There once was a boy named Rain who grew up in an apartment with no backyard, in a city where the parks were paved in asphalt. At 20, Rain worked in a tattoo shop, his arms and neck covered in ink. After ages of studying to be the shop’s resident body piercer, he estimated he had pierced 29 nipples, 34 septum, 8 earlobes, 14 lips, and some other body parts, he tried not to picture when he closed his eyes. When Rain was four years old, his father disappeared mysteriously, leaving behind a packet of flower seeds.
The packet of seeds was a great novelty in the little apartment, where boiled rice was eaten on an unvacuumed carpet in front of an ancient TV with a wire hanger sticking out. Missing his father, Rain slept with the seeds under his pillow at night, pulling it out to examine the grainy picture of bright orange flowers now and again. The packet with its picture served as a message from afar; yes, this was an image of the place Rain’s father had gone. He fell asleep and dreamt of great fields of bright orange poppies, and his father, wading through them, far away.
At midnight, one month before his 21st birthday, Rain boarded a plane to Barcelona. He left behind his job, his friends, his apartment. He took enough clothes to last for two weeks and he took the packet of seeds, which he was no longer keeping under his pillow for fear the paper would disintegrate. Arriving in Barcelona was like cutting into a wedge of stinky European cheese, or opening a fresh can of mediterranean tuna, or biting into a Spanish olive for the first time: the feelings were intense, robust, undeniable. And for the first time, the thought entered his mind that he would like to open his little packet of poppy seeds, and plant them.
The years passed, and Rain was quite satisfied with his new life and his surroundings. There was the familiar concrete jungle in all directions; however, in this new land it was peppered with beautiful stained-glass windows and art nouveau ironworks. There was an underground railway system which could transport him to the Parc Guell — as close to nature as he had ever been in his lifetime. In this magical park, there were no straight angles; only curves, “as nature,” and the architect who designed the park, intended. The centerpiece of it all was a sprawling “placa,” where the tourists gathered. They came from all corners of the earth to take in the whimsical mosaic swirls of benches and scenic overlooks. Everything was plastered in shards of bright color that seemed to have fallen directly from the artist’s imagination.
The primary color in Rain’s imagination had always been a searingly bright orange. It was the color of a thousand poppies in the sun when he saw his father again. He thought about the poppies as he counted his years in Barcelona on his fingers: one, two, three, four… five. Soon, he feared, he would be 27 — the age of his father when he left — and the curse of time would overtake him. And he had yet to meet his father!
He set out to form a plan. He knew he had to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance and reunite with him before midnight on his 27th birthday. This was the most urgent plan, since it had the potential to save him from repeating his father’s mistakes… or falling prey to the same unfortunate-seeming destiny. When he accomplished this, he would part with the poppy seeds, and plant them in the field where they would live forever.
The sky growled, opened up, and began to heave terrible sobs. Normally Rain would have noticed the gravity of this storm, but on this day, his head was full of its own clouds. All he saw was a shower and some puddles, and he pulled his peacoat over his black hair and hurried down the little hill that marked Parc Guell’s entrance toward the Metro station. His thoughts were careful and warm; he thought of so many scenarios in which he would find his father, what he would say, do.
He never wondered how it would feel: he knew. Like a field full of poppies. And then Rain died. He was hit by a railcar while walking across the tracks. His eyes could not see what was right in front of him, because they were filled with the images of the orange poppies. When he fell over, the packet of seeds spilled from his hand, its wilted paper torn by the blow of the fall. Seeds scattered onto the concrete and into the railroad tracks. Passersby could make out a faint orange image clutched in the palm of Rain’s hand.