I tried to cross the river
(Heather Martin)

Many times, over many years, I tried to cross the river. I had heard and read about the wonders of the other side: the trees straight and tall, the flowers vibrant and scented, the sky far more open than the tiny mind can conceive. The river was so wide that I could see only hazy outlines, but this only made me want to cross more.

When I tried, I would often find myself walking for days and weeks only ankle deep, and the opposite shore never came closer. I tried the kinds of boats other people told me had worked, but they leaked or sank or swirled endlessly in stinking eddies.

Determined, I came across the path to a new spot that I had heard rumors about. I started walking. Soon, very soon, the water was up to my knees. Elated, I rested rarely. The water got higher. As it rose to my waist it got swifter, and I became afraid. I tried to turn back in panic, but I had lost all sense of direction. My feet lost the bottom, I tumbled, and was carried away. I reached for anything to save myself. Some lunatic shouted to me to let go, but I didn't have the luxury of deciding to listen or not - every branch and hand was torn from my grasp in short order. I fought as long as my body would obey me, which was much longer than I would have thought. I had strength I did not know before, amazing strength to hold on to tiny branches with broken fingers, but it was not enough to change anything. I made my best effort even for a long time after I had not a single fiber of muscle left.

I thought about all the people who had drowned before me, and felt a deep kinship with them. I admired both their efforts not to drown, and their acceptance of it happening. How sad, I thought, and how mighty. How beautiful.

And I gave up with my whole heart.

I woke on the shore, soaking wet. I was so thrilled and relieved to be present, anywhere, that for a moment I didn't notice that I was at what seemed to be a narrow place in the river. I could easily see both shores from that one spot. The trees, the flowers, and the sky were shockingly lovely, but absolutely ordinary, and quite obviously precisely the same on both sides of the water.

I laughed and laughed, and still do not know whether I crossed or not.

1 comment:

justb108 said...