The International Writers Magazine
: About Eric

Richard Grayson

Kevin tried to remember just who it was in his dusty past that was fond of saying, “Let’s look at reality.”  It was either Mrs. Slane, the cleaning woman whom he had bitten on the elbow as a child, or Dr. Kiremdijian, the botany instructor or at college.  But of course there was always the possibility that it might have been Eric, Eric in one of his playful moments when he was imitating some pompous professor.

Eric, of course, never had said anything, since Eric was only a name Kevin had given to a boy he had once seen and wanted to talk to in Washington Square Park on a Good Friday that was much too hot for anything proper.  Eric – it was two weeks later that Kevin decided to call him Eric – was standing just on the fringe of the body of the park, not in the inner core of the peopled fountain nor in the next ring containing the benches, but off to one side, leaning against the unmovable arch, staring at everything except Kevin.
Kevin himself stood off to a corner, near some frisbee players, watching the boy he would later call Eric.  Kevin took it all in: the dark ringlets of hair, the faint bead of perspiration on the brow and smooth upper lip, the veins of the upper arm, smoothly muscled yet somehow delicate, the mustard-yellow T-shirt that said The Little Prince, advertising the old movie version of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery fantasy, the shorts, jeans cut off at least seven inches above the knee, the long slim legs sprinkled with blondish hairs, the soiled white Keds his ankles had been poured into.  Kevin took this all in and somewhere it registered that there was a reality that was the boy, and there was a reality that was called Eric, and there was also a reality for Kevin in which he had created the fantasy wherein Eric was the one fond of saying, “Let’s look at reality” – or indeed, in which Eric existed at all.
One time Kevin asked Dr. Kiremedjian in the campus coffee shop whether a man’s character was his fate or whether a man’s fate was his character.  Dr. Kiremdjian protested that he was only a botanist and smiled wanly, but when Kevin pressed him, Dr. Kiremdjian ventured his opinion that character and fate were separate and non-contiguous entities – very much like Kevin and Eric, or Kevin and the cleaning woman, or Kevin and himself, Dr. Kiremdjian.  None of them touched any other except in their respective imaginings, and the characters they were, being mere products of individual minds, were thus not consistent.  Kevin’s Eric was an eighteen-year-old high school senior, for example; but Mrs. Slane’s Eric was a forty-year-old electirician; and the Eric that Dr. Kiremdjian had created was not even a person at all, but a plant – a leafy rhododendron which responded gaily to the music of Ravel.  That Dr. Kiremdjian was a botanist and Mrs. Slane a cleaning woman and Kevin an agnostic determined their respective personal compositions.  One could not put Mrs. Slane’s Kevin, for instance, in a room with Kevin’s Dr. Kiremdjian; some unspoken law of quantum physics precluded any possibility of that.  So ultimately no one’s reality could be looked upon as real for anyone else, since every person was a fiction created by another, except in cases where the relationship had never existed in the first place – i.e., Mrs. Slane had never encountered in her thoughts the character of a botany professor named Dr. Kiremdjian.  Seen in this light, the nameless boy in Washington Square Park could be the most or least real of all – the qualifiers “most” and “least” when applied to “real” being of dubious significance in the framework of this story.
Or to look at it another way: An elderly black man on a hot Good Friday 1975 in Washington Square Park asks four people in turn for a dime with which he can gather enough money to purchase a bottle of wine, explaining to them, “Nothin’ to do but buy me some wine, which’ll at least let me feel good for a coupla hours.”  This all his reality, and the four people he has approached and from whom he has received change include the preceding characters in this story: Kevin, Mrs. Slane, Dr. Kiremdjian, and the boy Eric, each of them being merely a fictitious representation in the mind of the elderly wino.  So if we are to assume that reality is seen through the wino’s eyes, then story of Kevin’s apprehension of the boy Eric perhaps begins to make sense, for through the gray haze of an alcoholic vision on a darkening hot Good Friday, Kevin’s is only one of an infinite number of possible realities.
Therefore we may conclude that it is up to each of us to create our own characters, our own stories, our own realities, and not depend upon others for our fictions.  The elderly wino knows this.  Kevin, Mrs. Slane, Dr. Kiremdjian, and the boy Kevin has called Eric do not understand this as yet, although if by chance they happen to stumble on this story, they may eventually discover, affirm, and appreciate the reality of their own existence.
© Richard Grayson September 2005

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