Vase With a Stopper

Two young girls walking from opposite sides met in a wood one day. Same age, same height. One’s hair was light, one’s dark. One kept a cool head, one held flowers upon her heart. They both were young, looking at the world with eyes that were wide for what was absurd… and when they started to talk about what they had seen, each noticed the other’s eyes were wide.

Back in the valley from which they came carried onward a raucous parade and so many affairs that they couldn’t explain. They decreed this dell for them two, to be sacred terrain.

In the middle of a clearing in the middle of the wood, they planted a rounded vase of glass with a stopper, dropped in it flowers and scents - one from each of their moments passed, one for every day of the summer. When the vase opened - as it often was then - it perfumed the dell with the vapor of life they shared, with the essence of voices in which their bond grew to encode those moments better than words could do.

It grew strong through the tales they brought and shared from the land around the dell that slowly forced them along the march out of youth and into more permanent choices at ages too young to wisely decide. They started along the same broad path, but had different eyes, different minds, different hearts; among a shared language, they’d met as burgeoning seeds that knew not what they were in the sun, that knew not the soil they grew in as fish do not know the water in which they swim.

All through the valley lay many paths that intertwined and webbed, where one could find whatever it was one sought, no matter how far one had to walk. The people around them - so many folks - guided them on which paths to walk… but the dell itself had no paths; no instead the dell resisted the oncoming sickle that chopped at the wood to make more.

The older they grew, the denser the valley became; every day a path two more became; every day a new way came into view, another option for one to do. And the options kept growing in number with younger ones running from trailhead to road.

Their jaunts to the dell, subsequently, were sparser, for they walked longer along the roads, and took to sharply different forks based on so many factors: sound advice being one quite heavy, what their heads deduced themselves, what lived inside them burning to come out and flourish in the valley.

Every passing year, the roads one walked grew stranger in the other’s view, far on the other side. When each looked down in search of her friend beside, she saw the shadow cast from the friend’s forward steps, where the friend sometimes looked like a stranger.

Who was this girl chasing accolades, who in photos always smiled? It looked like a game of charades. It looked like the wants of her family members’ minds. She who was deemed appropriate - well all so appropriate left a bad taste in the other’s mouth; instead the other walked toward a jungle, toward a cavern veering south.

Who was this girl who had started toward the sun and now turned around to go from being a rising star to being no one? the other’s family clamored to know and the other knew not what to say of she who seemed lost to a tide far away, who seemed bound for a distant southern shore.

They did not frequent the dell so much anymore, but still sometimes, and when they came they came with smiles around the vase that, in neglect, had grown a crust from the dirt blown over it, from the plug jammed into a tight fit, from the stopper that hadn’t been opened so long.

It stayed alone for weeks - no problem; months - they were busy; years - that was life. But it was not a loss, for the earth still contained all they’d put into its core; it merely stayed there, preserved. On and on each walked down further-divided roads, learning trades, learning language, learning the secret codes for the worlds they determined to play inside. But often each looked back at she who still held the end of a line and wondered why she had come so far apart from her closest friend to start.

It was hidden - as it can be - the other one each never knew. One can hold the memory while the figure changes before her view.

Back in the dell the cover over the stoppered vase so thickly grew, the music it contained no longer made it outside beyond the glass. And one day when they were so far apart that they stood as a figure on each one’s horizon, stretched the line to the brink, like drifting balloons about to shrink into the sky - the moment had come upon them like a sunset shadow to say goodbye.

That was when the crust became so thick it pressured the fragile glass; did the trick to strain it to a fracture, to break it open upon the ground. All it contained came out: that summer air, the essence of the bond, the essence of each girl without the clout of choice, the girl below the clothes and preferences, beneath the acquired defenses and tactics to keep the world at bay or twist it in a desired way. It lived again as the parts of them contained inside the vase, the parts that kept them looking back, that kept them going, however seldom, to the dell, were freed to remember, freed to relive, freed to continue the story, to hug, to know a simple kind of bond each one desired beneath a mental fortress or indirect heart.

And then these wisps of spirit, bound together, came apart to mix with the air of the wider world, to find the woman to whom each belonged: the woman carrying her choices, walking her road, wearing her clothes, and looking ahead. Only one concern remained - as each thumbed through the stranger’s life - a nod to acknowledge what time had made, to recognize the differences in life, to accept the culture across the sea without placing the expectations of one’s education upon a girl.