“I know where to find the gargoyle.”
“The gargoyle? How?”
“Dude, I haven’t thought about it for months. Then that girl Taylor shows up and her name triggered something and BAM the Taylor Property Management sign appeared.”
I searched my memory. “Oh yeah, I know where that’s at. But how—”
“Near a brick building: check. Bushes out front: check. Right in the middle of our search radius. Dude. It checks every box. It’s gotta be there.”
What were the chances that a girl we’d never met would just show up and happen to have the same name as the company that owned the building that hid the gargoyle we’d tried to find months ago? What are the chances it would still be there?
“I’m on the way. Call everyone else,” I said, flipping the most dramatic U-turn of my life. +Turns out it was only the second most dramatic U-turn of my life.
My pulse raced as I pulled up to the Taylor office. The other guys arrived at the same time, and we converged in front of the building. Standing in a row facing the building with flashlights in hand, we felt like a Spielberg movie.
“This makes so much sense,” said Zack.
“Who would have suspected a real estate office?” Neal mused.
I let out a deep breath “Alright boys. Let’s do this.”
We all dropped to our hands and knees, several grown men crawling in the mulch, sweeping our flashlights under the bushes. There’s no way we’d escape questioning if a police officer happened by. Maybe the truth was specific and weird enough that they would believe us. +We’d recently had an encounter with a couple of police officers. They kicked us out of the burrito place for singing the Jeopardy theme song too loud. This was probably their beat; it would be awkward if they found us.
It wasn’t long before the beam of my light hit something.
The greatest points of my young life were those brief moments standing on the precipice, leaping over the edge into something wonderful. Surviving those final, brutal minutes on the last day of school and then watching the second-hand mark the exact moment freedom begins. Catching the first glimpse of the ocean after miles of monotonous interstate. Feeling the metabolic burst when you wake up to realize it’s Christmas morning. Watching the stars dance inside bright blue eyes and finding your lips only a millimeter away from those of the girl you love.
This felt like that.
We found the gargoyle.
WE FOUND THE GARGOYLE!!!
— Aaron Kreigh Hooper (@aaronkreigh) December 31, 2010
The air pressure in the vicinity dropped a few millibars from our collective gasp.
“We found him!” squeaked Bill.
It was a small statue, tucked close to the foundation of the building. +At this point, medieval architecture nerds are protesting because they’ve figured out the awkward truth: the gargoyle wasn’t technically a gargoyle. Gargoyles are attached to buildings and are designed to divert rainwater away from the building. What we found is actually known as a Grotesque. However, “The Gargoyle” is a much cooler title so I’m sticking with it. He stared at us with sad, ancient eyes and a furrowed brow, looking like a cornered animal. Scrawny forearms grasped huge hind legs. He had horns and little bat wings. For a medieval demon with unknown powers, he looked kind of adorable. +It wasn’t medieval. It probably came from that weird store off I-65 in Indiana that has giant concrete statues of angels and African animals.
“Should we touch it?” asked Bill.
“I’m not interested in curses,” said Josh.
“Well, I’m going to pick him up,” I announced.
I lowered myself flat to the ground and stretched my arm underneath the bush. I didn’t drop dead when I made contact, which I took as a good sign. I stared at him for a minute, his stony skin mottled by the streetlight filtering in through the shrubbery.
What are the chances? I thought.
Well, it’s clear the probability is non-zero, the gargoyle yawned, stretching his stubby arms. He blinked a few times and smacked his lips, turning his head to take in the world around him. He looked at me and cocked his head. You look confused.
Well yeah. The way we found you is pretty improbable. A girl shows up with the same name as this building? It almost feels intentional, like it was—
Destiny, smiled the Gargoyle. The best meetings always feel that way.
I stared at him for a moment. So what are you?
The gargoyle giggled, and began drawing in the dirt with his toe. Maybe I’m the thing you’ve been looking for. A rip in the canvas. He glanced sidelong at me, then returned to studying the marks on the ground. Or maybe not.
His brows cast dark shadows over his eyes as he glanced up at me. Was I what you expected?
I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this.
Oh don’t try to fit me in your head. I’ll break your skull into pieces, he sighed.
What are you? I repeated, taken aback. Why did we find you?
His mouth twisted into a half-smile. He broke a twig off the bush, examined it for a moment, and then popped it into his mouth. While he chewed, his eyes lingered upward through the leaves to the sky beyond. He turned back toward his scribbles. You found me because you looked, he hummed.
Great insight, I muttered. I think you’re being cryptic on purpose.
The gargoyle looked up at me and sighed like a mountain. Oh you precious little bird. I’m a question mark. But so is the universe and all the life that plays out inside. Life is lived in the questions.
The gargoyle closed his eyes and began to rock back and forth on his hind legs, humming a soft little non-melody.
Yeah, my life is nothing but questions, I whispered. I just want some answers.
Little bird, he sighed. You’re scared of the answers. You flit around looking for cracks in the sky, but when you find one you’re too scared that it will crack you too, so you fly elsewhere. You content yourself with distractions.
He stopped rocking and looked at me, a sad light filling his eyes. You’re right about Her, you know.
What do you mean?
The gargoyle let out a long hum. Loving Her will break you. But in breaking you will be awake. The questions She raises are better than most of the answers you will ever find.
So what do I do? What if it’s too late? What if she won’t forgive me?
The gargoyle threw his head back and laughed like an avalanche. Get out of your head, birdie! You only found me because you searched. So stop being afraid of the questions. Let them be the wind in your sails. Go and let your hands and feet ask the questions.
I picked up the gargoyle. You don’t seem evil to me. Are you really cursed? I asked.
The Gargoyle’s eyes twinkled as he whispered:
There are always repercussions.
“Bring it out!” one of the guys shouted.
I pulled him out from under the bush and held him up to the light.
“Here comes the curse,” sang Zack.
“There is no curse,” I said, while pulling out my phone to take a picture. As soon as I said it, my phone slipped out of my hand, crashed to the ground, and broke into three pieces.
Everyone stared at the wreckage.
“Yeah, you’re definitely going to die,” said Josh.
“No, look it’s fine, the back just came off and the battery popped out.” I reassembled it and held it up to reassure myself. The AT&T logo appeared to my relief. “See, no curse!” +There is always a curse.
Bill sighed. “Let me get a pic of you with the gargoyle before a meteor hits you or something.”
“We did it boys!” Zack triumphed as I stood there with the gargoyle cradled in my hands.
“Now what?” asked Josh.
We paused, unsure of the next step.
“I guess we should put it back?” suggested Neal.
“Yeah, I get the feeling that no one can really own him,” I mused, staring one last time into the stone eyes. I returned him to the shadows of the bush, letting my fingers linger for just a second before letting go.
With our quarry returned to his hiding spot, we left to shave a few more hours off the night. As I pulled away, I took one last look at the building in the rearview mirror and watched the bushes recede. One of the guys tried to call but I never heard my phone. The ringer had stopped working. The fall had done more damage than I’d assumed.
“Repercussions,” I muttered.
That winter I worked part-time at a department store as an Assets Protection Specialist, which is corporate speak for security guard. They designed that job title to make you feel better about sitting on your butt watching CCTV monitors and questioning life choices. +I did get to do parking lot patrols on a Segway, so there were perks.
It was New Year’s Eve; I’d scored the early shift, which meant I’d be going to the party tonight. I’d almost forgotten about Taylor. I could tell her about the role she played in last night’s story; maybe she’d play an even bigger role. The day tingled with a sense of destiny.
Is she really what you’ve been searching for? Or is she just another distraction?
I sighed; I was being paid to find missing Game Boy Advance cartridges, not the answers to life, love, and other mysteries. +We never solved the Game Boy mystery either. Jake, the plainclothes guy working our region, and I went wandering behind the store, looking for evidence. He was here trying to catch a family of vacuum thieves, but this had provided a distraction for both of us.
I found some packaging under a dumpster. “Watson, a clue!”
Jake bent down to examine the ripped package. “Bro, we should run back the tapes to see who’s been back here.” God bless him, he actually cared.
“We should get back to the office anyway,” I mumbled, pulling out my phone to check the time. The screen was doing something glitchy.
“Awesome,” I mumbled. “I’m going to have to get a new phone.”
“Bro, you should. I got this sweet phone the other day…”
I wasn’t listening anymore.
There was a new text message. It was from Her.
Three words: “I miss you.”
No texts for weeks; not a single word since we saw that movie. And now this.
I miss you.
The bell rings; summer is here. The ocean crashes into view. It’s Christmas morning. The flashlight beam catches an old, stone face and you find the thing you were looking for.
I imagined the gargoyle smiling under his shrubbery. This was nowhere near a curse.
My mind spun, trying to connect the sequence of events from the past 24 hours. I tried to pull meaning from all this, but I wasn’t sure it mattered. I realized the only meaning I cared about was the meaning of those three words.
“I miss you too,” I texted back.
I was too scared to admit it, but I felt hope.
That’s when the questions started. What if she’s not back? What if she just had a moment of weakness, a brief lonely desire to cling to the past? What if she didn’t mean it? I was still figuring out my life, would she accept that? Was it better to forget the past and take my chances with Taylor? Forty-two more questions surfaced before a stony voice shut them all up.
You only found me because you searched. Stop being afraid of the questions.
I’d been looking for Her this whole time. No more waiting.
I texted back the only question that mattered.
“Do you want to give this another shot?”
I watched my broken phone like a hawk. A few minutes later I had one unread message from Her. I paused, terrified of reading it. A mountainous chuckle echoed in my head.
Let your hands and feet ask the questions.