A few weeks ago, my family went to Arizona to visit a sick relative. On our last day there, while we were in the back yard, Evangeline and I started drawing pictures in the sand. As I often do when I don't know what to draw, I drew a smiley face: two eyes, a nose, a mouth. Then because I had the eyes, I added details: lids, brows, irises, pupils.
"Once upon a time," I told Evangeline, "there was a face that didn't know it was actually a city."
"You mean people lived in a city that looked like a face?"
"Yes," I said. "But they didn't know that the city actually was a face. And the face didn't know that it was actually a city."
"That's crazy!" she said. "How can it actually be two things at once?"
"But you're more than one thing yourself, right now," I said. "You're my daughter, you're Rachel's sister, and you're also Ernestine's best friend."
"Every now and then, disaster would happen, when someone in the city would wander into the eye, and it would blink." I erased the eye, and redrew it, closed. "Whole buildings would be destroyed almost immediately, and people would run away, terrified of what had happened."
"Were they living on someone's eye?"
"No, they were living in a city built on the ground, made out of steel and concrete. But the city was also part of a face." I paused, wondering if she was following this bizarre story. "And then, once they had adjusted to the new shape of their city, the eye would open again." I erased and redrew the eye again, this time wide open as before. "And although this change also terrfied them, everyone was haunted by a feeling that the city was watching them, all the time."
"Because their city was an eye?"
"Exactly." I paused, impressed. She really was getting this, though I couldn't help but think she was probably too young for me to get her a copy of Kierkegaard to read. Do they even publish a children's version of his philosophy?
"But one day," I said, "a greater disaster than any other overtook the entire city. Someone --" I paused for effect. "-- someone went too far inside the nose, and the face sneezed. The sneeze destroyed millions of dollars of homes, tore up trees, leveled tall buildings, and left the entire side of the face's mouth covered in snot."
Evangeline laughed, and I laughed, although I did draw the stream of mucus coming out of the nose and over the chin of the mouth. I think at that point we had a massive rebuilding project begin that restored the mouth, fixed the nose, and eventually added hair, ears, a chin and cheekbones. And then we lost interest entirely and found something else to do.