Hey armadillo, what'cha doing in the garden?
Slumbering and spherical, you're always hanging around
He still had on his ceremonial robes as he wandered down the shining streets of El Dorado, not sure of exactly what he was looking for. He wanted someplace where he could think, just be by himself for a few moments. To truly appreciate the beauty of the city before he had to leave...
Had to leave...
Miguel self-consciously adjusted his headress as he walked by one of the locals, waving to them but not saying a word, not wanting to start a conversation at the moment. They luckily did not approach him, only continuing on their way.
He did love this city, but something in him felt dull...felt heavy. He wasn't sure what it was, but it was beginning to tinge his disposition and he did not like that. This was part of the reason he was searching for some private place to think...he hoped it would do him good.
He wandered past the great golden monoliths, arching up to meet the sun with glittering radiance. It was beautiful, to see the sparkling monuments to gods and other beings, but they did not soothe the heavyness within him. When his eyes wandered lower, past the people walking by, on a collection of leaves and plants, he felt a twinge. Greenery...
The perfect image came to his mind...the garden area not too far from where they had originally arrived here. The plants laid out in vaguely symmetrical patterns, with gently moving water in carefully controlled streams, chipped and carved out of the golden streets, running by them...shade and quiet...that was certainly where he could get some thinking done.
He headed directly for the glimpse of green he had seen among so much gold, getting only a few wary glares and respectful nods as he passed. Word had been getting around among the people how friendly their lord Miguel could be, and the fear in them that had bothered him so much initially was fading.
Things were changing...and that inevitably meant the day he was dreading would come. When he would have to leave here, leave this beautiful and fascinating city...he did not want that to come. But even that was not the source of his heavy heart.
He finally found the garden, seeing it deserted as he had suspected. The vegetation, held by long golden planters, seemed to trickle into the occasional streams of shallow water that ran through the area. Around the garden rised the great golden walls and shelfs of the buildings nearby, enclosing it from almost all directions. It had an entirely different emotion pervading it then the city he seemed to have left behind, an aura of subtlety and grace. It gave Miguel a sense of peace, but not resolution.
While he was surveying the area and trying to find a place to sit, he heard chittering near his feet and looked down to the see the armadillo who had been following them throughout their entire adventure. Bibo was lazily lying in the grass, only occasionally reaching out from a protective ball to sleepily swat at any butterfly that happened to come by. Miguel could not help but smile, kneeling slightly. His short cloak moved around his shoulders to obscure him from view, only to be brushed away almost without thought. Bibo recoiled further into his protective shield at the movement, but still watched him through wary eyes.
Miguel watched him with a sad smile. "Hey there. I see you've followed me here too."
Leather on the outside but a delicate interior
Very like a lot of human beings I have found
The armadillo slowly uncurled, recognizing Miguel as no threat. He held his hand out slowly, watching as Bibo moved forward and took hold of one of his fingers in his tiny paws, sniffing it curiously. Miguel shifted from his kneeling position to a sitting one, deciding this spot was as good as any to sit and think. The armadillo stared at him, the fear gone in its eyes and replaced by familiarity. Miguel continued to watch the small creature, the sadness in his chest only seeming to increase as Bibo let go of his fingers, looking at him quizzically.
"Doesn't take much to get you to trust me, does it..." Miguel's voice was sad and without energy, something people did not see often. His happiness was not nearly as perpetual as he made it seem. He leaned his head to the side slightly, finding Bibo following his motions. "You look all hard, but then you're not really..."
He shook his head at his own ineloquence. "I know a lot of people like that..."
One in particular came to mind.
Hey armadillo I can't tell which way you're facing
Maybe that's a good thing, maybe you don't even know
He watched as Bibo, sensing his emotional distress, withdrew back into his protective shell, rolling back slightly. Miguel watched his reaction with a strange sense of detachment, a feeling of having seen the same scenario before. Of course, the answer was obvious...it was the person he had just mentioned...the person who was constantly on his mind, because he was why he was leaving. He was why he wanted time to stop forever, here. He wanted to stay here with him forever, to be happy here. But he knew that was impossible...
Bibo was still curled tightly away from him, so much so that he could not even see his eyes. He had no indication of where the armadillo ended or began...when he had seen Miguel upset, he had withdrawn, pulled back into his own protective shield.
Miguel sighed deeply at that, sinking his head into his hands as painful memories came back to him as a response to the animals natural behavior.
"What do you think?"
"What do you mean?"
"How do you feel? About it, I mean. How do you feel about it? I don't know really...I just want to know. It's kind of important, I think. To me. Kind of..."
"You're not making any sense. Anyway, we've got work to do."
"Shht. We have work to do."
"I can't stand it...it's driving me insane...I can't keep doing this, I can't...I feel-"
"You'll get used to it. Don't worry. Now listen, we're going to have to do this right the first time..."
"Don't you care? Does it matter to you? Do you even hear anything I'm saying? Or is it that you hear it too well?"
Miguel sighed again. He had never said that last line, although he wished he had many times.
Every time the conversation moved into deeper, more emotional waters, Tulio pulled back sharply, almost as if it were painful for him to even think of his partner having emotions.
Maybe it frightened him, to think of Miguel as having emotions other then enthusiastic happiness. Maybe he just didn't care. Maybe he cared too much...His position was so ambivalent that it was impossible to guess his motivations, which was becoming emotionally wearing.
No one's gonna bother you if they can't find your front end
Then again I guess you find your love life rather slow
Bibo continued to remain curled, apparently still aware somehow of Miguel's sinking into a deeper and more pervasive depression.
What did it mean? He didn't understand...
Was the heavy stone around him the threat of his departure or what was causing his departure? And why? Why would it be having that kind of effect on him? He didn't understand...
It was quiet, apathetic depression, with a blank and expressionless face. He again held out of his hands towards the armored animal, waiting for Bibo to uncurl and come forward. It took almost five minutes for the armadillo to realize that Miguel was reaching out to him, and almost as long for it to uncurl and again come over and investigate his fingers. Bibo occasionally glanced at him as he did so, almost as if checking to make sure Miguel wasn't about to descend back into his emotional morass.
Miguel was drawing disturbing parallels and it was bothering him to some extent. However, with careful effort, he managed to conceal this well enough as not to frighten Bibo off, who sat and stared at him. He wasn't sure what Bibo wanted or expected, but Miguel was sure that it wasn't his sadness.
Everytime he tried to speak with Tulio recently, everytime he wanted to be serious for just one moment, to talk for once about how he could not do something, how he felt about what they had to do, Tulio ignored him, pushed him away, delayed his questions and comments for a later time when they meant nothing.
Miguel wasn't frightened of talking about himself...the more he thought about it, the more it seemed that Tulio was the frightened one, and he did not understand why.
After all, now they had everything. Everything they could ever want, and for some reason, Tulio was frightened. What was he frightened of? Was it Chel? He wasn't sure what kind of relationship the two were forming, as they didn't talk much in front of him, but he was fairly sure that wasn't the particular influence.
No, something about the city, and about Miguel in the city, was bothering Tulio for some reason. Something that was breaking...no...was making emotional bonds -- which were easily shared before, even through their own heavily veiled ways -- difficult for him. Something was making it hard for Tulio to connect...something breaking them very steadily apart. They had always been very close, even though they never spoke directly about anything. They always used games and playful fights to get their own emotions across, but they still tried to communicate at least. Now Tulio just ignored him...he didn't play along anymore. He was withdrawing...what was wrong?
In the armadillo circle
In that armour-plated set
The philosophy is simple
What you see ain't what you get
Everyday he waited, putting on his happy smiling facade, struggling with every pointed and sarcastic jab to let Tulio know that he wasn't happy with him. He wanted to know what was wrong. He wanted to know why he had pulled away. Why he had left him here, staring at his shell that he was erecting, this worrying, obsessive shell that was not normally like him. He had become more fastidious, more obsessive, a bit more compulsive. Something had changed. Something was wrong.
Everytime he stared at Tulio, watched him smile or look focused, there was something missing. What he saw on Tulio couldn't be, wasn't what he was feeling. Everything he saw about Tulio was beginning to look like something different, and it was confusing.
"What do you think?" Miguel's soft voice startled Bibo slightly, and he backed away. However, this time he did not curl up, instead only continuing to stare at Miguel and maintaining a short distance. Miguel stared back at him with sad eyes. "Do you think he's hiding something?"
The armadillo had no idea what he was talking about, but Miguel wasn't expecting answers from him. "I know he's hiding something...something very deep is bothering him. I know it, because it's not there..."
He shook his head again at his own clumsy grasp of language. "It's...it kind of hurts...but I bet you don't understand." He again tried to believe his own illusion of talking to the armadillo instead of himself. "To think that he won't talk to me about something like this. He could at least try...but all he's done is shut me out. I don't understand him anymore...that's so...so unbelievable for me."
He half-closed his eyes with a soft sigh. "I just don't understand..."
In the armadillo culture
In that well-protected creed
A solid hide to hide in
Is the only thing you need
"Does it make him happy, do you think?" Miguel stared down at the armadillo, who again took hold of his fingers, searching and sniffing over them again as if he could have possible missed something the first time. Miguel watched him quietly, listening to the quiet chittering sounds he occasionally made, the soft sound of water trickling, the faraway footsteps of people with lives going about their errands. The question continued to hang in the air, Miguel the only one present who could answer it.
"Pulling back so far that nothing can get to him anymore...just being so isolated...so alone. He shouldn't be alone, you know?"
He sighed, pulling his fingers slowly from the small creature's grasp. Expecting it to shy away, he was surprised to find it only stared up at him, apparently confused. Miguel guessed that his voice was helping calm the small armored thing down, so he continued speaking out loud. At least, that was his excuse.
"I mean, I've always been there for him before, haven't I?" Miguel's eyes glanced over the soft, multi-colored fabric hanging over his shoulder. He touched it softly, thinking about everything that had happened. "I've always been there if he really wanted to talk. We talked once...I mean...we really talked. You know, like people are supposed to. That was a long time ago though..."
"Aren't you afraid?"
"Afraid of what?"
"Of dying, you idiot. Aren't you afraid?"
"Why should I be afraid?"
"...I don't know...I've always thought..."
"...I've always thought..."
Miguel let a sad, empty smile come across his face for a moment as the armadillo mimicked his movements, touching one section of it's hard back coverings just as Miguel had touched his cloak. "I used to think that we'd always at least talk...even if it's not really talking but playing. I always thought he'd do that...but now he's just stopped. Just...stopped..."
He looked up for a moment at the blue sky, reflected and distorted by the golden buildings around him. "Ignoring me...I never thought he'd ignore me. I'm important to him, right? I have to be..."
He returned his gaze down to the armadillo, who he found had followed the movement of his head and was now staring at him again. "I wonder if he's happy this way...I'm sure not."
Hey armadillo, what'cha doing in the desert?
Is a life of burrowing the answer to it all?
Without warning, Bibo jumped and turned, running away from Miguel as if the blonde-haired man were chasing him. Leaping into one of the nearby planters, the armadillo began to dig furiously, kicking up dirt and dust with great speed and energy.
Miguel watched him with surprise, but then resided back into his previous apathetic state. No doubt he had startled Bibo in some way and the flighty creature was trying to protect itself from a non-existant threat.
He wanted to stop drawing comparisons between the armadillo and Tulio, but again the issue of running away appeared. As the armadillo steadily vanished beneath the dirt, Miguel felt he was also losing Tulio in much the same way, watching him slowly disappear, with him powerless to stop it.
He didn't want to lose him in this way. He didn't want to watch him bury himself in hidden and unknown feelings. He didn't want to watch him kill himself through keeping everything inside. It hurt him inside to think that he was in such pain, so much pain so that all he could do was hide and keep it inside, keep it festering and growing.
How could he have decided to do this? What had prompted Tulio to change his attitude, change his behavior? To begin to bury himself, to hide himself away? What had done this? Miguel could think of nothing, but there had to be something. There seemed to be no logical way for Tulio to have just decided, with no apparent reason, to hide everything that he used to keep open. What was he frightened of?
"He's going to bury himself so deep...he won't be able to breathe..." Miguel watched as the armadillo finally disappeared from view, only a few clumps of dirt flying upwards occasionally indicating further movement in the planter. He watched without much concern as one of the plants that had been uprooted in the animals flight fell against the gold stones, almost as stark a contrast as the clumps of dirt themselves.
"I don't want him to die this way..."
What I would give to leave my problems six feet underground
And always be the perfect shape to be, and have, a ball
"I wish he would talk to me..." Miguel drew his knees up to his chest, resting his arms across them and letting his head sink slowly out of view. "I wish he trusted me. I trust him...what's wrong? Is it me? I don't know..."
He glanced up at where Bibo had disappeared. "I wish I could just dig myself deep like that and disappear. To be able to ignore everything and just focus on myself...it's selfish and mean. I know it is...but maybe then Tulio would realize what he's doing. Maybe he just needs an example, a mirror to show him...it isn't healthy. I don't want him to do this..."
Now even his illusionary audience of Bibo had left him, but this did not stop Miguel from continuing to speak, any thoughts that crossed his mind coming forth in a steady, soft voice. "I wish I could just wrap up in myself and wait until everything went away...wait until Tulio stopped doing this, wait until everything went back to normal...but time isn't my friend right now. I don't want things to go on like they are, but I don't want time to stop either. I don't want to leave, but I don't want to live like this...with the person I care most about ignoring me...not trusting me..."
Miguel rubbed his forehead into the fabric of his shirt. "I don't want time at all...I wish he was acting normal again...it's not fair."
In the armadillo circle
In that armour-plated set
The philosophy is simple
What you see ain't what you get
He paused, closing his eyes, letting his breath return to him, warmed through the passage through his shirt. "I wish he still cared about me..."
So gradually, so silently, almost so he did not notice it, someone's arms slid around him from behind in a mute request for attention.
When Miguel realized what was happening, he attempted to turn around, but the enfolding limbs around him did not allow such quick movement.
"Do you understand anything you're saying?" The voice of his partner came to him, next to his ear, whispered and soft.
Miguel again attempted to turn around, this time succeeding, forcefully breaking the hold on him. He turned to face Tulio, who was dressed in his normal clothes, only an irregularly worn and tired expression on his face tainting his perfect image of him.
"How long have you been there? How much did you..." Tulio seemed oblivious to Miguel's obvious embarassment, only the same sad emptiness that Miguel had been afflicted with before being present on his facial features.
"You think you see me...but that's why..." Tulio paused and rethought his words. "You wouldn't understand why I'm doing...what I'm doing anyway."
Fury at having been decieved and the blank, sad, unfamiliar look on Tulio's face came over him in a rush. He grabbed Tulio's arms, staring at him demandingly. "I don't care! I at least deserve to know what you're doing! You can at least tell me that much, alright?"
He fully expected Tulio to break away from him instantly, to back away. To stand and walk away and say nothing. Like he was supposed to. Like he had before.
In the armadillo culture
In that well-protected creed
A solid hide to hide in
Is the only thing you need
"You don't understand anything." Tulio did not move, his arms still pinned to his sides. He shook his head with a quiet and sad sense of superiority. "You don't understand anything."
"You never tell me anything! Maybe that's why!" A vicious streak of sarcasm had entered what he had intended to be a simple sarcastic comment. "How am I supposed to know or understand when you won't give me anything to know or understand?"
"I'm trying to protect you."
That response, no doubt made with all tenderness and caring intent, only worked to make Miguel absolutely furious.
"From what?! What? I refuse to be protected from something I can't even see! I don't even know what you mean! What could you possibly protect me from here? There's nothing in El Dorado that could ever hurt us here! What are you afraid of?"
There was a pause as Tulio stared at him quietly, arms still pinned to his sides, as Miguel took deep breaths, struggling to keep his rage under control.
Tulio slowly leaned forward and kissed him. Softly and quickly, so that Miguel had no time to even react.
Before Miguel could even formulate a coherent response to what had just happened, Tulio spoke, his voice as quiet and sad as it had been before.
Miguel stared at him with surprise and shock, only able to speak one word, choked with various emotions, as he struggled to comprehend what had happened. "You...?"
Tulio glanced at Miguel's hands, which now had a deathgrip on his upper arms. He looked off to one side with a quiet sigh. "I told you you wouldn't understand."
Bibo, having seen Tulio approaching before Miguel had even noticed, had burrowed deep. However, curiousity prompted him to resurface for a moment, to see what had happened while he had been gone.
When the small creature turned it's dust-tinged head towards where he had left the two humans, he found something that was surprising. All of his instincts and previous experiences with humans had taught him that more often than not meetings between two people resulted in arguments and fights; never good for an armadillo.
He could see that, indeed, the dark-haired one now was sporting a black eye. However, it did not seem that they were fighting now. The softer one with lighter hair was gently holding the wounded dark-haired one's face, the darker-haired one holding his companion tightly to him, and the two of them appeared to be kissing and crying at the same time.
Unable to understand, with its limited experience, all the conflicting human emotions present at the scene -- anger, love, sadness -- the armadillo simply turned back to the ground it had just surfaced from and once again began to dig.