She walked slowly, carelessly. There was no need to hurry. She had walked down this street endless times, in her childhood, in her youth, and now as an adult. Signs on the buildings had changed. What had once been a Thai restaurant was now a clinic. What had once been the “ghetto” McDonald’s was now a gas station. Some buildings had been torn down; others had been built up. But the street kept its same general face, its same general attitude. She knew that beneath her feet, the ground still knew it was her walking on it, like she had for years and years before.
She came to the corner of her most familiar street the second the lights changed. Stop. Go. A red palm held up and a white figure with legs extended. She stood at the corner where she had stood a thousand times and looked out at her choices.
Ana walked through the revolving door out into the busy street. She was still in her hospital gown, and some people in the lobby stared as she walked out. She didn’t notice.
She paused just outside the door. The sun was bright and beating down on her head but the air was cool. The combination left her perfectly comfortable in her scant covering.
She looked up one way of the street and down the other, watching the people going by in each direction. They were choosing where to take themselves, to one way or the other. Now that she was out, she could choose, too.
She turned to walk up the street. Eventually, probably soon, someone would realize she was gone, and then word would be given to find her. But she still had some minutes to walk freely. She would give herself a full, glorious five minutes of complete freedom before she thought of what was to come next.
My house sits atop of a mountain in the middle of the sea. It is a box made of transparent glass. It sparkles in the sun and in the moonlight brightly enough for the ocean creatures below to see. My house is big, much too big for only one person. Yet, here I am alone in it.
I’ve lived here almost all my life, ever since the ruler grew tired of me following his steps. He made the house, tucked me into it, set the roof in its place over me, and left. I never had a choice, so I’ve never been very sad about not being able to leave.
I live comfortably here. The ruler was tired of me, but he did not wish to kill or harm me, so he filled the house with everything I could need. I won’t go hungry. If I’m sick, I have plenty with which to care for myself. The house is full of books, art, movies, music, and if I were to get tired of these, there is always the immense sky and ocean to look out on through the transparent walls. Sometimes I see sharks and whales and fish whose names I do not know below the clear water. They used to scare me, especially when I would see their eyes shining up at me at night. But now I pay them no attention and instead look at the stars. No creature from the sea or from the sky could break through this box.
She rose out of the water in the middle of the afternoon. Her dress stuck wetly to her body and drops fell rapidly from the gathered gray fabric at her ankles. She immediately started walking forward not stopping to wipe the water from her eyes or pull the strands of hair from her face. The wind was her friend and moved the drops and strands to their place without her asking.
She walked steadily on the face of the water, the waves lapping at her heels and toes. How long had the water held her underneath? It would one day hold her again. But today it would have a break.
As she neared the shore, she wove through the few people pretending it was still summer and playing in the cold water. Perhaps they were the ones who would one day join her underneath the waves. Today, they did not see her.
Soon she reached the end of the water, stepped over the edge of the pier, walked down its full length, and headed into the streets.
I walk out the glass doors and briskly head down the street in my worn, dirty clothes. There’s a thought of running, of flying, of going away, but I’m bound by these chains that will let me go only so far, so I settle for a careless walk, for as long as the energy beneath my dirty feet will take me.
People stream by dressed in pressed suits and done nails and neat haircuts. I’m not the lowest of the low on the street, so I get by, but not without the clean people’s sidelong glances of judgment and false concern. What is she doing here? Why is she this way? I feel them ask silently, none of them caring to wait for the answers that will only defile their air and waste my time.
But it’s all the same to me, so I walk farther on. For all the weight and short length of these chains, they’re not strong enough to keep me from the wind, from the lights, from the sounds continually in my head. The shackles bite my ankles and I leave a trickle of blood on block after block of these city streets, like permanent breadcrumbs for judges to follow if they try to come get me. But I don’t really mind and I’ll walk as far as I can go, right to the edge: Here I am, on the verge of the water again, with only me and ununderstood powers to keep me from slipping to a final end.
I drift away from the shoreline, letting the tame waves draw me further and further away with each gentle rise and fall.
I am facing the shore and all I have left behind: the high buildings, the changing lights, the car horns and the blaring music, the people streaming over concrete, stopping on corners, briskly crossing the middle of streets.
I have left you there, in the city. You stayed ashore. I asked you to come with me, into the darkness of the cold of the water at night, but you stood still and waved your hand “good-bye.”
Now there’s more and more water and darkness growing between us. I see your form that’s been the light of my life grow smaller and smaller as I float away. I can see your steady, anchoring hand still waving.
I continue drifting and look away from your diminishing figure to the scene behind you. I am far from the shore now, but the buildings still look tall. The lights blend together but their reflection gleams in the water around me. I can’t distinguish the cars, but I can hear their horns, their rushing into the woven streets.
I don’t know what I will miss more, you or the city. In that skyline that meets definite, full streets below there was endless possibility. In your firm, faithful form there was everything I ever wanted. Would I again find endless possibility and everything I ever wanted if I swam back to you now? Maybe their existence fades as I float away, none of us never to return.