A man built a kite. It is not so hard to do. Many people have done it before; the common objects are all around you. There is precedence for this, building a kite like this. You can use any piece of plastic, even a piece of plastic from a large garbage bag. Then, you fashion two pieces of wood into an X, and attach this X to the plastic bag. Then, you attach a piece of string to the X, and henceforth, and so on, until you have a kite.
And so, a man built a kite. He had not done such a thing as this before, not since he was a child, at least. How whimsical! he thought to himself as he built it. He took the kite to the park; it was not heavy, but it seemed surprisingly heavy, perhaps because he was so aware of the fact that he was carrying a kite; the presence of it.
At the park, there were children playing, trees, etc. The man ignored the sound of the children playing: they were inessential to his drama. Perhaps at this point we should think of a motivation for the man to do all of this, with the kite. Perhaps the man’s mother has just died. Or perhaps his lover has just moved to a different state, one that is far away. But no. A motivation is not really essential for this story. There is a man, and he has a kite, and that is all. We will note in passing that the man is wearing slacks and a dress shirt with a tie — and no jacket — but that is all. His tie is fluttering in the wind, but this simply means that is it a good day for kite-flying.
The man starts running and trailing the kite behind him. What a thing to do! What a thing to do! As he establishes a rhythm with his footsteps, the kite begins to take off. Soon, it is flying high above him.
“I have done this very simple thing that I set out to do,” the man thinks. But it does not bring him as much satisfaction as he thought it would. Still, he unfurls the line, letting the kite fly higher and higher. But now what?
After a while, the man’s arms grow tired. Perhaps the man is thinking melancholy thoughts — but that is inessential to this story. The kite glides high, until it is almost a boring speck. The man’s arms grow weary. He ties the kite string to the low-hanging branch of a nearby tree. Now he does not have to hold it.
Then, the man loosens his necktie, and hangs the necktie over the same branch of the tree. He starts to climb the kite string. He climbs up and up.
For the string is not a string. It is a rope, a bridge. And he can climb it. He thinks now how silly it was, that he did not also remove his shoes, for who needs shoes when he is climbing a kite string?
He climbs and climbs. The park is far away now. The air is brisk. From above, he can see the heads of the children, but he can no longer hear their cries. He sees them from directly above, and thus they are identified to him only by their hair color: black, red, tan, blond.
He reaches the top of the string. He is level with the kite. He reaches his hand out and touches the wooden X. It is cold at this height. The wind is very strong.
What a place to be. He can see the birds, gliding. He can see the clouds. He thinks maybe he should be going now.
But then, the man makes a crucial mistake. He stays for a few beats too long. A minute of staying too long leads to another minute, and another. The sun starts to move down. Twilight now.
He has stayed too long, and the sun goes down. …And then, in time, the sun comes up. It is not so bad up here, but now the man has an odd fear. He begins to worry that as he climbs down the rope, someone will untie the knot on the string. He fears that someone will untie it just as he is about to reach the bottom, and then he will bump along, not having the strength to climb back up. He will bump along just above the earth, a ridiculous figure, carried by a kite. How the schoolchildren will point and jeer at him then!
Obviously, this fear makes no sense. But it keeps him from climbing down.
Very soon, the man forgets about life back on the earth. It is remarkable how quickly one can forget these things. And from the height where he hangs, he can see everything, everything! The sun, the birds, the curve of the earth! …Although — he could see a little more if the kite would only fly a little higher. But the kite is at the limits of its rope. He could, of course, climb back down, and extend the rope — or even untie it himself, the very thing which previously he had feared. But then — what if he did not have the strength to climb back up?
And so the man does not move. He learns to be content with what he can see, though he cannot help but wonder what the view might be like from a higher level. But he does not move; he does not move. From time to time, the schoolchildren do wander by the tree. They see — hanging next to a man’s necktie — a mysterious rope attached to a speck in the sky. But they do not untie the rope, for what need is there to untie it? And so, the man stays where he is. He grows weary; the world grows weary.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”