Kane: A Friend and a Traveller
A little ways off the north road, up a small, sloping hill, was the apartment complex where I grew up.
In Apartment building B, room 201, there stayed a lively young traveler. (The children of the apartment complex, myself included, called those who had the intention of staying less than a year “travelers”). The complex children dubbed him “Kane” because the only notable possessions he seemed to have were his loud motorbike, a small leather satchel, and his father’s poorly whittled walking cane.
When he arrived the first day, he told us tales of greedy kings and vengeful merchants, cunning mice and runaway princes, all by the slides at the park. My mother disapproved, and said he filled our heads with nonsense and gibberish. The whining parents of the other kids agreed, but we didn’t care. Kane poured so much sugar and spice into his words, I often stayed up at night thinking of the imperishable cities, reduced to rubble, and the way the steady, smooth friction of his lips charmed his words.
I had never been so utterly fascinated by someone.
Though he was a young man of barely twenty years, numerous, small scars were plastered unevenly across his forehead, leaving little white trails over what should have been smooth, almond skin. I found that he was always listening to the pain of strangers, and my little self though, “this man carries the weight of the world’s burdens”. He had gleaming, metallic, copper eyes, and I was afraid they’d rust green if he ever cried. I was convinced that if I held his chest to my ear, I’d hear the groaning of ancient engines or the steady, conventional ticks of a timepiece.
Slung over his back, he carried with him an old, rustic guitar with fine engravings of a pine forest. He often showed the kids how to strum a few chords and played and sang for us frequently. I begged my mother for a guitar of my own, ever since then, though I didn’t get that guitar until a couple of years later. I spent my school days puzzling over the ink of my pen, wondering if it would taste sweeter in song. I wanted desperately for Kane to hear my prose strummed into chords.
One day, that curious thought struck me. I asked Kane if he was a fan of poetry, to which he nodded that lazy, tilted nod of his. When I asked if he’d sing my poems into song, he looked at me funny.
“Tell you what, kiddo,” he said. “If you write me a song - not too long, but don’t make it too short, either - and hum a little tune in my ear, I’ll sing it for you all you like.”
For several days afterward, my brain worked in nothing but syllables and letters, rhythm and emotion. The song was about Kane and his stories, Kane and his guitar, Kane and his love for snippets of old newspapers he kept under the coffee table. It was about his scars that sat at weird slants, and his easy, knowing smile.
When I finally finished, I held it up at funny angles to make sure every bit of it was as charming as it needed to be. I looked at under the sunlight and in the mirror, upside down and with one eye closed. The next morning, I refused to let anyone else read it before I heard Kane play it for me.
But by the time I made it to Apartment building B, room 201, his apartment had been emptied. Kane was gone, and there went his boyish-charm and rumbling voice with him. There went his dark, kiwi-fuzz stubble and his deep, eloquent eyes that were always reached by his smile. There went his motorbike that smelled too strongly of gasoline, and his darkened, splintering walking cane that boasted of times I was not even born to see.
It was as he were a dream: a man who had never really existed.