I am a traveler, I say for lack of a better word. I am a cloud, a breath of wind, a lost music note floating through the air in search of someone to listen to me. Others might call me something else, though. In a way, I am a soul. Although, not quite. I am one of those who takes over the souls of people while they are asleep, one of those who lets them voyage around the world, one of those who gives them spirit and freedom when their body is resting, motionless.
This job is difficult and tiresome sometimes, but after years of observing the thoughts and memories of people, I have come to the conclusion that it is similar to the human process of walking the dog, occurring regularly at around the same time every day, just like I take a new soul out to roam every night. No one ever sees me nor knows that I am there, although I am able to observe them all from my point of view.
Tonight, the body whose soul I am caring for will sleep a long time; I can sense it from their peacefulness, from their stillness as they lay wrapped in a light blanket, the old fan whirring on the ceiling of their room like a drone while they snore softly, breathing in and out at regular intervals. Inhale, one, two, three, exhale, four, five, six. Good. This means I will have ample time to explore during this warm, breezy night, maybe even getting the chance to hang around a bit during the day, since this body is one that will most likely sleep in tomorrow morning. I decide this time not to venture into the imaginary, since I want to take advantage of the beauty of the season.
I slip out from the crack in the window frame and begin my journey, stretching out my arms and taking a long, shuddering breath of pleasure. No one is in the streets of the suburbs tonight, although they wouldn’t notice that I was here even if they were standing right next to me. Only the animals can see me – no: they sense me. The dogs and deer smell me. The owls and pigeons know that I am there as well—they have this feeling, this awareness that they are not alone. As I bask in the moonlit street that outlines the woods, I hear a coyote howl its mournful call, asserting its presence to me, for it knows that I am joining him in his woods on this evening. I curl up into a fetal position in the middle of the cracked and empty asphalt, first closing my eyes in satisfaction, then smiling as I look up at the brightly lit North Star and letting out a sigh of relief. It is always nice, you see, to know that you exist.
After taking an extensive walk, I venture into the city, where there is always someone awake to keep me entertained. For a few hours until sunrise, I squeeze in through the gates of playgrounds, sitting on the swings and being blown back and forth by the wind that seeps through between the skyscrapers. The scents of flowers whisk by me, flowing around my head like the current of a river wraps around a rock in the middle of the water. An old drunkard staggers down the street, singing to himself as he moves toward the unknown corner where he will at one point topple down, exhausted. I inhale, one, two, three, exhale, four, five, six. It is almost time for the sun to come up.
I make my way to the intersection between a dank, dark alleyway and the street, illuminated already by the first golden and pink rays of the early morning sun. The day’s first motorcycle races by me at speeds that would be without a doubt considered illegal by anyone except its rider, but at the moment, I don’t care. Freedom comes in many forms, one of which is the noisy roar of the vehicle as it awakens the roads at dawn. I feel the scent of gas whip across my face as the next one flies by, finding its own liberty by following the first one’s example. A group of pigeons, having roosted in one of the rafters above me, swoops down into the alley in a cacophony of flapping wings and birdcalls, coos and the occasional harmonious squawk. I check up on the soul’s body, and am pleased to learn that I will not have to return for a few hours yet.
Summer dawns and invigorates me, excites me, gives me life. I run to the park in the center of the city, eager to discover the unique people and sounds of the morning. As I approach, the melodies and chirps sung by various birds—sparrows, robins, cardinals—gradually get louder, blending with the echoing notes of a wooden instrument played by a young South American woman. She looks as if she is no longer simply a human, but one with the music and her surroundings, the tune she plays enveloping her like leaves of a tree. A crowd has grown around her by now, absorbed themselves in the power of the sounds that she creates.
I skip down a flight of stairs, walking through a short tunnel before I arrive at the fountain in the middle of the park, with its waters cascading down from the jug of a muse surrounded by an assembly of cherubs. The ripple and splash as the water crashes down into the round pool beneath creates just as brilliant a sound as that of the young woman’s instrument, and as I listen to the water, I dance across the square, twirling and sauntering, moving through the growing mass of people who use the park as a shortcut to get to where they want to be, or just to relax and enjoy the day.
An old man sitting on the side of the fountain feeds the sparrows with handfuls of shelled sunflower seeds, creating a crowd of his own, a crowd of wings and chirps and flutters. The pigeons coo again, all around me, and a seagull—they’re everywhere, those seagulls—flaps down in order to get some breakfast for himself. It scares away the smaller birds, who scatter away in panic, and I laugh to myself. The man suddenly gets up, shuffling his feet and reaching for his cane with a muffled grunt. I follow him.
The man is going to church. I realize that it is in fact Sunday morning, and that this is why the soul’s body is still sleeping so soundly. It is an early mass that we are attending, and as we sit down, I admire the stillness, the peace that reigns here, and the beauty of the high vaulted ceilings and the loft in which the choir of young children stand, ready to sing with all their hearts. The organ sounds, playing a familiar melody, and I relax, watching the people pray and sing all together, forgetting any possible animosity for a few hours.
Near the end of the service, the choir is awakened and the entire church is filled up to the roof with sounds, sounds that mesmerize me and never cease to amaze me. They sing in perfect harmony, in Latin, in English, and they are like the birds: with their long robes, I believe that they could spread their wings and fly at any moment. Their voices carry waves of bliss across the pews, the notes crescendo and diminuendo at just the right moments, and suddenly I see not children but doves, soaring over everyone’s heads and bursting out of the open window in an elating act of freedom.
When everything is over, I walk out of the church and listen to the bell toll ten times. I don’t have much time left. I speed up, moving through people and roads and bridges and buildings until I get back to the house that I left last night. Climbing up the trellis and back into the window the way that I came out, I gently place the soul I borrowed back into its body, bidding it one last goodbye. Just as I do every morning, I wave my hand over it, helping it to awaken, and as I do so, I pray that I have created for it a beautiful dream.