He stared up from the street through the arching walkways of the skyscrapers and arcologies, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sky. He knew he couldn't see it, knew without seeing that it was a flat gray, the gray of the hulls of hulking battleships at anchor, the grey of concrete, of perpetual overcast days.
It felt, he thought, like rain.
It wasn't the first time he'd tried (fruitlessly) to see the sky; to be truthful, the impulse seemed to strike him more frequently these days, as he found himself wandering, aimless, with nothing - provided the necessities of life but not the spices, the motions without the meaning. The twisting words brought a slight curl to his lips as he brought his gaze back down to the street - sparing a glance at his wrist to check the time as he hurried (why for? a voice questioned) to the rail station. He had an appointment to keep.
* * *
The platform was slightly crowded, as it always was - a mix of people, some he'd come to recognize by rote from the repetitiousness of his travel; every tuesday and wednesday, Blue Line to Central, transfer to Red, Red to 115th, 115th to Beckett, one block to the Rosencrantz Tower, 45th floor, office D. There he would sit, for a period of no less than 1 1/2 hours and no more than 3 hours, discussing with a counselor his hopes and dreams, his plans - immediate and long-term - and their daily and weekly changes, if any. He rarely took the full time, sometimes running out of things to say by the end of the first hour, having to be prodded - gently but firmly, like a recalcitrant child - into speech. At first he had hated it; now he only felt a mild distaste, a certain reluctance to pass through the door which glided quietly open to his presence.
Today's appointment was no different. An uneventful trip, an uneventful interview, an uneventful farewell from the unmemorable counselor. He felt a sigh rising in his chest, suppressed it, walking back towards Beckett, hands tucked into his jacket as he walked, staring upwards into the gray, invisible sky. The appointment was a pro-forma, he knew, and he knew the counselor knew - a set condition of the assistance he received each month, paying his room and board by telling the same tired, dull gray stories he had been telling for years to the counselors who pretended to listen. He coughed, pressing the crook of his elbow against his mouth, the rough texture of the charcoal-gray wool making his nose itch. He kept walking, his eyes fixed on the skies he couldn't see.
* * *
I suppose we all know how the story should continue - the colourless man finds someone - or something, but most likely someone - who is full of life and love and laughter, who comes from a world different from his own, bringing to him light and colour and all that he lacked. But what if she never comes? If the young man were to turn to a middle-aged man, an old man, still gray and colourless and - ultimately, inevitably - lifeless? Would it be less of a story for lack of a foil?
Of course it would. Let's not fool ourselves. Endlessly repeating the same passages makes for as dull a story as his life would be. Life cries out to be explored, not endured - at least, for most of us.
But on that note, let us put this story aside. Love will have its chance to find our - hero? well, not yet. Let us call him for now our protagonist. Heroism, too, will have to wait its turn.
* * *