I am standing in the meadow watching him walk away. I am standing in the long grasses of the wide meadow. I want to call out to him. I want to will him to turn and look at me but he just continues to walk away, further and further.
The grasses are pale: bleached yellow, bloodless pink, dry green. They wave their seed heads, brushing my thighs. They undulate like the surf ace of the sea. Turn, I call silently. Tum back to me. He walks away, along the straight path beside the meadow. I can see him seem to get smaller and smaller for there is no twist in the path. I watch until he seems to disappear altogether, realising that I too will have disappeared. If he turns now he will see that I too have almost disappeared. And what if I call out loud? What if he turns and waves goodbye? What if he turns and still fails to stop? How will I live with that!
If he turns now and sees the great sea of the meadow, its waves swirling and churning, perhaps he will think I have drowned. Perhaps he will think I was never there. That the form he thought was me, so carefully not looking, was just a scarecrow, just a sack stuffed with straw.
I’m a plain woman. I can’t pretend otherwise. I can’t pretend there was ever even in the nape of my neck a sweetness to draw a man back from an action he’d decided to pursue. My body was never that of a young girl, but always thick, my flesh coarse, my hair dry as straw. That’s why I don’t call out. Because I don’t think it would make him stay. At least as things rest the answer to the question remains open. I stand in the meadow always-my arms stretched out to him as he walks away, his name screaming silently out of my throat.
That was long ago. And while my real self stands still in that eternal moment amid the long meadow grasses, my shadow moves through a series of automatic gestures in what people are pleased to call time. I marry a man from the village, a large, comfortable man who appreciates my aptitude for hard work more than my lack of feminine graces. Between the weary grind of work and the blessed absences of sleep we make five children. Then I curl up against his back, the two of us fitting together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. And when I place my hard hand on his soft, hairy belly, this is the best moment of all. This and those spent in a half-dream suckling the five babies, one after the other, so drunk on the sweet smell of their sweat that I almost forget that I’m not really there. That I am still standing in the wide meadow watching a young man swing away from me down a straight path of hard clay, without turning, the wind that lifts the grasses lifting his long, dark hair.
Word reaches our village from time to time from the outside world. Word of wars fought and lost-for wars are always lost: how can even one death in battle be termed a victory? Word of uprisings and revolutions, cataclysmic accidents, acts of a God we are told loves us. Little touches the grind and sleep, grind and sleep of our lives. Word comes of him too but I laugh. I know his real self has never gone but is still eternally going. That the one who made it to the city is just a shadow, like me, like the me that laughs at the news of him.
Some of my children marry and have children of their own. One goes to the city and disappears there, one goes further and is killed in a battle some call a victory. My man dies suddenly in his bed and I awake beside a cold and stiffening corpse. I miss the comfort of him at night and I weep for it.
I am standing in the meadow. I am standing in the long grasses of the wide meadow watching him tum back to me. He is running towards me, his arms outstretched. They have told me that it is his son, so like him as he once was you can’t tell the difference. But I know better. They say he died in the city and that his son is bringing his ashes home, to scatter on the meadow of grasses. It was his wish, they say. To bury his heart where he left his heart, where he would have stayed if the woman he loved had said just one word. If she had not indifferently watched him walk away from her. That’s what they say, the son said.
I am standing in the long grasses. The wind blows against me like kisses. He has turned towards my outstretched arms and is running back towards me. Always. Forever.