She stands where she has always stood, looking out across the water as it writhes its unending stygian journey along the edge of her existence. Cold greedy water churns gray and thick and muscled, pulling the river’s surface down and into itself in unrelenting voracious consumption and claiming. The river moves past her as it wrestles itself into eternal triumphant submission . . . a snake of shimmering shadowed mercury, furious metaled water.
She has spent a lifetime of days on this shore at the edge of her existence, wary of the water’s power.
She has no way to cross the river, and so it is the end of her world.
The sand below her feet is all that she has in this world.
It is her story.
She is softer than she might have hoped to be. She has lived this life of hers more vulnerable than she might have hoped to be. Life has worn her down and smoothed her edges and eroded her being, and all that once was her and is no more now lies at her feet. She is less than she once was, less than she might have been, but the sand is also hers.
She sits in this sand and runs her hands through its grit, remembering what has gone before. She gathers up a handful and lets it drift through the space before her eyes, reading in the fall the story of a moment in which she lived. A story of water and owls and secrecy and a Siamese cat and ashes too hot to touch.
She gathers up more sand and holds it tightly between her two clenched palms . . . remembers another story of ants and toads and cracked dirt and bus routes run on the hour. She shuts her eyes and tells herself the story of the shiny black abdomens of the ants as they hauled away pieces of her sandwich; of the rough warted backsides of the toads and the sudden panicked release of their scented urine in her hands; of the dry cracked earth of the path she and her siblings had worn around the yard with their bicycles; of the brother who that summer ran endless exacting bus routes on his bicycle, picking up and dropping off imaginary passengers at their assigned stops, yelling over his shoulder for everyone to “Sit down back there!”
When she opens her eyes, she finds that instead of holding sand, she is holding a rock.
Her bit of remembered past gathered together has stayed together.
Fused into something more weighty.
She works quickly to gather more handfuls of her past, to tell more of her stories, to form more rocks. She doesn’t have a plan beyond gathering and telling and making the sand of her life into something of substance, something of which she can be proud. It seems enough.
When she has a small pile of rocks on the beach beside her, it occurs to her that she may have found a way across this river.
She throws one of her rocks into the river. It splashes and sinks heavily out of sight. She throws the rest of the rocks she has made into the river, and she watches as each one disappears. She is determined; all she needs to do is pile enough rocks on which to stand and walk above the water. She will tell the stories of her life and make them serve her.
She tells story after story after story.
She throws rock after rock after rock, waiting for the moment when the rocks accumulate and break the water’s surface.
She gathers up more sand.
She tells more stories.
She throws more rocks into the water . . . pieces of her thrown away in hopes of salvation.
So many stories told; so many rocks thrown into the depths.
She stands where she has always stood, looking out across the water that borders her existence. She gathers up a handful of sand and tells a story, this time telling the story of her dreams. She stands before the cold greedy water and tells the story of her hopes.
She looks at the solid weighty rock that then rests in her hand.
She throws it into the water.
It splashes and disappears beneath the surface.
Like all the rest.