One day, as a man was walking along the beach, he noticed that there was a rock sticking out of the sand. It was an unusual looking rock. There was something about the way the light reflected off it. He could almost see things in it, although they were little more than slightly colored moving clouds of mysterious shapes reflecting off its surface.
He got down close to the rock, so he could see it better, and the more he looked, the more he realized that the rock had no color or texture itself. It was smooth and shiny; but not like a mirror, for although it seemed to reflect the colors and textures of things around it, you really couldn’t make out exactly what they were.
He was so taken by this rock that he decided to dig it out of the sand and take it home with him. He thought about how impressed his friends would be when he showed them this rock—it delighted him to think that they would be similarly captivated by it. It would bring him new friends too, he thought, because no one had a rock like this one.
The man began to dig. At first things went very quickly. The dry sand was easy to move aside and more of the rock was exposed. And no matter how much of the rock he uncovered, it had exactly the same lack of texture and color when he looked at it very hard and for a long time. The rock only appeared to have texture and color because it was reflecting the sand, the other things on the beach, the blue sky with fluffy white clouds, and even the sun itself was reflected on that rock’s surface.
After a while of digging the man began to get tired. He took off his shirt. There was much more of the rock exposed and yet he could not budge it from its place. He rested a little and began to notice the other things on the beach around him, especially the pretty girls walking by who would look at him shyly and smile. The man sat down, leaning against the rock, and took in the sun on his face. It felt so good. The warmth flowed over his skin and he closed his eyes. Time passed…
Suddenly the man woke up with a start. He realized that he had drifted off to sleep. He looked around him and saw the rock again. His determination to dig it out so that he could have it rose up once again in his mind. He got to work.
Slowly, because now the wetter sand was heavier, the rock’s sides were exposed. But no matter how much of it he cleared, he could neither budge it, nor see the end of it. The hole around the rock was beginning to get very large, and people were starting to come up to him in curiosity. They wanted to see what he was doing. “What do you think I’m doing?” he said to their questions. Each of them thought he was doing exactly what they thought he was doing and that satisfied them. A few walked away thinking he was a crazy fool, some walked away admiring that he had found an innocent way to while away his time, some just shook their heads and quickly forgot about him, and one or two went off to search for their own rocks to uncover.
The man worked like this for a very, very long time. His beard grew, but his fingernails stayed trim because of the friction from the sand. By now he had a large audience. Individuals came and went, but the crowd slowly grew. Then officials started to come down to the beach. Officials always go where the people are, so they can officiate. Some individuals, convinced that they understood exactly what the man was doing, started to offer explanations to anyone who would listen. Some of them were very good at it. A few of them asked for donations to help support the man’s work. Over the days and weeks the man’s digging became a popular sight for anyone looking for a few moments diversion.
One day he just stopped. He was exhausted and felt that he wasn’t getting anywhere, although the hole was so large now that he could no longer see the beach and the crowd of people. All he could see was a round of sky and a wall of faces looking down at him from above. There was a loud murmur of conversation that he could now hear clearly because he had stopped scraping at the sand.
Suddenly a voice called out to him. “Don’t stop! You’re almost there.”
“What?” the man said, “I don’t understand.”
“Oh, you are almost there. I estimate that you only have another two feet to dig before you find the bottom of that rock!”
“How do you know that?” the man asked.
“I am Doctor Smith from the University and I have a P-H-D, the man emphasized the letters, in the morphology of indigenous rocks in this area.”
“Oh” the man said hesitatingly. “I thought this was a special rock.”
“Oh it is!” said the doctor, “look at how big it is! It is definitely an unusual specimen. But given the morphology of rocks in this area, which I have studied at great length and written a plethora of papers on, you should only have another two feet to go!” “Or I’ll eat my hat” he added.
He didn’t have a hat on though, the man thought to himself.
He turned and looked at the rock. He realized that given the circumference of the rock, another two feet of digging would take him a fairly long time to finish. He hesitated. Again, suddenly, another voice rang out. This one sounded melodious, like a bird’s call. It was a woman.
“Silly man!” said the woman’s voice, “Why are you wasting your time with that rock?”
“Why,” he hesitated, “it’s a special rock!” He heard her giggle, and his heart thumped strongly in his chest. He wasn’t sure what that meant.
“They’re all special, silly!”
“Why does she keep calling me silly?” he thought to himself.
He was looking at her wondering what to say, when a sort of chant started up from the crowd. “Dig, dig” the crowd chanted. He looked at the man with the P-H-D who nodded his head as if to say, “Yes, continue with your digging.” The man turned to look at the woman with the birdsong voice. She was still smiling at him. He hesitated, not knowing what to do. The chant continued, “Dig, dig!” Slowly the twinkle in her eyes (for there was a twinkle, which the man hadn’t noticed at first) faded. Her smiling face relaxed and the smile slowly vanished. The man turned away and started to dig. After a short while, he looked over his shoulder to see if she was still there, but she wasn’t. For some reason that bothered the man.
After another long time, he had almost made it down another two feet. At least it felt like it. But all the man could see was the same rock, with the same cloudy reflections playing over its surface… well, he thought he could see cloudy reflections playing over its surface. Mostly though he just saw a rock.
The man stopped.
He expected to hear the man with the P-H-D again, but he had gone off to another part of the beach to lecture to a crowd of people about the morphology of the indigenous rocks in the area.
The man looked over the circle of faces looking down at him, searching for the woman. He didn’t see her, and for some reason that bothered him again. It made him feel even more tired.
“I’m coming up” the man told the crowd.
A great cry of indignation rose up from the crowd. “No!” they said, “you have to dig!”
He looked up at them and asked “Why?”
“What do you mean why?” someone shouted, “You are the one that started digging!”
“Besides,” another shouted, “the doctor from the University said you are almost there! You don’t want to give up now, just before you accomplish what you set out to do, do you?”
The man thought for a moment trying to remember what it was that he wanted to do. He looked at the rock and remembered that he wanted to take it home so he could show it off and get new friends. Then he looked up at the crowd and realized they were not his friends, nor would they ever be. They were only interested in what he was doing, because it gave them something to while away their own time with. And they didn’t have to get their fingernails all scratched doing that!
Suddenly, the man realized the emptiness of what he had been attempting to do, but he felt like it had accomplished something after all, but he kept losing sight of what that was!
Suddenly, the singsong voice called out again: “Well? Are you still doing that silly digging?”
The words sounded like a laugh… a beautiful laugh. The man’s heart did that hard thump again. This time he did not hesitate, “No!” he said, “I’m coming up!”
It was a hard climb out of the hole he had dug, but finally the man was able to get out. The press of people in the crowd almost pushed him back down. People were touching his arms and slapping him on the shoulder, and shouting questions at him. He couldn’t make out a thing anyone was saying to him, but he tried to answer: “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” “I don’t know” he said, and each questioner chose the right answer for their own question and was satisfied.
A loud voice yelled out: “Hey! Somebody’s digging again!” And the crowd suddenly turned away from him, back toward the hole where another man who had taken his place was furiously digging. He would glance up at the circle of faces looking directly at him and then turn back towards digging as if the faces had electrified his arms somehow.
The original man looked around for the woman and realized she was right next to him. She spoke again, but he didn’t hear what she was saying because he had suddenly caught her scent and it overwhelmed him. His heart was thumping very strongly now and the mixture of thumps and her smell made him very dizzy. The woman took his hand in her hands and continued speaking to him. Slowly he started to make out what she was saying, but he had to listen very closely because it was hard to focus, he was so tired. His head felt like he was going to swoon.
So he focused with all his might on the woman’s face.
And then he noticed something.
The woman’s eyes were reflecting all manner of things, but unlike fluffy clouds of mysterious shapes, these were clear images. It was an amazing sight, and the man suddenly snapped out of his swoon.
The woman had stopped talking and was smiling at him. She still held his hand. Slowly the woman pressed his hand, open palm first, between her breasts. He felt her heart thumping, as if in unison with his own. He looked at his hand and noticed it as if he was seeing it for the very first time. He looked up at the woman’s eyes. They were smiling too.
He heard her voice say, in that birdsong way, “Everything is special, you silly man! Just look!”
It was like a laugh, the way she said it. He looked in her eyes, and suddenly understood. He could see the whole world reflected in those deep, steady eyes, but unlike a mirror, these reflections seemed more vibrant and alive.
He slowly looked away so that he could see the beach lying around them, and the blue water with its brilliantly sparkling waves showing a million reflections of the sun. And the sand, each grain a tiny world, was brilliantly reflecting the same sun and the millions of reflections of it coming off the water. The whole world was sparkling like a jewel. He felt the warmth of the sun on his face and turned towards it.
The woman said something again. He opened his eyes and looked into hers. She moved his hand onto her breast and he could feel her nipple hard beneath his hand, which tingled as if his nerves were suddenly shot through by electricity.
The man thought of the rock on the beach and how it had seemed to reflect all manner of things around it. He felt the accumulated weight of its past importance to him in the deadness of his limbs; but he smiled, because now he understood.
Suddenly the man woke up with a start. He quickly realized that he had drifted off to sleep. He looked around him and noticed the rock again, slightly protruding from the sand. This time, he turned away and searched with his eyes to find the woman on the beach.
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