Monday, June 21, 2010

Hev99's Week 7 Entry: Can I Help You?


Hev99's Choice: Both

Can I Help You?

I don't exactly know who Faith was. She flitted in and out of my life in the space of mere minutes, changing everything I knew about myself, about life and love, all in one single encounter.

At first I thought she was an angel. Her appearance in the park that day was supremely angelic, as she spun on the spot, the autumn sun hanging low in the sky and giving the illusion of a halo around her spun gold hair.

As I got closer a soft, tuneful humming sound met my ears, providing a perfect accompaniment to her dance-like steps through the rustling piles of fallen leaves at her feet. The vivid autumn colours of the leaves, still drifiting from the trees in a firey patchwork of bright golds, reds and oranges, were in stark contrast to the light, white sun dress she was wearing. Her skin was almost as white as her dress, which left her alabaster shoulders exposed to the biting, October wind.

I looked around the almost deserted park, trying to see her parents, assuming that they would have a coat for her, but I could see no one. The child could not have been more than ten years old.

I stood, leaning against the thick trunk of an ancient oak tree, watching her dance, mesmorised by her childish innocence as she spun and weaved amongst the leaves. She was dancing on her tip-toes, her arms stretched out to her sides, her fingers splayed as though they were trying to capture the wind as she twirled.

I was astounded by her co-ordination as she twisted around, her eyes serenely shut and a small smile gracing her small, ruby red lips. Sighing, I tried to recall what it felt like to be so young, free and innocent. To have the courage to dance in public like that, regardless of who may be watching. To drop off the chains of self-consciousness that bind so many as we grow older and just allow yourself to let go and be free.

Lost in my thoughts, it took me a moment to realise that the melodic humming had stopped, and that the child was staring at me from where she stood, several feet away. Her head was cocked to one side as she appraised me with a childish curiosity that I found both refreshing and exposing. Slowly, but deliberately, she walked towards me, her piercing green eyes catching me off guard as they seemed to see right into my soul, as I cautiously watched her approach me.

"Can I help you?" Her words were so simple, so common, and yet the way she said them made them so much more. This wasn't a simple enquiry; she wasn't just checking whether I needed the time, or 20p for the bus ride home.

'Can I help you?' she had said, as though she truly could.

"I... umm..." I started lamely, causing her head to tilt further to the side and a small crease to appear between her eyes. She stayed that way for a moment, that felt like a year, then shook her head as though she were snapping herself out of it, and held out her hand to me expectantly.

I quirked an eyebrow at her questioningly, drawing another frown from her angelic face.

"Dance with me." It wasn't a demand or a request, just a statement of fact, as though it were obvious to her that we were going to dance together in the park. As though she knew for sure that I wouldn't say no, laugh in her face or run away screaming.

Taken aback by the complete confidence in her voice and her face, I took her small hand in mine and allowed her to lead me to the path where she had been dancing, before my scrutiny drew her attention.

Her hand left my loose grip as she reached her destination, and she began to once more twirl on the spot, singing lightly to herself. It took her a few rotations before she stopped once more, eyeing me curiously when she realised that I wasn't joining in, but continuing to watch her with some trepidation.

Her eyes widened in question; clearly my self-consciousness was completely alien to her.

"You make your own music," she started, her voice soft and lulling, like the first lazy day of summer. "And then you dance to it."

"I...uh, I mean..." I ought to have been embarassed at my inability to form a single, coherent sentence in this child's presence. There was something about her that made me feel utterly and hopelessly exposed, and yet completely safe at the same time.

Her eyes were like the ocean, sea green pools meant for diving into and allowing yourself to be swallowed whole as you did. They stared at me now, wide, expectant and waiting. My mouth opened and closed several times, clutching for words, any words, just something coherent to say.

After several moments of watching me struggle, she sighed and stepped forward once again, resting her hand on my arm and gazing at me with eyes that were older than her form.

"You have to dance as though nobody is watching," she spoke, as though it ought to be obvious. "It will help."

I wanted to ask her how. How to be so innocent, so free, so utterly devoid of the social awkwardness that crippled me every single day. I wanted to ask how she even knew that 'help' was something that I needed. I wasn't even certain that it was.

Taking my hand in her's once again, she began to move, soundlessly now, but rhythmically nonetheless.

"You make the music, I'll make the dancing," she almost sang, her voice like church bells on the wind and her eyes focused intently on mine.

"What do I sing?" I whispered, more than a little confused by the situation I found myself in.

"Whatever's in here," was her response, as she placed her hand softly over my heart.

My face dropped at her words, my eyes falling to where her hand still sat over my pounding heart.

"I'm not sure there's anything in there any more," I explained honestly, not quite understanding how this child was cracking my defences so easily.

Her face fell into a frown, her wise eyes looking like they were fighting back tears, as her hand lifted mine and placed it over her's on my heart.

"Of course there is; there's everything."

I shook my head sadly, turning away from her, letting her hand and mine drop from my empty heart. I fought hard against the tears which I had stockpiled, ever since the night the heatwave broke; the night he stood in the rain and said goodbye to me. The night my heart silently shut down and my mind built up impenetrable defences that had sat solidly in place ever since.

"It's beating. You're alive, but not really living." Her words brought me to a standstill as I neared the edge of the path, about to weave my shortcut through the trees.

I stood, my hands clenching into fists by my side, wanting to walk away and forget this encounter, but not quite able to. Sighing heavily, I turned on the spot to face her.

She was standing, facing me with a leaf held up to her face. The leaf had a jagged hole in it, maybe a product of the weather or some insect, and she was using it as a spy hole through which to stare at me with a sad expression and eyes that knew too much.

"You don't know me," I spat at her, with thinly veiled anger.

Her lips curved upwards into a look that could have been a smirk, but for the innocence in her eyes.

"I don't need to." I hesitated slightly before turning to walk away again. "I see what I need to see." Her voice cut through the silence that had fallen all around us, even the wind had paused momentarily, as though it too were eavesdropping on our conversation.

"And?" I asked, not really sure I wanted to hear the answer.

"You want to dance," she started, no hint of doubt colouring her tone. "But you're scared."

My mouth opened, ready to form a response, when she continued.

"You're scared of opening up and letting go, and you're afraid of what it will mean for you if you do."

"And what's that then?" I questioned, not bothering to hide the hostility in my voice, despite the fact I was talking to a child.

"Feeling," she answered simply.

"I feel," I argued, unsure why I wasn't quite able to put the emphasis into my words that I had intended.

"Do you?" she asked, her head cocked to the side once more, her eyes accusing, but compassionate as she watched my anger. "Do you really?"

"Of course I do," I returned, my conviction getting less and less with each statement.

"You're sure about that?" she asked. "Because, where I come from, feeling means feeling everything, including pain."

"And where exactly is it that you come from?"

"Is that important?" Her eyebrows were high on her young forehead and her eyes were blazing with intensity.

"You ask a lot of questions."

"So do you." She was definitely smirking now, her eyes wide in challenge.

A heavy silence fell around us that she seemed far more comfortable with than me. Her hands hung loosely by her sides and her smile remained dreamily on her lips as she stood, completely at ease, while I fidgeted uncomfortably.

The wind continued to gust around us, blowing her golden hair around her face as she watched me, waiting for me to respond in some way.

I was torn. Torn between leaving, going home and trying to forget I ever met her, or staying and allowing this child with innocence in her eyes and wisdom in her words to draw me in even further.

"I'm not afraid of dancing," I spat out eventually, when the silence became too cumbersome and stifling to tolerate any longer.

Her face broke out into a beaming smile which lit up the darkening park.

"Prove it," she said softly, reaching a hand out towards me once more and beseeching me with her eyes to go with her. Huffing, I took her hand and let her lead me again to the pathway. I stood with my arms crossed over my chest, scowling petulantly, but determined to move to the beat in some way, just to prove a point.

"You're tense," she stated, obviously.


"You can't dance when you're tense." She tugged on my arms determinedly, pulling them down and taking my hands in hers.

"I can," I said stubbornly, trying to tug them back. "I'm gifted."

"You're scared," she said knowingly, that irritating smirk arising onto her face again.

"Gifted," I snarked back, but relented my tugging.

"Scared," she muttered under her breath.

"Ugh, you're so infuriating," I fumed, knowing deep down that she was right. I was scared. I was scared of being seen, scared of tripping over my own feet, scared of feeling nothing, and terrified of feeling everything all at once.

Instead of the frown or scowl that would adorn most people's faces after being told they were infuriating, her's lit up in a wistful smile.

"I've heard that before," she mused, her eyes looking amused at some re-awakened memory.

"Lots of times, I imagine," I pushed, feeling ridiculous being so juvenile when the young girl before me wasn't biting.

"A few." She pulled on my hands then, throwing them out to the sides then waving them around, as though she was desperately trying to loosen them out. I wanted to tell her that the kinks there were old and not going anywhere any time soon, but she looked so focused, so determined that there was a part of me that thought maybe she could do what she set out to achieve. Indeed, this girl struck me as someone who wouldn't give up on something she was intent upon. She had certainly been wearyingly persistent with me.

"You're still tense."

"Yes, thank you, I'm aware of that."

"Well, why aren't you relaxing?"

"Because some strange child is waving my arms around in the middle of the park," I offered sarcastically, just stopping short of sticking my tongue out at her.

"So let's dance," she said, smiling widely and dropping our joined hands down. "You do the music."

"What do I sing?" I asked again, hoping the answer would be less annoying this time.

"Whatever is in your head, what do you hear?"

"You. Nagging me to dance," I came back sharply, bringing yet another smile to her lips.

"And?" she prodded, waiting expectantly for a non-abusive response.

"That's it. Just you. All over the place, that's all I can hear," I came back, running my hands all over my head and glaring at her accusingly.

"There must be something in there, you're a musician for goodness sake." I stumbled back a few feet at her words, dropping her hands like lead weights and wrapping my arms around myself protectively.

"How do you know that? You can't know that. That's not possible." My heart had begun to hammer in my chest, and all the insanity of my situation came crashing over me in a wave as I realised what I was doing.

She, however, looked completely unconcerned, the same light-hearted smile still floating on her lips as she watched me recoiling in horror. Then, with an almost amused look she gestured towards the oak tree that had been my leaning post as I watched her dance. Refusing to take my eyes off her, I glared harder, half expecting her to suddenly grow another head, or pull out a weapon on me.

"Isn't that your flute sticking out of your bag?" she asked, innocently, once more pointing over to the tree, taking my eyes with her finger this time.

"Oh," was all I could sputter out, feeling suddenly very stupid. Her expression softened, and once more I was blown away by the years of accumulated experience and wisdom I could see staring out through her bright, green eyes. "Sorry."

"Don't be," she chirped, happily walking towards me again. "But don't think you're getting out of dancing either."

"Right... dancing... yeah."

"I can't dance without music," she stated, nodding at me as though she was a conductor bringing me in.

What the hell? I thought to myself, stepping forward and turning my head to the sky, which was just visible through the rapidly balding branches of the trees above. Closing my eyes, I took several deep breaths, enjoying the taste of autumn on my lips, the damp scent of the greenery and the smokey tang of a bonfire hovering on the wind. Filling my lungs I emptied my mind, letting it go blank the way I always did before I played or composed new music. I let my surroundings fill up my senses completely then began to hum gently. It wasn't an old melody and nothing special, but in the moment it was perfect.

I felt small hands close around mine once more and she started to sway lightly on the spot, her index finger tapping against my hand in perfect time to my melody. Then, releasing one of my hands she started to spin me around with our arms outstretched and still connected by the tightly gripping fingers of one hand.

And then I was free; her hand released mine as she fell into a dance all of her own and left me to my own devices. Lost in the moment, the beauty of the trees overhead and the ethereal other-worldliness of the child I was dancing with, I allowed myself to succumb to the pleasure of dancing like nobody was watching.

We danced, and we danced like it was the only thing in the world that mattered. We didn't stop when a cyclist rode by, his wheels crunching through the autumn leaves on the ground, we didn't stop with a soft pitter-patter announced the arrival of the rain that they forecast for days ago. We didn't stop until my lungs failed and the music was forced to a stop. As she had said, she couldn't dance without music.

Gasping for breath, and glaring at her for being perfectly fine, I slumped against a tree. The leaves gathered at the foot of the vast trunk made for a comfortable seat as I watched her stand in front of me. Her eyes were bright and shining with happiness as she smiled joyfully at me.

"Thank you for dancing with me," she almost sang as she sat beside me, still smiling happily.

"I... I think I liked it," I replied, returning her smile and making her's even brighter.

"I knew you would."

I considered her for a long moment, still thoroughly confused by her and the wisdom her young mind seemed to posses. Her eyes held an intoxicating mix of childish innocence and an intuition and shrewdness well beyond the possible age of her small body.

"I'm Faith," she said sweetly, reaching her small hand out to me once more. I took it in mine, surprised by it's warmth considering the biting wind and the scant clothing she was wearing.

"Where's your coat, Faith?" I asked sternly, raising an eyebrow at her in question and earning myself a huff and a disdainful look in reply.

"I don't feel the cold."

"Of course you don't, how silly of me," I muttered, rolling my eyes at her quirkiness.

"You didn't tell me your name," she stated, leaning forward so that her elbows rested on her knees and her chin sat in her hands. She looked like a little girl then, for the first time since I first saw her.

"You don't know it already?" I teased, smiling crookedly at her while wondering if maybe she could know my name somehow.

"Of course not, I only just met you," she chided, looking at me as though I was the crazy one.

"I'm Ally," I said, not entirely sure that I was doing the right thing, but once again letting instinct take over.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ally," her sweet voice chimed, as my eyes drifted back to the pathway where we had danced. I rested my cheek on my arm as I gazed, remembering the feeling of dancing, of being so free and light as my body moved in time to the melody I created. I allowed a small smile to creep onto my face as I recalled how it had felt to let myself feel anything for the first time in so long that the numbness had begun to feel normal. My body shuddered as a small tears escaped my eye, leaving a track of emotion down my cheek.

"Thank you," I whispered, the blustering wind stealing my words away and carrying them deeper into the park. There was no response from behind me. I wasn't exactly surprised; Faith hadn't been particularly loquacious in the short time I had spent with her. But the silence seemed just a little too empty, a little too silent.

Turning my head to look at her I started in shock when the spot she had been sat in was vacant. She was gone. My eyes scanned the area frantically for her, but came up empty. She was nowhere to be seen; she had vanished like a song on the breeze

I never saw Faith again. Her time in my life was so short that I was never even certain that she was real. But the effect that she had on me was definitely real. I would never forget those few short moments we had together, dancing, arguing, learning and most importantly of all, feeling.

I would never forget to feel again.


Kimmydonn said...

Weird was very good. I loved it!

Burntcore said...

Wow, that was so awesome. Loved it!