She stood at the center of the room, eyes closed, balanced between light and dark. There was no movement. Only silence. No garden today. she thought to herself. Even with her eyes closed she could feel the light to her left, shining softly. From the right, the darkness called to her. She sighed and taking a deep breath, she turned to her left before opening her eyes. Where is this place? she asked. She already knew. It was sound she needed to hear. Life. A voice.
She stood at the centre of a large room, the walls before her hidden by rows of bookcases. They beckoned, welcomed. She felt the darkness behind her calling again. Not yet. She replied. A table stood to the side, a sturdy, uncomfortable looking chair before it. I won’t be here long today. The light spilled across the books.
A soft smile touched her lips as she walked towards a bookcase, only half full. Fingers ran along the well-loved titles on the middle shelf, pausing at times to reflect on the contents. She knew them all. Some held pictures. Seemingly full of the secrets of life, even though old, grainy and colourless. Some held stories barely a page long. A word. A name. Some stories spread into multiple volumes. A touch, a title seen, the memory within flared into life.
She smiled again as she touched a small broken piece of concrete on the shelf, the year 1979 carved on it. Having reached the end of the shelf her smile faltered. She knew she shouldn’t wait any longer. She sighed as she turned towards the other side of the room, her eyes closing on their own accord. The darkness called but it didn’t mean she wanted to look yet. Even with her eyes closed she could feel the darkness before her. The dank musty smell of secrets long-buried reached out to her. The past called her. Her hand touched the pocket where the keys lay. A shiver ran through her. She waited until her mind stilled again. Now she was ready.
Her eyes snapped open as she took her first step across the room. She was leaving the light behind. One measured step after the other took her into deepening darkness. She stood still at the other side as her eyes adjusted to the dim light. Sneezed as the dust floated up in the darkness. She didn’t look around. She waited. Now.
Slipping a hand into her pocket she pulled out a key. She brought it close to her eyes looking closely. A number 15? She asked. Something blue? The letter K? Hmm. She closed her eyes and let herself feel the room. Turned a little to her left and took five long steps. She opened her eyes.
She took a quick step back. Before her stood an imposing piece of furniture. Solid in its dark beauty. Dark like ebony. Her hand wanted to reach out and trace the carvings along one side. Distractions. She looked up, craning her neck, unable to see the top as it towered towards the ceiling. She shuddered, thinking of what secrets it held. She began to look carefully. Eyes and fingers touching. Doors. Some had glass. She wiped at the murky glass of one looking for a hint of what was inside. She gasped. Oh no, not that. Not yet. Doors, solid with carving of fanciful creatures, of nature gone wild.
Drawers down one side. Inserts of shell. Inserts of precious timber. Carved. All locked. Then she saw it. A number 15, inlaid in a blueish metal. A solid square K carved to one side. She ran her fingers along the other side. A carving. A child leaping across nothing.
She slid the key into the lock and turned it slowly. Click. Her hand moved to the handle and she froze. She never knew what she would find. Papers? photos? A single word carved into a pebble? A doll? Nothing? All she could do was follow the clues, follow her feelings. Always, always, this moment. Frozen between going forward and turning away.
She pulled the drawer open slowly and quickly looked inside, longing evident in every movement. A single photo stared up at her. Colourless as all the others. A little girl playing with a dog. I know this photo! she gasped. It’s in my album. The leotard blue, the marigolds orange! Fred the dog belonged to L out the back. Why this photo today?
She carefully lifted out the photo and glanced at the back. No words. Sitting on the floor, oblivious to dust, she began to study it. It was taken in Spring, as the grass is green in my album and the marigolds were blooming. Probably before a ballet class. I wouldn’t have worn the leotard any other time. She closed her eyes and pictured herself sitting beside the little girl. She looked to their left and up, staring at the roof of the house.
Oh! The roof! Wait, the letter K? I remember I didn’t want to do ballet. I wanted to go to gymnastics and somersault off the roof! She laughed out loud as the memories returned. K, who was training mini-gymnastics had spent weeks trying to convince the girl’s mother to let her start gymnastics. She was sent to ballet instead. Gymnasts have no grace. Dancers will find a better husband. She never did become a dancer. Or a gymnast. She never married.
The woman sat on the floor, feeling the disappointment of the girl, remembering the tears and begging. I want to do gymnastics with K. Please! The woman felt it as she sat there. She let the tears slide down her own face. She felt a little girl’s passion.
Opening her eyes, she looked down again at the photo and softly whispered… It’s alright. We can do what we want now.
Standing she carried the photo across the room, dust falling unnoticed from her clothes. Looking carefully along the shelves, she found the title she was looking for
… A Girl of Passion…
Pulling it out, she carried it across to the desk, sat down and opened to the last entry. She looked around, found what she needed beside the desk. Always what I need. She mounted the photo in the centre of the page and considered for a while, choosing not to decorate the page further. Passion is its own decoration she smiled to herself. She chose a pen and carefully wrote below the photo…
15. I wanted to somersault off the roof!
She closed the book and carefully carried it back to the bookshelf, slid it back into place. She giggled softly as she ran a finger across the title. A last look around before stepping back to the middle of the room where she had begun today’s journey. Again poised between light and dark she closed her eyes, whispered thank you and disappeared from the room.
Alright, apologies! This has kind of been floating around for a while. It sat there and was never going to see the light. Until. Shannon of Thumbin’ My Way (One of my faves) reminded me of something. Or I reminded her, which reminded me. Anyway, one of those things about not locking words away. Letting them come as they may.
I get memories and it really is almost like this. Searching in the darkness and bringing something out into the light. Turning the darkness into light. Disappointment into passion. Sadness into joy. It’s reverent and a journey every time. I could probably write a story every single time. (Disclaimer: I said story, not good story!) But, I won’t.
I never know what I’ll bring back. The above memory of the gymnastics v ballet? I’ve never forgotten this. But, I no longer had any feelings attached to it. Let’s just say they were locked away in a drawer in my mind. I was always able to say… I was disappointed that I was sent to ballet instead of gymnastics. The actual feelings didn’t exist anymore. The… wanting? The passion? of a child for something was lost somewhere along the way. Actually, scrap that. The truth is… the ability to feel passionate about anything was lost along the way.
The excitement at the thought of somersaulting off the roof? *giggle* Yes, feeling that now. No worries. I’m not about to take my 41 year old self outside and jump off the roof. LOL. I’m sure I’ll find something a little less dangerous to get passionate about! Belly dancing is looking decidedly good again 😀
PS. Oops! Sorry about the length!