The great bridge between childhood and adulthood, and how I came to cross it or why imagination is our most precious treasure
She lay quietly on an old bridge,
One dressed by time with twigs and leaves, and memories of old.
Her legs were crossed, balancing beneath the running water, albeit never touching it directly — for the bridge nymphs couldn’t get to her, nor her mother’s reprimands had she ruined her sparkly new shoes.
Fish were swimming hurriedly, winds were blowing soundly, strawberries spurting slowly, birds humming gracefully. — I met her on a Spring afternoon.
Coming closer, I spotted flowers in her hair, though picked only from the ground — for she could not anger the forest fairies, nor destroy her sweet neighbor’s garden, which she treasured more than herself.
I sat next to her, slowly at first, studying her features.
I analyzed her snub nose, her pink cheeks, her big, honey colored-eyes. She looked at me eventually, carrying the whole world in her irises and all the stars in her freckled arms. — A breeze went through me.
I braided her hair as she told me the stories, older than ourselves and perhaps the entire universe — she told me everything, from the sap trees with aching hearts to the ancient stones with breathing lungs.
I asked her how she knew, how she had convinced the trees and the water and the earth to tell her all their tales, and if I could listen, too. She grinned, telling me neither of us was wise enough to hear them. Her grandma, knowledgeable of the old ways, had told her all about it. She was going to pass it on, she told me.
— I believed her.
For time unmeasurable, the precise amount only known amongst the old trees, (Time-keepers and protectors of the young and old alike)
We sat and talked, and ran,
(and scraped our knees,) and smiled,
and studied the stars, and the water,
and the flowers, and ourselves.
And just like that one day,
one otherwise beautiful, sunny day, she was no longer sitting there, on the (now foregone) pathway.
I looked and looked, near the fairy houses by the mushroom sprouts, near the lake on the kingdom of the elves, even in the dreadful well by the old farmer’s shack (also known as the goblins’ outpost).
I found her eventually, in the one place we spent barely no time on: inside her own house, an ancient cabin wrapped in twigs and ivy and little bugs all over. I knocked thrice, as we had agreed I should had she been kidnapped by evil pixies (or had she been grounded by her mum by coming home with her knees dirty). An old lady answered for her.
Her face was all saggy, like an old stone, shaped by the water over the course of what looked like a thousand years. She told me in a hush tone ‘they’ would be moving. I didn’t know what that meant; I’d stayed put all my life. And so I started at her blankly, with big doe eyes and a flickering heart, unsure of what to expect. I kept staring until a small shadow came up behind her, and she returned to the darkness to let my friend speak instead.
She looked at me, her golden eyes now drenched in tears, and held my tiny hand tight. She told me she was going somewhere.
As calmly as I could, I asked her where.
(I could feel the salt in my mouth, my lungs, my veins.)
“I’m not sure… but it’s somewhere great”, she had said, letting go, for she had to be strong to please the spirits, and to keep sane a small girl, to whom she had passed on stories she would one day tell her grandkids; and the whole world, would it listen to her.
And I did.
The next morning, they were gone, and I took her place sitting on the old passageway. Not long after, others would come, and I would tell them the stories. And they would ask me how I knew them, and if they could listen to the earth speak, too. And then I would smile and say, only the wise were able to do so.
I lay quietly on an old bridge.
Madalena Landeira (10K)