Dry leaves crunched under Ricky’s feet and he pulled his coat tightly around himself. The park was an unfamiliar one, but it could’ve been any park, anywhere. It all ran together when one was on tour.
He stopped to look around and immediately wondered why he bothered, since there was little to see but bleak skies and jagged oaks whose dry leaves fluttered to the withered grass below. In the distance, an empty swing set sat forlorn, a reminder that summer was over.
It was just another depressing corner park in a dejected, soul-warping town. What was it like to live in a place like this? Were the people here content or did they long for the city, the way Ricky yearned for bigger things he couldn’t put a name to?
“I doubt the cattle of this place give much thought to anything at all.”
Ricky started. “Must you appear out of nowhere like that?”
Kalila turned up the collar of her cashmere coat. “I came from somewhere. Just because it isn’t somewhere you can see doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
“Please don’t get technical on me.” Ricky started walking again.
Kalila tagged after him, her hair splayed on the wind. “So what are you doing out here? You should be at the hotel nagging us about something.”
“I needed some fresh air.”
“I know how that is.” She took a deep breath and sighed in satisfaction. “I can’t feed properly on still days. Wind like this is a feast.” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “So why did you need air? You’re awfully pensive.”
“I just wanted to get outside for a little while, see the town.”
Kalila glanced around skeptically.
“And I got to thinking about the turning leaves, winter coming…”
“You’re getting metaphorical, aren’t you?”
Ricky shoved his hands in his coat pockets. “Time is ruthless. Why shouldn’t I think about it sometimes?”
Kalila shuddered. “It’s unpleasant. You can’t do anything about your mortality, so why worry?”
“That’s easy for you to say. You can take your life in a new direction anytime you want, but if I screw up…”
“You’re not screwing up.”
“Three of your gigs have fallen through.”
“But the others haven’t. The shows we played have gone well—”
“Except the one where Vic bit the girl who was supposed to take the cover charges and Bo spent half the first set playing bondage games with the bar manager.”
“Yeah.” Ricky sighed. “My life is full of those kinds of details, and compared to yours, I’ve only got an eyeblink in which to achieve—”
“What, Ricky?” Kalila’s voice took on an edge. “What’s so damn important that you think you’re not accomplishing? Money? Fame? A wife, kids, and McMansion? What?”
Ricky stopped walking. “I’m not sure, okay? I just know there’s something better out there. Something bigger than what I’ve got now.”
“Oh.” Kalila nodded wisely. “You’re right about that. There’s a lot you don’t understand. But your human brain wasn’t made to understand it. You can feel it at what I guess you’d call a spiritual level, but…” she frowned as she searched for words to explain. “This world is like a puppet show. You see things move and they look real enough, but what matters are the things you can’t see beneath the surface.”
“Now who’s talking in metaphors?” Ricky started walking again.
Kalila hesitated, then caught up to him, matching his stride as they crunched through the dry autumn leaves.
They walked for a long time without the need of words, and after awhile, Ricky reached for her hand and was relieved when she didn’t pull away. It was comforting to have her here, even though she wasn’t human and couldn’t really understand. She had listened, and it helped. And when they came to a giant sycamore tree and looked up to see the clouds parting, Ricky felt her fumbling caress as she twined her fingers through his.