The old woman sits in the desert, quiet, still. You think she has not heard your question. Your lips are parted to ask it again, when she speaks. ‘“What do I know?” Why? What should I know?’ She pauses and you must wait. ‘Here is what I know: I am old. I am a woman. I am an old woman, sitting in the desert. That’s all.’ She smiles lightly and briefly meets your eye, then looks past you, out to the hazy distance. It has not rained here for ten years.
You search for another, a better question. ‘What brought you here?’ Another long pause before she answers. ‘Life… Death… Hope… Fear… A bus.’ She laughs to herself. ‘All your questions will have the same answers, my dear.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Life, death, hope, fear, a bus. Now be quiet and listen.’
‘What am I listening to?’ But she does not speak again. She shakes her head and touches her lumpy finger to her lips, then looks away. The sound of wind, ever-present, fills the silence.
After some unmeasured time the light has changed; the sun, near set, picks out every stone with long fingers. The woman leans forward, hands on knees, gradually unfolding herself, to stand, still bent, and walk slowly into her small cabin, its bright blue paint now faded and peeling to a dusky, dusty camouflage. Away in the shadow of the far hills, headlights briefly draw the line of a road and then disappear.
You sit, still waiting for understanding, as the stars appear and a faint dew forms, distilled from a distant sea.
Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts