His eyes stinging with sweat, he came to a halt in his work—the wall. The wall was made of pure steel and it stood high above the ground. No one could see over the metal barrier. He never felt so…safe.
The first wood plank went up. Before applying any of the white paint, he edged in a list. The list was dug deep into the wood; unless the fence be taken down—the names will never fade away.
The sun was just rising, and with it, his work was just beginning. He began by digging individual slots for the picket planks. He shoveled deep so the fence would be planted in the ground. Then, one by one, each plank stood up. The man connected each plank by two rails. The posts stood 4 feet tall and 3 feet was in the ground. The distance between each post was only 1 inch—that way no can see beyond it. He then went on to paint it white. Each stroke of the brush meant something to him, each plank he finished coating was decorating something. When he was all done with his white picket fence, he felt accomplished. After all, it was perfectly symmetric and surrounded his entire house. The wood was dense and planted firmly in the ground. The fence was so…pleasing. To anyone walking by, the fence looked like it belonged—natural. He made a picket fence for this reason. He didn’t want anyone to be questioning—concerned—about what laid behind the fence.
It was hurt, screaming in pain. It was numb, silent in despair.
He became no longer content with this worthless wood. If one so wished, they would approach the 4-foot-tall fence and see the house— “too close” he thought. Besides, what once was a perfect coat of white paint was now a chipping and deteriorating, fading white picket fence. He then went to put in another fence: this time it would be a chain fence—something not so appealing. He laid the blueprint: It would again surround his house. This time though he would make this fence 7 feet tall. It would also be placed 7 feet from his picket fence. “A more comfortable height and distance” he thought. The chains were to be thick and dense so that a child’s hand could not even fit between the holes. When he finally installed the metal chain fence He thought to himself “This will keep them away; this ugly thing should do the trick”
It was fury, full of fire and burning hate. Yet, it was cold and empty.
This fence was stronger, more stable, yet, it was, in some sense, see through—after all it was just chain fence. People could still see through the barrier and see the picket fence behind and then over that short wall—his house. He was fed up with this; he will have his safety. He started to design it. It was to be 20 feet high and 4 feet thick. Again, it would surround his house. Frustration and haste went into its making. It was in a short matter of time for the wall to come up—the steel wall. It casted a shadow on the house when the sunset came. It was impregnatable, it was an immovable defense. Its foundation was deep and its purpose was undoubting. His reasoning was deep, his purpose was intentful. No mistakes were made in its building, its creation was of perfect design.
It was a storm, raging and crashing. Yet, it was a puddle, still and lifeless.
His eyes stinging with sweat, he came to a halt in his work—the wall. The wall was made of pure steel and it stood high above the ground. No one could see passed the metal barrier. He never felt so…safe. Yet, one day, and that’s all it took, a visitor stood pounding the outside of the steel wall. The strong bashes were heard from the house. The owner of the house, the builder of the walls, could not ignore the pounding. He, annoyed, went up to the last barrier and yelled “Would stop that, please? Thank you.” The builder of the wall was starting to walk away when the banging from the steel wall continued. He again approached the cold steel and yelled “I told you stop! What do you want?” Then came a response, it was quiet but still hearable from the other side of the steel wall, “I only wish to come in and say hello”. The man, the builder of the wall, was a little confused by the reply. Somehow, unknown how to him, the builder of the wall, asked “If I let you say hello, will you then go?”.
The visitor outside of the wall replied, after a moment, “Yes”. The builder of the wall then let the intrusion in. The visitor, when they met eyes, said “Hello” to the man.
The builder of the wall then replied awkwardly “Hello?”.
The visitor, still looking right at the man’s eyes, said “Well I best be off”.
The man bewildered by the statement, asked, as the visitor was leaving, “Was that it?”. With his backed turned towards the man, the visitor replied “You should really consider tearing this wall down…Drew”. Quickly, the man responded “How do you know my name? Hey! How did you know my name!”. Too late—the visitor was gone.
It used to live, it used to love.
The next day, again, at nearly sunset, there was pounding at the steel door. This time, the man was angered and went to meet the visitor. Just in case of it being different person, the man yelled again, “Hello, would you stop that please? Thank you.” Again, as the man was leaving the wall, the banging started again.
“Hey! Is it you again?” The man yelled, “Please, go bother someone else!” The pounding still continued, “You said you would leave me alone after you said hello!”
“I said I would leave yesterday; I said nothing about today!”
After a long moment, the man grudgingly petitioned “If I let you in today, will you not come back tomorrow or any other day?”
The visitor replied “Only if that’s what you want”
He then let him in again. When the two met eyes, again, the visitor had smile on his face, “Hello again” he cheekily said. The builder of the house was first silent and then “What exactly do you want, and how did you know my name?” The visitor quickly answered “How long since you’ve seen the sunset?”.
“What?” asked the builder of the wall.
“Yah know the sunset, how long since you’ve seen it?”
The man answered “Awhile…Since I put the wall up”.
The visitor responded “Shame, real shame; since lately the sunsets have been beautiful”.
“They’re always beautiful around here.”
“Then why put the wall up?”
“I don’t watch them anymore”
“Shame, they’re still real beautiful.”
Growing impatient, which what seemed at the time a pointless conversation, the man, irritated, asked “Are we done?”
“Yes, sorry. I must be off.” As the visitor was turning to leave, “You should at least consider it, taking down this wall and all.” And again, the visitor was gone.
The man annoyed by the intrusion went to bed—trying to sleep off his irritation. When he finally fell asleep, he dreamed. He dreamed of watching the sunsets with them. He awoke. Stirred by the dream he got up. He then ran over to puke in his bathroom toilet. After the emission, the man walked to see the steel wall. “I guess…I would like to see them again” he thought. He then tore down the steel wall.
It use to pound. It used to throb.
It took until dawn to bring the steel wall down. He was exhausted and retired to his house. He opened the door and went to a backroom. In the room, laid a safe. He then spun the code and cracked the safe open. In the safe laid photographs—he gave a sigh. He picked up the stack of pictures. The first was a wedding photo of him and his wife. Then was a photo of his children and him playing baseball on the lawn. The next—was a family picture of them watching the sun go down—watching the sunset all together—all alive. He then began to cry—and he cried bitterly. He cried so long, puddles began to form of the floor of the backroom.
It used to beat. It used to pump.
The next day came and so did the visitor. The man was awoken, on the floor of the backroom, by the sound of a bat hitting the, now rusted, chain fence. When the man went out to meet the visitor, knowing exactly who it was, said “Hello again.”
“Hello!” the visitor enthusiastically responded. “I see you took the wall down, good choice! Now you can see those magnificent sunsets!”
“Yup. Is there something you want again?”
“I was just hoping to play a little baseball with yah, only—this metal fence is in the way,” There was another awkward silence between the two: the man was refusing to respond to the visitor. “When was the last time you threw and hit the ball around?”
“Awhile…Since my family died.” quietly replied the man. By now the visitor had been let inside of the chain fence. The visitor then put his hand on the man’s shoulder. Quickly, the man noticed—there was holes in the palm of the visitor’s hands. “Let’s say we do something about this fence then, Drew?
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves