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Swept Away

By Will Baker

 

Once upon a time there was a little girl, a good little girl as some might say. She was young and curious, and sometimes foolish but she made her way. The house she was born into was of modest means but there was no want for anything. She lived and breathed and grew and dreamed, but most of all she watched and wondered. The years flew by for her and thankfully she remained mostly untouched by tragedy.

And then one day all at once as if she were emerging from a dream she realized that she was no longer a little girl. The image which peered back out of the looking glass had those same eyes, but the rest was nothing less than shocking evidence, a demonstration of her dance with time. And she wondered at this. Her parents were old and changed; as were her dreams and each benchmark of her life up to that point came crashing home to her as being possibly irrelevant. Clean up, clean up, everybody do their share; the song played in her head as she recalled the hours spent with her mother.

Then she flashed on a discussion she had had with her father, all those years ago, over skipping the sixth grade: you will do this my dear, I know you will miss your friends but this is important for your future. She did not want to leave her classmates behind but she did as she was told. Her father had been correct; she excelled in her schooling. She recalled her academic achievements and where they had taken her. The stranger in the mirror was crying. Live a good life, do the right thing, have some fun and try not to hurt anybody, these were familiar words but were they supposed to mean something to her?

The years rolled by and she drank well from her cup achieving one goal then the next. Perhaps most would say that she was living a good life, or at least living as well as one could live. She knew that life was about choices and by God she had done her best to make the correct ones. She was driven, as if by fear of wasting time and by implication damaging the fabric of her life-or at least the hand she had been dealt.

She grew restless and bored, dismayed at what she saw going on all about her: avarice and hate, evidence of a plastic life that flew in the face of what her parents had taught her, what she thought to be true.

She perceived a hole in her life and sought to fill it with this and that. And as she did so she wondered about it all. She sought solace in accumulation but then simplified and stripped herself down. There were many near misses but nothing felt right to her. She became more fearful and this fear did strange things to her. She began to suspect that she, like all the others, were frauds. So she turned away, swept up in this understanding which had taken years to develop.

In the twilight of her time she told me these things. Of how she was nearly consumed by her beast of fearful selfishness. She is dead and gone and I hope that she is at rest but when I look at my reflection her words haunt me.

 

 

 (Essay Collection)

 

 

 

Life's meaning