Flip had always meandered through life, skipping from course to career like a blind man playing cliff-side hopscotch. He’d attained a Degree in Obscure Nameology, a Certificate in Advanced Life Studies, and a Diploma in Tilting At Windmills. He’d washed computers’ innards; cleaned the inside of puppets; distracted air traffic controllers; typed up random number sequences (for code); skirted the issue of pants; polished bricks; tamed gophers; stopped watches; stole mink; dried water; delivered devilry; and painted positive slogans in braille, all for the most meagre of monies. But that never bothered Flip – he had a ‘plan’.
Yes, dear reader, Flip had a life goal: to paint his name brightly, extra adjective intended – to work optical wonders in the sky. Light would be his medium, just as sound is a singer’s. His parents had shaken their heads in bewilderment when, as a young man, Flip had shirked others of his chronological ilk and dabbled with mirrors minorly, examining the sun’s beams in detail as they’d played across the back of his hand. The warmth, the subtle interplay and dappling of rays, had set his mind and heart afire. From then on, for Flip there would be nothing else. And, at age twelve, the seed of an idea began to slowly form.
But be not too hasty now. Flip’s idea was a long while in the making and all that time on his lonesome had left him bereft of suitable skills of sociability. He laughed nervously at funerals, not knowing why. Anxiety drove him to dive into flower gardens to avoid potential friends. Romance was no option, his mind spinning blanks on all topics, like a broken poker machine. The best Flip could do was nod, smile and listen. He never felt ‘enough’ in those situations. See, his mind was always elsewhere, a flood of lights swirling behind the mask he wore to keep from blinding everyone else.
One day at a party, a random girl called Adeline was offering him a drink. He smiled and nodded and listened as she told him about her work: how she tamed tigers and lassoed llamas on a weekend but was working towards a career in creative design. The lights were particularly blinding that evening – in his inner window of the sky he saw bridges and towers, cogs, wheels and levers, all manner of Steampunk and Magicka twisted as one, reaching ever upward.
Adeline chatted. Flip nodded, smiled and listened.
‘So, what do you do?’
Flip coughed abruptly, spilling his drink as nerves knitted a net around his nominal notions.
‘Umm. I, ah, do lots. Random things, really. But, um, I’ve always wanted to, you know, paint. With the sun.’
Adeline stared him squarely in the eye, a lingering look that lasted longer in his memory than it did in real space-time. ‘With the sun?’
Flip’s cheeks blossomed red and sweat pooled in the hollows and rivulets under his sunburnt eyes. ‘A-hem. Yeah, the sun. See, I have this idea. About capturing light. It’s stupid but.’
Adeline sipped her drink and nodded and smiled. A real smile. For a second, from behind her eyes Flip caught a glimpse, a flash, of brilliant light.
‘Flip, it’s not stupid to dream. And this isn’t the first time we’ve talked—three times tonight I’ve come up to you, and each time you seem to forget. But I won’t be pushed away again. We’re the same, you and I. See, the first time you pretended to listen, but I could see your eyes turn inward almost immediately, your mind facing outward. The second time, you nodded, and your mask slipped just enough for me to see the glint behind the façade. The third, when you smiled I mirrored that image in my mind. So, here I am.’
And Flip and Adeline both blinked, a flashbulb of brilliance that threw their shadows up at awkward angles against the whitewashed walls behind them.
The next day, waking up next to Adeline was like that first day he’d discovered Radiance. So was the next blissful week. And month. And months. His lights, her lights, their lights – Flip no longer wanted to paint pictures of perturbing preponderance. He wanted to paint but two names in lights. Maybe, one day – and this caused him no end of amazement – three.
But Flip discovered that as time marched on its merry way, as he and Adeline[untitled8] slowly intertwined and he no longer saw where his lion tamer ended and he began, that the light behind his eyes was guttering out. Concentration, renewal, and diligence were required to fan the flames of his imagination. He began to miss the myriad mysteries he’d once mused upon.
Flip knew things would soon be over when he and Adeline would smile and nod and listen at each other, their masks slipping not one bit. Their eyes were glass, not mirrors, sucking warmth, giving nothing.
Flip could stand it no longer. His mind was turned to the light but his hands were still tightly tangled and always would be. Begging a month of time from his sweet Adeline, Flip locked himself in his room, planning, drawing, cutting, welding, sewing, incanting, and working the hardest he ever had in all his days. He was finely focused upon one, final goal.
He wrapped it. It fit in the palm of his hand. He’d sent it by courier. And then, with a handful of pills and a twist of rum, Flip slipped between a crack in this World and the Next and disappeared.
A knock at Adeline’s door at sunset. A package with instructions to open as the sun descended below the horizon. Unwrapped, she held a pocket-watch with two names engraved – Flip and Adeline.
An explosion of warmth burns her eyes. As she blinks, two names appear in luminescence that inscribe the surface of the sky: tangled, twisted.