You wake up. Yawn. A long, drawn-out yawn from deep inside. Sleepy eyes, tousled hair. You stretch. This skin, this flesh, this you.
Your body is you. In your scant eleven years on this earth—you’ve never questioned it. Never had to. It carries your spirit inside, and you carry it in your small sturdy shoulders, your spine.
The feel of it is this, isn’t it: small and rickety, tentative as a foal as you step out onto a cold stone floor from a warm bed. Born into the day. It is early yet.
You swim in the fresh lake water. Waves course over you. You swim like a creature made of water. Inside you feel an aliveness, a dolphin spirit, and you own the breath and the joy of it, the triumph—to be alive inside your body—imagine—this living, tactile, fluid form that you have and that you are. Your stick legs, knock-kneed, kick up tiny storms as your own life energy ripples out from you and into the water around you. Gift to gift. You revel in the command of body—you spirit it into movement.
At times it turns and plays tricks on you—those burned fingers, that swollen toe—but pain can’t hold it back. You dance to the measure of body, and its music is always with you. Cold after the swim, you wrap its shivers in a thick white towel, plunging it into a new warmth as your body plunges you into new joy, blue lips and all.
You are onewithbody, spiritlife, sweet entanglement of force and form—heart and mind cleaving to body and body cleaving to heart and mind. Continual embrace. Ecstatic. You run barefoot up the lawn cloaked in your white towel, the gulls calling and soaring above. You and no one else—in all your innocence and trust—you alone own this body. It is yours.
No one told you it can be taken away—that it is yours only by the consent of others. Even the idea of this is impossible to you. And so, blithe to the danger that would rob you of this body, this life, you run—eternally in this moment—your life stopped here—up a green lawn wrapped in a thick towel.
You, with your belly full now of strawberry jam and toast and Tiger Tail ice cream, with a gap-tooth and a foolish grin across your face—you won’t even know when it happens.
You don’t see the danger. Of course you don’t. For you, danger is green, dragon-huge, with shiny scales and long sharp fangs—danger doesn’t look like this: a gentle, pale old man in black-rimmed glasses, who smiles and gives you plastic horses with legs that bend, blue candy floss, trips to the zoo, rides on the Ferris wheel. An old and innocent man—innocent because he is a creature like you—this is the trust, isn’t it: that he inhabits his body and mind the same way you inhabit yours. And as you honor the spirit-life of others, you know that they must do the same, and honor your own. You never dream that another living being would want to take your body away from you.
And so, this body, this life of eleven years on this earth, in blue shorts and a red and yellow striped t-shirt, is easily taken from you.
The man in his body steals it away.
You go on. Body is still there, it moves, it breathes, but it is no longer yours. It belongs to some thing else. It is: Some. Other. Thing. Dissonant. Remote.
You go on. But your spirit leaves you. Your joy and your sacred trust. You walk by the shore of the lake, eyes cast down to the shifting sand, stumbling by the water, wading diffident in the shallows.
He has left you with this: flesh poisoned to the marrow, sewn up with a decay that feeds itself through you over the years and over the years and over and down the years. And this: a silent heart, a mind riven with distortion, and the rotten will to die—it is a will that never leaves you, a will that has usurped the life you once were, a will that was once a child in the waves and a dolphin spirit. You are you body.
Rosalind Goldsmith lives in Toronto. She has written radio plays for CBC Radio Drama and a play for the Blyth Theatre Festival and has also translated and adapted short stories by the Uruguayan writer, Felisberto Hernández, for CBC Radio. She began writing short fiction seven years ago. Since then, her stories have appeared in journals in the USA, the UK, and Canada, including Litro, filling Station, Fairlight Books, Chiron Review, Stand, Bryant Literary Review and Fiction International. Several of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. Her first collection, IN A HOUSE DEMOLISHED BY THE WIND, has just been published by Half-Light Press.