The Fool was one who was dressed in motley. He carried constantly with him a long stick, on which end hung a small bundle of possessions. In the other hand of his held a rose, which some said never wilted ever since it grew from his palm. Every now and then he fondled the flower with his nose, and savoured greedily that peculiar fragrant. He thought he was a rose.
He was wont to dance his bizarre dance around the edges of a precipice. The witnesses were fearful of his safety but no one would dare to stop his risky antics. At any rate, rumor had it that the Fool danced with his eyes closed, yet never once did he trip off that precipice as some would have feared. Someone told me, once I broached the topic, that the Fool was possessed of the remarkable ability to see with his mental vision. Every time the sunbeam struck the Fool blind, it imprinted on his mind vivid images. So it was hardly a grievous matter if the Fool was with a pair of eyes that only gathered darkness. There were speculations that he saw even more when he was not seeing.
Always, he danced on the cragged surface of the precipice with only a pair of stockings. Once a kind gentleman who could not suffer any longer the painful sight of the Fool’s bruised feet, which was covered with bloody wounds, offered him his old boots. Still dancing his way merrily and barely taking heed of such humane gesture coming from a total stranger, the Fool almost kicked the gentleman off to his demise. People were enraged by the Fool’s ungratefulness, although the gentleman, true to his magnanimous nature, managed to swallow any words of anger. One witness recalled the event with unmitigated horror. He confided to me, with tone conspiratorial, that he supposed whenever the Fool was doing his dance, he was at that point transported to an alien world where he was the first and the only visitor. Every person or object of the earthly world ceased to hold any importance or meaning to him.
Just as I was greatly baffled by the strange case of the Fool, and had been mulling over to no avail the most comprehensible way to put into words all the odd tales I’d heard, I met an old lady, who claimed to know the man before he metamorphosed irrevocably into the Fool. The Fool was, according to her, born into an affluent family, hence his renown at the time as a brazen profligate. His mentality was then still sound, and through several chance encounters with him the old lady believed that the young man was also intelligent beyond his years. Nevertheless his gravest weakness was his tendency to squander away his fortune, compounded with his irremediable idleness. His parents had not much high hope for their son.
It was also ingrained in his nature of his intolerance with the monotony of life. He loathed rules, blatantly flouted the authority. He seemed to be harbouring an unconstrained urge to rebel but could never muster the courage, or the determination, to do so. The old lady described him as a “wild horse whose heart was nonetheless chained by irons.” Such wild heart soon extricated itself from the iron chains when one day, incensed by his parents’ unrelenting ridicules of his indolent lifestyle, he flounced out of his opulent home and became a vagabond. The profligate was now a prodigal son. His pilgrimage took a total of fifteen years. No one really knew to what places he had wandered, of what shelter he would temporarily lay down his exhausted body, and how he managed to keep himself afloat during such a long period of time (he was said to not steal a single penny from his parents’ safe the day he went away.)
And one day he appeared, dishevelled and gaunt yet, the old lady recalled, having this unassailable glint in his eyes that exuded fearlessness and wisdom. He went directly to his home, which looked still as opulent as the day he left, and showed himself to his bemused parents. It was already a talk of the town, and a stigma to his parents, when their son decided to throw away everything of which he was privileged. Even until this day, when they saw their son return home safe and sound, though considerably matured and weathered, the two elders remained doggedly disconsolate. Their son never uttered a word during this frosty reunion. Soundlessly he soon left his home again.
Many people presumed that he would be soon off to another pilgrimage, but no, he stayed. He stayed in his beloved hometown until now, even after his parents passed away only a few years ago. He took up a habit of dancing and dressing up like a clown and yet when his old acquaintances approached him, in hope of renewing the old familiarity they used to share, he remained silent and regarded them with indifference as if they were apparitions. That was when the sobriquet, the Fool, came about. The adults would tell their children to beware of the Fool who never talked but whiling away his life by dancing. Ceaselessly dancing.
Just before it was time for me to depart, I saw the Fool again, circling around a gnarled tree in rapture. His hands were up in the air frantically waving. I shouted out to him a barrage of questions that had been inflaming my curiosity these past few days. But, as expected, they went blithely unresponded. Suddenly, as I ruthlessly demanded him to account for all the confusions that, till now, I could yet make head or tail of, he stopped his frenzied dancing the moment I asked if he felt his journey away was now an utter waste, as the wisdom he gained hardly made him a wise man. He said, in a voice astoundingly smooth and sonorous: “Maybe one day my rose will as well die away. That day will be the day I’m finally liberated.” As if what just happened was no more interest to him, he resumed his dancing. He danced past me towards his home, the beautiful façade of which betrayed signs of its agedness when seen under the red setting sun.