep. If wishes could come true, what would she wish for? He forgot to ask. He thought, and then with his paw he meticulously folded the paper crane for the black bear tomorrow. He struggled because every time he completed it, it only reminded him of what he has folded before, and he wanted to fold something new. Something that was beautiful like her, something that was worthy of the black bear’s beautiful shiny coat. He started over. And then, he started over again.
He had started over so many times; he didn’t realize that today was already tomorrow. He didn’t realize this because it was still dark, even though it was no longer yesterday. The bear jumped up and raced to the window and saw that it was raining. His bear heart sank, and he clawed at the window. He clawed and clawed until it broke the window and it started to let water in. He ran outside because he was already wet at that point.
The rain was coming down hard, and his hard trot through the mud was slow and his paws sank and made deep sloshing sounds that was muted by the downpour. He ran to the meadow, but there was not another soul in sight. He already knew the black bear would not be there on this day, because no one could fly a kite on a day like this. He let out a bear roar that no one heard.
When he went back to his house, he felt silly. The broken window had let in so much rain that it ruined the all of the paper cranes he made. He didn’t care because he had known that he had not made the perfect crane to present to her yet anyways. He put a cover over the window. He unfolded and hung up wet paper to dry. He laughed to himself and thought that maybe when the unfolded paper dried it could look terrible as a paper crane, but that he would make it for the black bear anyways. While it would not be perfect, her first crane would be rare, and unlike any other crane ever made. He would tell her the story of running out into the meadow, and he would ask her to walk with him places, take her to try to find his footprints.
Then, the bear never noticed until now that it had always rained. It rained every few days. He hoped for sunshine tomorrow, but did know if the black bear would be there since they did not talk about the next day or the day after that. In his heart he wanted to fly with her every day, but now he knew that it would not be possible. Right now, his only hope that he would see her once again. It was afternoon, but you would never know because of the dark rain clouds. He started to make his honey tea, and he started to fold.
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