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Spirit Stories: In Your Own Words

The Crimson Thief

By: Nika Rejto

I WAS TWELVE...

When we moved to the house on the other side of the hill. The deserted side which hugged the ocean. The windswept side which spawned poppy fields of raging beauty. The cobalt blue side, where I would huddle in the cool evening breezes, left with only the finest silken ideas in which to spin a web.

I ran barefoot with my brother to the cliff's edge, a foreboding drop. I inhaled the misty essence, but found no path leading down and thus was left lingering above on the lofty, velvety meadow. By the end of summer, my feet were trained chauffeurs of my soul, overcoming most obstacles.

Mama adapted to the cottage quickly, setting her fine linens and china on the tiny ledge above the green kitchen door. From my seat at the table, I had a perfect view with my one eye of these ancient relics which she cherished almost as much as she did me. Back then, there were times when I actually believed she favored the dish ware. I'm not saying I wasn't a lovely child, but I knew I was somewhat peculiar, not only because of my new silent eye, but for other, more subtle reasons.

My fourteen year older brother unfortunately poked me in the eye with a wire while I peeked through the bathroom keyhole. Grasping its' bloody socket, I stumbled to Mama crying silently. For ten longs days I groped around the house, anxiously anticipating the bandages' removal. I was a blind girl suffocating in darkness. Geoffrey read to me, probably trying to vindicate his overwhelming guilt of having maimed me, and continued to reassure me that I would once again see and dance in the magnificent poppy field. The doctor ultimately said, "Your eye is scratched beyond repair." So much for the power of positive thinking. I never blamed Geoffrey, yet I think he spent the rest of his life caught up in his own silent, hellish web. I did have my other eye, and I adjusted. To say my perspective changed in more ways than sight that summer is putting it rather mildly. Actually, I still had my ocean, its terrace and the heavens.

Mama called me starry eyes because I searched the night skies, stealing when I could the stars' twinkle. She said, "Even the eye that doesn't move, sparkles!" That was one of the kindest things she ever said to me.

"Tell me more," I would laugh.

"One day, I swear, that sky is gonna lift you up and take you from me."

"When, Mama, when?" I would ask.

"Child, what you talkin' about? You aren't going anywhere."

Just like that she'd change, leaving me alone to ponder the unknown abyss. I was definitely a dreamer. The funny thing is, I thought she was too. I never quite knew how to approach my mama. She always seemed to be somewhere else. Maybe she was. We were two peas in a pod.

As the summer progressed, Geoffrey and I found ourselves submerged in iridescent colors which precipitated our shadows to dance. I had never been happier. I thrived on watching sun birds dive for food. Because of one-eyed vision, I always thought the birds would collide in flight, or worse, miss their target. I imagined I too was flying, caught between childhood and gravity; and later propelled into the winds of time. I wasn't the least bit surprised when it actually took hold and shoved me into adolescence.

My family struggled with the acknowledgment process of my "passing" into womanhood that summer. Perhaps they thought that one "traumatic experience" (to coin their phrase) was enough for one summer. But I remember only too vividly the day the crimson thief crept up upon my dreams, bringing a wetness that oozed into the lush green undergrowth. My hand intuitively felt between my moist thighs, expecting perhaps to find nothing, but all along knowing what would reveal itself. I wasn't that ignorant. I was twelve Geez! I rubbed my hand rather delicately through the tall grass, believing I could rewind the clocks of time by smearing away the evidence. My brother sat there wide-eyed and embarrassed. He didn't say a word.

"Geoffrey, I need your help."

"I know," he replied sheepishly.

"Go to the house and tell Mama to bring a rag."

"Ah, sis, ... ah...I think you need more than that!" he grumbled.

I felt the red flush whip across my cheeks, complete with little beads of sweat which appeared suddenly like the hailstorm last winter. I think it was that particular moment when I actually caught the whiff of a woman's scent. My scent. My mark. My little red spot on the meadow that stole my childhood.

Mama was stunned and unprepared. She had no red cape for me to don - no wise words to help ease the passage through the forest. I consequently led her to Grandma's. All the talk about wolves is true. A woman's scent is clearly distinguishable.

I still remember the early morning rays as I walked down the dusty lane to visit the neighbor's white stallion. In the beginning of summer, he had simply ignored me, refusing my carrots and sugar cubes. But after my passage, he too caught my scent and whinnied as I silently approached; a girl in repose. I have since dreamed of his white cloak, marked for greatness, as I straddled his firm back.

I was a challenged spirit, awakening, breathing, believing, feeling the vibrations of life. I lost interest in those girly things, you know, gossip, news of some distant cousin whose son became a doctor, or some darling grand-daughter who is taking ballet lessons and "Oh, you should see how adorable she looks in her tutu," comments. Instead, I had my dreams, where I was the star, where my adrenalin pumped my heart, where fame and glory were feathered into my headdress.

It was, however, a rude awakening to realize I was still very young and living at home, with a mother who helped me not and a brother who knew not what to help me with. I rose slowly from my patch of grass in which I had been anchored like a ship in a storm. I was told to eat, but food was no longer desirable. My rounded body didn't fit into my clothes, and I was ever so impatient to shed the last remaining vestiges of the "young girl." Now I wonder why I was in such a hurry to grow up. But when you're caught up in the winds of time, eyesight is not the only perspective that can change. Those two, warm summer months atop a hill launched a world from which my dreams were born.

On one particular day, while I caressed my sacred patch of grass, I looked up and saw a magical rainbow. As it stretched across the boundaries of the land, it grabbed up all the children and anyone else who happened to be looking into its raw beauty. I rose upward into the magnificent hues; a sky peacock framing my precious world. I can't say how long I was uplifted; I just know that when the rainbow vanished, I wasn't the same. I felt off kilter again, but this time the imbalance was situated inside my heart and had nothing to do with visual acuity.

In my mind's eye I created and molded the most magnificent man; strong like my stallion, with a touch that matched the gentleness of his words. He was more than good enough for me - he was perfect. I became quiet and introspective. Geoffrey lost a friend and played alone. I sat on my patch of grass and traveled the world. Had I been wiser, when I got older I could have become a movie director and brought people to the places I visited. Instead, I spent years searching for his flesh, listening for his heartbeat, but found no one worthy enough to wear my crown.

Many years later, after many unhealthy, destructive relationships, I happened upon another patch of grass gracious enough to fortify my hunger. I again searched the skies for still more answers, eventually catching a dancing star meant for my eye only. I nestled it deep inside my heart, as a mother cradles her young, and nursed it nightly with my dreams.

Now, while everyone sleeps, I rise and pay homage to him, my first love - the hostage in my mind. I embrace him as I remember and long for the velvety green carpet of my youth. I embrace him as I crave the dewy moss and white stallion. I embrace him as I long for my young and tireless body. And most of all, I covet him as I dream of moist, sea air-cooling my fires.

Tell me, how do I erase his face from my heart? How do I release such a profound indictment? I've carried him inside all these years, but only now does the pain slice me open as a surgeon's scalpel; a methodical madness.

Surrendering to grief is perhaps the most mystifying of lessons that we are encouraged to experience. But then, how else can life manifest its magnificent symphony if not by playing both the high and low notes? Left drifting in the river of melted love, I yield as a snake to its charmer.

On my tiny cot, blind now in both eyes, I call upon the magical rainbow which radiated peace and goodwill. The one which caused me to get lost in the shuffle of life, sidestepping like a circus master, camouflaged and secretive. Had I been too transfixed with its beauty to see there was a dark side? My heart is bursting as I surrender to my patch of grass, to the sea gulls who fed me with flight, to the sultry winds that cloaked me with faith, and I pray. I pray for guidance and the state of reverence, as I steal away on my final journey.

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