She didn’t look anything special. As far as I could see, she was just a simple old woman, trying to cross a busy city street to get to the food bank. I did what any self-respecting citizen would; I held up the traffic, first in one direction, then the next, and helped her across the road. She was grateful, of course. Who wouldn’t be? I felt sorry for her, I suppose.
I was doing okay. I had a career that was going quite nicely, a partner who cared for me and tried to make me feel loved, wanted, needed. Three lovely kids, too. The twins, George and David, managed to get places at university when they re-start in a couple of weeks; that kept us all busy, I don’t mind telling you. And little Emily, my Em, my special little baby girl; what can I say? She’s doing okay. She’ll never be academic like her brothers, but she is such a loving, caring soul.
Yes, she has some issues, and at times she can be a bit of a handful, but she’s a good kid. When people see past her problems; the obvious physical scars and the less-obvious mental ones; why, everybody loves her. And she’s only thirteen. She’ll grow out of some of her difficulties, and learn to accept who she is, I’m sure. I’m just sorry I won’t be there to see it.
What happened to me? That’s easy to explain.
Once I’d got the old woman safely across the road, she peered over the top of her spectacles and looked me in the eye with a gaze that felt as though it were dissecting and examining my very soul. When she spoke, it was clear that, somehow, she knew me better than I knew myself.
“That was a very kind thing to do, young lady,” she said. That was the first time anyone had referred to me as a young lady in a decade or more, and she saw that in my smile.
“It was my pleasure,” I replied, “I thought the traffic would never stop for you.”
“Nevertheless,” she said, followed by, “now I would like to do something to help you.”
The smile on my lips was not the same smile as before. It was, unconsciously, a mocking smile. It was as if I were saying ‘what could a frail old woman like you possibly do to help me?’ I mentally berated myself for even thinking such an uncharitable thought, but it was too late; she had seen it.
“Trust me,” she said, her soft, beatific look gone, only to be replaced with a steely eyed gaze that had the hairs on the back of my arms on end and sent shivers through me. “I can see your pain, and I can heal it.”
“Despite your successful career, your happy marriage and your lovely children, you are unfulfilled. There is a large part of you that refuses to accept that your current life is what you are meant to have. I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Yes,” I admitted, as I started to gently sob. “I hate all the busy-ness of life, I loathe the mad rush everywhere, and I despise the masses of people all out only for themselves. It’s intolerable; it wears me down.”
“What, then, do you dream of for yourself?” the old woman asked.
“I want to be young again. I want to live a simpler, rural life. I want the kind of life I’ve seen in the people of the Savanna, living close to nature and close to each other. I want a gentle, caring and sharing life.”
“Then that’s what you shall have,” she said.
My head started to perform pirouettes and my consciousness took some time off.
And now, here I am.
“THIS IS NOT WHAT I MEANT!” I cried, to no-one there.
For an earlier, alternative interpretation of this image, see I think it’s called progress…, posted on this site August 2014
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 47, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.