Fast flowing river
Fast flowing river
At the edge of the Kaituma River, the baby is sleeping in his basket. It’s dawn, but the sky is heavy and dark from last night’s unexpected storm. Everything is visible although so far, nothing is coloured. The green seep of the jungle and the sky’s usual, harsh blue are neutralised by the earliness of the hour. And there should be bulrushes in the river. There’s space for them, but for some reason they’re not growing here.
The baby in the basket has been swaddled in a blanket, but he’s managed to work his hands free and the shallowness of the basket’s sides allow him to inadvertently trail them – one in the river, the other in the silt on its bank. Then, he raises his arms above him as if in joy or praise. Or is it defence? Is the betrayal – the gruelling weight of which he’ll carry all his life – so precariously dangling over him even now that he’s trying to ward it off before it takes hold? Before it goes deep.
The black arms of the woman who placed him in the river to save him have gone, but it’s as though the air around the baby still holds the essence of their movement. Their certainty and kindness. She’d placed him where he could be found, but she couldn’t have known he definitely would be. For that reason, her arms were also careless.
And sometimes we tell stories because we really need to tell other stories that we daren’t tell. We divert, we creep around things, we wilfully misremember. We embellish and lie. We dig deeper and grind away at the strata of our lives, layer by layer. Seam by seam. To get to what we believe is the thing. Only to discover another layer and another.
Nothing is ever what it appears to be and even the old certainty of linear time is no more provable than the perspective of one person placed against that of someone else. We are strata, layered and complex. Our skin, our bones, our organs and our secrets. Always secrets at our core.
People say they’ll never forget and then they do, and new people don’t even know what they shouldn’t forget. We tut and judge and say it could never be us. We’d never do that, but can we know? Can we live our lives with such bald certainty?
But the world keeps turning and jungles grow back. They’re resilient that way. And what jungle clearings once allowed is reclaimed by creepers and vines and that’s for the best. And there’s nothing to mark the ending of things. And maybe that’s for the best too.
We’re left only with the image of a baby in a river, swaddled and helpless. He’ll move into a future beyond this point because he has no choice; but somewhere in time, this image will remain. This baby in a white tee-shirt and diaper in a fast flowing river under a vivid black sky.