A porcelain horse stands on my bookshelf, Guardian of the Books. His coat is mossy gray, cold and slightly scuffed to the touch, like something that was once smooth as a round marble but has been roughened by the dust of years. I don’t actually know how old he is, but I could imagine that he is a hundred years old. His black eyes – satin black gems of some sort – seem to be quite ancient, in an introspective sort of way. If I look into them, I think of all the days they might have seen, of the fields and cities, of battles and celebrations, of rooms and people far beyond my own. But when I look into either of his, for I cannot stare deeply into both at once, being as they are placed on opposite sides of his head, I see nothing but a distorted reflection of myself, and thus his mystery deepens.
I wonder how many other admirers have touched his flowing black mane; it has a touch of green to it, as if someone painted his mane emerald before it was painted black. His bridle, too, is green, but a dusty, hazy bluish-green the same color as his saddle pad. And the saddle itself, as porcelain as the rest of the horse, is the color of the Grand Canyon walls, a dull brown with hints of red and purple.
Indeed, the seat of the saddle is the smoothest part of the entire figurine, much like a saddle on display in a museum, worn nearly through the seat from years of use. The rest of the saddle may be cut, scratched, patched or worn through, but that seat is smoother and shinier than the day it was made.
But nobody has ever ridden this porcelain horse, have they? He’s a figurine, a decoration, an item at a garage sale.
Ahhh…now this is when that glorious human ability comes into play – “imagination.” Because how many other fingers have rubbed over that same seat? How many horseless children have placed this figurine upon a chipped windowsill and ran their fingers across the saddle, squinting their eyes until the skyscrapers become mountains, the streetlights campfires in the valley below, the honking cars bleating sheep, the rushing traffic the roar of a waterfall, the smell of car exhaust the stench of an enemies’ fires…and suddenly the children are no longer in their bedroom but sitting astride a mossy gray horse, watching over a war-torn valley from a secret, private overlook. They hold the blue-green bridle reins – soft as twisted curtains in their hands – and feel the black mane whisk upon their cheeks like a gentle breeze.
You know the rest of the story, I’m sure, so I needn’t detail here how the children ride off on that imaginary horse.