(my main character here is a cloud… just water.)
I crept quietly along the street, peering into windows and walking through walls. Everywhere I looked I found hopelessness and despair making the air bitter to taste. Here, a child crying alone and no one to tend him, there, a woman bedraggled and thin holding her shoulders and praying silently to a cold and empty sky.
I found a porch made of stone with deep cuts in the ground and markings on the walls. Alone, awake in the darkness, a tiny girl wandered out of the house to which the porch was attached. In her hand she held an overlarge cup — but it wasn’t the cup that was large; compared to the frailness of the girl, everything around her appeared to be overlarge. The thin dress she wore hung off of her as if gravity were trying to pull the fabric through her transparent skin. Her eyes — bright blue — were huge and dominated her fragile face. She had small lips and cheekbones which protruded so much that the cheeks underneath looked hollow, her mouse brown hair hung limply around her shoulders. She looked hungry and defeated in every since. I turned to leave, not wanting to bear witness to this child and all she had already lost in this awful world.
I was halfway through the wall when I heard the softest whisper behind me and I felt a shudder run through me as some of my dress soaked into something dry and cracked. I turned back toward the porch to find the child at the hem of my dress, staring at it with those massive eyes. Her mouth was moving but the words coming out were so quiet I had to hold my breath to hear them, she was singing a tune so carefully, I felt I’d known it all my life.
“I’d smile for you a thousand times
If you’d show me how
I’d write the words I mean to say
If you’d stay with me now
I’ve met up with the preacher and I’ve met up with the crew
But I’d die unhappy I’m sure of it
Had I never encountered you.”
She brushed her hand through my skirt several times, her tiny mouth hanging open and then she quickly shook her head as if to assure herself she was dreaming, and walked away. She picked up the cup which she had put down to follow me and walked over to one of the deep grooves cut into the stone floor, she squatted there, and I watched as she carefully poured the smallest amount of water I could imagine into the cut. I wandered over behind her and looked in to see what was so important that she would waste valuable water for it. There, in the groove, I saw the smallest patch of dirt where a tiny sprout was growing slowly up. The plant was already less the lime green it should have been and more of a wilted yellow color and I knew without a doubt that this little plant would die as the rest of the plants around here had, hopeless and dry.
“You’re an apple tree” the tiny girl’s voice was thin and whispy as she talked to the sprout, “you’re going to grow up tall and strong like all of the others once did. All I have to do is talk to you — she said that would help — and make sure you get watered. Don’t you worry, I’ll make sure you live, and then, one day, you’ll make sure I do.” I looked at the girl as she talked to the sprout, her eyes were dancing and I knew she believed every word she said, she looked stubborn and strong as she discussed life with the little tree. “You’re going to grow big and strong,” she said “just like I am, thats why they call us sprouts. Sprouts like to grow up and they like to be big things, like trees and heros. You’re going to grow up and feed us all apples, and I’m going to grow up and find out where the river has gone, and then I’m going to talk it into coming back. And I will plant your seeds beside it and from you we’ll make an orchard again. You’ll see, Sprout, you just stay alive ok?”
Then I watched as she carefully stood back up onto her bony feet and walked back inside and out of sight. When she was gone I looked back at the tiny apple-tree-to-be and saw it struggle to grow just a little bit with the water it had been given. It’s two tiny leaves feeling their way upward, and then, as if the struggle was to much, I watched it crumple again into its small yellow self. I looked back at the closed door one last time before I made my way over to the tiny champion. I bent down beside the plant exactly where the little girl had been and placed my cool hand over the seedling, I felt the little thing rejuvenate beneath my touch and with more power than I ever expected I felt it drink lustily of my makeup. When the sprout had its fill I took my hand away, already it was far more green than any other plant in Ostia could claim and I touched it again to ensure its roots were steady. When I was confident that the plant wouldn’t die today, although soon it would need more soil, I stood up and walked back through the wall. I marked the house with a tear from my dress making a cross over the wall that no one would see in the daylight sun. Then I carried on my way.
Through many doors I wandered on that southern street, through them all the smell of anger and despair. Mens hearts were harder and harder with every house, women and children wept dry silent tears in their sleep. Early risers began pounding out flour for bread, dawn would break soon, it was time to meet my friends.