Big and Small went walking down the street of a city that was not home one overcast day, Small with her flushed and rounded cheeks of youth and Big with his big hands and bigger nose, and together with their eyes and their rhythm and their groove in this city they knew they did not know. They jived around puddles and danced under awnings as the sky opened buckets upon them, and yet they relished the freedom of a heavy sky, for the rain meant they would be alone on the streets today and those streets would be open and receptive to their advances so long as big hand held small, small hand held big.
Small stopped to point and coo at a passing mule, a lonely, miserable soul in the rain, then pulled her skirt up to look at her shoes which were dewy wet in the gray morning before scrambling off again up the sidewalk with her eyes alight and glowing. She had Big’s eyes but not his hair for she had no one’s hair though no one’s hair was beautiful to Big but he hardly had time to think so because together they hurried off again at the frenetic pace of a child swimming in explorer’s shoes.
Staring in at gleaming, gilded chairs and velvet duvets over ruby silk sheets, antique clocks and ivory statues, their breaths condensing upon the rain-spattered glass, the two of them, Big and Small, laughed their way up Royal, down Bienville, and ducked into galleries for a taste of culture and an education for Small whose eyes gleamed like puddles reflecting off the pavement of a city equally worn and not worn enough, except on Fat Tuesday when not much was worn at all except for glittering beads and feathers and beer.
Inks and oils, pungent as yesterday’s news and waste strewn about the nearest saturated corner yet infinitely more alluring to the distinguished nostril, overwhelmed poor Small as she inhaled deeply the fragrances that permeated the shops she and Big slogged into whenever the rain got to be too much. Here was art. Here was desire. Vision. That which had once been blank had come alive, like the skies in a storm, and like lightning It struck her, this art, this vision, this desire, though she did not shrink away from It all like Big had hoped, expected, even. She was drawn to that world and it chilled him like ice, or it could have been the rainwater collecting on his shoulders. He shrugged and followed her about the galleries for a time, but at a distance, tracking just close enough to catch a finger that strayed too close, a nose that nearly painted itself, a wisp of hair caught neatly between two full, rosy lips.
So enthralled was Small with The Art that she did not notice Big step outside again under the brightly patterned awning which was suddenly muted in the under-saturated air, and he stood there waiting, old, glancing uneasily up and down the street again as little puddles turned to little ponds and little ponds to little streams down the gray crevices of the sidewalk, like little tears down the gray crevices of his brain.
Small emerged some moments later, though the span felt like half a lifetime, and she appeared to him too brilliant to touch, too brilliant to contain, too resilient to mold again into the young Small he had always known as his. He grasped for her suddenly then, under the awning, to be sure she was real, and she almost slipped on a slick bit of concrete but she laughed and the laugh went down instead of up and that puzzled him then troubled him, and instead of coos she talked back and they walked on down the road in Big silence and Small talk.
The rain had not stopped, and little streams trickled into little rivers so they hurried now, Big and Small, down the streets of the city they did not know. They walked past Bourbon and Big tried to hurry by but Small dragged her feet and looked anyway. A man with no hat and a funny beard tried to stop them but Big said “No thanks” and looked straight ahead. Small burned. Bicycles swept past and Big tried to lift Small out of range of the splashes that burst from the wheels but she was too big and her mouth was too open and a bit of the ancient city grime was swept into her mouth along with the rain and the tears. The rain lamented youth, and innocence, and also on that day the inevitable loss of both, even as big hand held small, small hand held big, and Big tried to laugh now, only it was too low and Small was still scared of the funny man with no hat and a beard so she stopped talking and tried to coo only her coo was broken.
So it was a glum day after all, and the two of them surged together back up the floodwaters of the road to home, to life, but neither were quite so familiar as they once had been, and certainly Small and Big had changed in small ways, too, that would someday add up to very big but also very sad ways. There would not always be a Big, nor would there always be a Small, but Big hoped that Small would always be his, and he also hoped that as long as he lived there would always be a Small around with him.