By The River
 


She was sweeping her fingers along the surface. It was a little strange to see—almost as if she couldn't actually wet them, because the water was some sort of elastic membrane. If she had pressed down, it would only warp and indent and repel her touch like a blanket covering something secretive. She was talking about the rock, not the water though.


"You see the rock?" she said. 


"What rock?"


"That one." She pointed. Her lips turned up in an ambiguous smile. It reminded me of hazy fog in the mornings. "It's half pink, the other half like charcoal. Flat at the top but round on all sides, as if you were to cut a bowling ball down the middle. It's sitting alone."


"Oh, that one. What about it?"


She twirled strands of her hair with a wet finger.


"Do you ever wonder where it came from?"


I said nothing. The sound of the creek gurgled in response. To me, it seemed startlingly similar to one of Schumann's piano sonatas we had been listening to earlier at the cottage.


"I've begun to wonder about everything. But especially rocks," she said. 


"Why rocks?"


"Because they're so silent and stoic. No one really pays them any attention."


I pulled a piece of grass from the ground and crouched down next to her. She was watching the rock intently. I watched her. 


"They look so permanent and eternal, like they were designed by someone, something a long time ago and installed there. There are large rocks, small rocks, great boulders and canyons and mountains and cliffs and heaps and pebbles and stones you kick around. And they appear to us that way, as they are. We only see them in one state, one form. We see that half bowling ball: from our point of view, that's the way it will be now ‘til we die."


I looked at her. "But they are only a small fraction of something, is what you're saying."


She slipped her fingers through mine. They're warm. "Someone once told me a story, I can't remember who, I think maybe it was a teacher in elementary school—anyway, there was a rock a kid found in the backyard in their little man-made pond."


"Must have been a rich kid," I said.


"It was quite round, as if a pâtissier were kneading it as dough. It was the only blue stone in the entire pond, so no wonder it attracted the boy's attention." She looked off into the trees in the distance for a while. They seemed almost two-dimensional, like cardboard cutouts or as if a giant printing press had stamped them into the horizon. A dozen tiny birds fluttered in the air. The sun started to fade behind a sheen of clouds. 




"When he lifted it up against sunlight, it would glisten and sparkle. The boy was convinced it was a marble of some sort, or a magical gem. In any case, he played with it and carried it around in his pocket for a long time. He loved it and would put it on the table whenever he had a test like a good luck charm. He hid it under his pillow when he slept at night. He never lost it. Whenever someone took it from him, he would fight until he could get it back. But after a year or two, like all children, he turned his attention to other things. This stone was left in the corner of his closet, and subsequently forgotten.


The boy grew up, but as he did, each year, the stone would grow a little larger. Of course, he wasn't aware of this fact. He would never look in that corner of the closet. It was placed behind several cardboard boxes. No one sane would expect a pebble to grow in size.


At some point, when he left for university, the stone was already large enough take up half of the closet space - about the size of a rice cooker. Now it never stopped growing. In fact, it grew at a tremendous rate, accelerating with each day the boy was away. As if it could tell no one would notice, as if it were free.


One summer when the boy—now a young man—returned home, to his astonishment, he discovered the stone had taken up most of his closet. His clothes were strewn on the floor, coathangers bent, the contents of his cardboard boxes—old memories, old games, old stories—scattered and crushed. The closet door was nudged out of its hinges. Gently it seemed, little by little every day, so that it was still upright, leaning against the doorframe. 




"Can you imagine his surprise?" she said. 




He couldn't decide whether he was in awe or utterly disturbed. But that night when he was pondering whatever it could mean or what to do with the enormous blue stone, it began to glow. It was an ambient calm radiance, like if you were to imagine fireflies in a field. The young man watched from his bed, pretending to be asleep, and as he waited, the surface of the stone seemed to thin out and soften. It became more translucent, more pliable, and began to melt like draping skin. He debated leaving his room and he wanted to shout or scream, but he could not utter a sound. The night had become silent. His family was asleep. Every sound was swallowed by darkness. This thick viscous dark liquid. Some otherworldly force had a firm grip on his throat. Even if he tried to move, he couldn’t. The more he tried, the heavier his body felt, until each limb was fastened as though with massive boulders. He could hardly care though, he couldn't stop watching. The stone had now collapsed into a strange lump, some form or shape he couldn't quite understand. The glow was fading.


Then, he heard something in his closet move. Presumably, the lump was moving. It was dark now. From within, he could hear, though he couldn't see, something moving about, sliding, scraping, probing. He was afraid but he couldn't do anything. If he closed his eyes and turned away, he suspected the whole phenomenon would disappear. Even if he could tell someone about it, when they returned to his room, there would be nothing there.”




She was looking straight at me now, with such conviction I could have easily believed it had happened to her. 




“The surface of the rock began to tear and rip. It was like the sound of tearing fabric and at times, wet organic matter sliding against another. Schlick. Schlick. He tried to convince himself it was all but a dream, yet it was too real, too intensely vivid, all his senses were engaged and heightened and his mind as clear as a morning dip in a cold lake.


When the whole process was completed, in about ten or fifteen minutes or so, there was a period of silence again. The boy looked and he could see a form emerge from his closet, with shaky limbs, like a shadow searching for a source of light, so that it knew in which direction it should point. He lay still, holding his breath. The figure seemed to stop as well. 


After waiting for an indefinite length of time, he became more convinced that it had been a figment of his imagination, a bad dream, maybe some sort of a surreal hallucination. His body felt light and his head swam. He hadn't been drinking last night he was sure, but perhaps returning home had a peculiar effect this time. 


So he reached for his bedside light just to be sure. At first he thought it would either be something horrific or, on the other hand, nothing at all. But to his surprise, there stood, in the middle of his room, a naked woman.


She had deep black hair, reaching the middle of her back, thin strands draped on her well-shaped breasts. She must have been just a little shorter than him, maybe a little younger than him. Her stomach was flat and her eyes large and round. Her skin was brilliantly white, but at the same time it seemed to have a healthy glow. Something told him she was not dead, but entirely, fully alive. She wasn't exactly looking at him, even with the light on.


She seemed out of place, not because she was in the middle of his room naked, but it was as if she had no idea who she was. She couldn’t even utter the question, so bewildered she was. She was a form without solid lines to frame her existence. She was alive and full of curious energy, but so fragile she might be borne away in a gust of wind. That sort of a look.


So the man clothed her in one of his t-shirts, sat her down and tried to get her to speak. It was useless: she couldn't. She wasn't mute, she just could not understand his words nor had any idea how to express a thing. Her lips parted and opened and closed and nothing came out. Her eyes displayed both terror and confusion. To put it simply, she was a newborn baby." 




She laughed and plucked a dandelion beside her. "Does this all sound weird?" 


"Nothing sounds strange anymore, as long as you're saying it."


We sat quietly for a while. In the distance, I could make out the faint traces of violin music. Perhaps it was Sarasate.


"Anyway," she said, "he had a tough time explaining her to his family, and an even tougher time teaching her from scratch."


 "I could imagine," I said.


"But after a few years, she was attending university with him. She learned fast—quick-witted and observant. She liked Yasunari Kawabata and Walt Whitman. The Carpenters and David Lynch. Durian and hot yoga. She was a beautiful girl, so his friends were jealous. Of course, he didn't tell anyone about how she came to be. Nor was she aware, either. No one else knew about the blue stone from the pond."


"So what’s the point of the story?"


She shrugged. "I don't really know. But I like rocks."


I flicked a little water at her. 


She scrunched up her nose and wiped it off with her sleeve. "Now, when I look at things, though I don't know the answer, I have to wonder about them. It makes life a bit more interesting." She paused. "See, no one knew where she came from. It's the case with everything else. The world is made up of a whole lot of subjectivity. We see a very limited glimpse of something and we formulate our own ideas about it. 'She is a beautiful girl', 'he must be a lucky guy', 'she has such a sweet voice'. They wouldn't ever fathom that she had come from a rock. Even then, the boy never wondered where the rock came from." She pointed at the rock in the middle of the stream. "Like, where did this specific rock come from? Did it fall down from space like a meteor or volcanic ash? Was it blasted off of a mountain when they were clearing space for a road? Was it once a part an ancient ocean bed or did it fracture from a fault line during an earthquake or tumble off a waterfall? Was it once a colossal boulder and had been eroded into something so small and round? Had it always been here along this creek or river or whatever it was before? Did it have the company of other similarly coloured rocks? Did it have a family? Or perhaps it had travelled many kilometers from another country. How old is this specific rock, if scientists were to come date it? Maybe it had seen the dinosaurs. Or maybe it's like a newborn babe."


I placed a piece of grass between my hands and blew at it. It made no sound. "We can only see its physical face value and know nothing of its story. Of its upbringing, its culture, its own ideas, its personality and experiences and skills and talents. Or what it might like for dinner. And it will remain silent—born silently, passing away secretly. We would never realize who might be crying when it disappears, who will miss it or had their lives transformed because of it. Or maybe on the other hand, we will be the ones to pass away silently so we would only remember its existence from this point in time. Perhaps this rock will become a girl too."


She stuck her fingers into the water. They made a white splash.


-


Published in Of Forests and Clocks and Dreams, Inspiritus Press, 2016

This is piece is just a glimpse into my world, a positive thoughtful message for anyone passing by.