This story is dedicated to my dearest friend, Miss M, who recently pulled me out of the shadows…..
Dark days the colour of rainy roads and worn out shoes filled Aletha’s head. Too many nights were filled with staring at the swirls of light on the ceiling cast by cars and streetlights. Too many mornings were filled with the impossible like washing her hair or choking down breakfast. She longed for sunlight. To feel it, to actually see it, but the sky from her perspective was sombre.
She grew afraid when she saw the moon at daylight, hanging like an apple, peeled and whole. She hadn’t thought it could happen – that the moon could still be there when morning struck. She panicked, thinking the night would never leave her, that it was tracking her, that she was a target. She opened all the windows in the house, pinning back the curtains with alligator clips, flinging wide every door, inviting in the clear, warm light of the sun.
She was alone. She knew it. It was all her own doing. Knowing that didn’t make it hurt any less. She had done it for the right reasons – to free those she loved from floors covered in dust, from the thick silence – but sometimes doing the right thing felt so wrong.
Weeks ago Aletha had cleaned out the house – throwing away clothes that had sat in the closet for two years or more, old books, mascara that was flaking in the tube – thinking that less clutter would mean more light, more air. She didn’t realise till afterwards that she had thrown away one of her most prized possessions – the box of rocks she had gathered from rivers and the seabed. Good rocks, lucky rocks, possibly even magic rocks. She hadn’t meant to, but they were gone.
She thought about the rocks all the time – the colours of Mother Earth – who was not just earth but also water and light. The river rocks were smooth from all the running water brushing over them. The sea rocks were pocked from sand and waves. Even when dry the rocks smelled of water, a clean scent like breath on glass, unblemished and pure.
Aletha missed the scent, the pleasure obtained from opening the box and breathing in the story of every rock. How did it feel to be such an intrinsic part of the earth? How did it feel to be the earth? It was a power like no other.
It was the earth that stopped her from running forever. Away from every single thing she knew. She liked to stand in the garden and feel the earth soaking up the sun, feel herself gaining a kind of equilibrium as the wind and light swirled around her feet. The earth offered steady steps and a path to somewhere. She just had to be brave enough to walk.
The rocks sang to her in dreams, urging her to find them. Deep in Aletha’s heart she knew the rocks belonged to her just as she belonged to them. And without them she had no chance of catching the scent of water on the breeze.
It was hard to leave the house. There, she’d said it. She wondered if that meant she was beyond help. She’d heard of people being locked away for less.
I could use somebody, she thought. Right about now. Someone I know. Someone I knew before my mind went on a tangent it can’t return from. Somebody to say you can do this.
To think of days gone by is sometimes the hardest thing in the world. To think of who you used to be is worse. A war waged against yourself seems unwinnable most of the time. Sometimes becoming who you need to be takes all your strength over and over again until you are a shell staggering through the streets; not even tortoiseshell, not even mother of pearl. You are a shell made of nothing.
The phone rang. Aletha wanted it to go to voicemail but forced herself to answer it. It was a voice from the past. Carrying her backwards, her thoughts changing course, clearing away the vines that lined the tracks she had to walk.
It was a kindness unforetold. Unexpected. Unalterable in its goodness.
Aletha opened the door. The colours in the garden were vivid. Resplendent, she muttered to herself. It was one of her favourite words – joy, beauty and celebration all at the same time.
She walked, holding her breath, counting the steps, feeling the blood flow in her tired limbs out of the gate, down the street and across the road to the park.
It was low tide. Motes of sunlight had been dropped on the water, gleaming, pale amber streaks that swam on the surface, poised like transparent sea creatures before diving, low and deep below the rocks.
Aletha filled her pockets with the stones of the earth that would sustain her if she let them. Browns, grays, reds, blacks, whites. Watermarked, sun-smeared, besmirched with sand and reeds. Her pockets grew heavy, out of shape, but she didn’t care, she could smell the water.
Across the estuary she could see her friend, the one who had called her, standing under a fig tree, her face framed by leaves and branches like cupped hands. In her darker days Aletha believed her friend was visible only at a distance, like a faraway image in a photograph, but now she knew it was possible to see her up close.
Aletha jumped, a child again, wide and high across the estuary, splashing the edges of her coat with briny water. Her friend laughed, remembering how it used to be, glad for this moment that seemed the same. Together they walked, parading in the sunlight, the rocks and stones in Aletha’s pockets casting the scent of water up into the air. And when Aletha looked up to the sky, the moon was gone.
*Image by PandyP at Deviant Art.
I enjoyed the vivid imagery that you used in this one. It is a wonderful tribute to a power of friendship.
The synchronicity of this post is amazing – a few days ago I actually found my boxes of rocks and stones collected from ocean shores and rivers far and wide and put them in my garden, all the sparkling quartz ones are lining a new seating area, the smooth ones are in mounds in shady corners. . .
I love your writing Selma.
Excellent story! The light is always there when we choose to allow it to be.
Friendship does have that power, for sure. So glad you liked it.
That is incredible. I am blown away by that. We are definitely on the same wavelength. WOW!
Oh yes, it really is. That lil ole light is always shining!
You have a great descriptive quality to your stories and combination of the dark with the light. Being a sensitive person is a two edged sword and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by feeling too much. My brother can’t leave the house (unless incredibly drunk), so stays at home for months at a time. The only cure is to leave the house.
Selma! You have done it again. This is a masterpiece!
“The earth offered steady steps and a path to somewhere. She just had to be brave enough to walk.”
I truly LOVED that sentence. [Along with every other word!]
Such an amazing story, I loved it Selma! I love the descriptions and the metaphors; “Sometimes becoming who you need to be takes all your strength over and over again until you are a shell staggering through the streets; not even tortoiseshell, not even mother of pearl.”
I will admit to being slightly obsessed with dark and light – in both a literal and emotional sense. I am sorry to hear about your brother. That is a tough thing to deal with. And you’re right – the only cure is to open the door and walk out!
Thanks for your constant positive feedback. It means the world to me !!
Awww. That is so kind of you to say so. Thank you.
“Motes of sunlight had been dropped on the water, gleaming, pale amber streaks that swam on the surface, poised like transparent sea creatures before diving, low and deep below the rocks.”
. . . again, i love it Selma!
“Too many mornings were filled with the impossible like washing her hair or choking down breakfast.”
What perfect, perfect writing!
I do so appreciate the positive feedback. Thank you!
Hi MAMA ZEN:
I really dig that you get what I was talking about there. Thanks, Mama!
I don’t know what else I can add to what has already been said, but speaking as someone who has had those feelings you nailed it. Nice that she forced herself to answer the phone – often the helping hands to greater and better things are out there, we just have to be willing to grasp them when they come our way. I don’t have a favorite quote – I loved it all. 🙂
I know you get it and you are so right – we do just have to grasp those helping hands when they come our way. They have been sent to us for a reason. It means a lot to me that you like it!
Early on Friday afternoon, I was remembering an old friend of mine, and I kept thinking about her rock collection. I even jotted a few notes about the (remembered) different stones, thinking perhaps it might turn into a poem, later on.Really!
I suppose one could be a skeptic, and say I somehow “gleaned” something from regularly reading you, but honestly, Selma, I only visit and play “catch-up” atmy favorite blogs, every ten days or so.
I can’t get over the uh, connected-ness of my thoughts, and memories–and this entry of yours!
Sometimes there is a connectedness we aren’t even aware of. I often experience that with other people. It is quite enlightening. It makes me feel a sense of belonging!
I’m going to use one of your words to describe this post, and hope that you won’t fault me for “borrowing” it.