The light is strange at night, it makes the surface of the pond look like glass–but not any kind of glass. This glass has strange properties. When you look into the glass you see yourself as you were, as you might have been, or as you might be. I’m not imagining it. There is something going on with the pond.
Commelina came back a few days ago. I found her here, swimming in circles. She looked lost, just a little frightened. How can she be lost when this has always been her pond?
She was gone the next day.
I waited for her every afternoon, after school, and all day over the weekend. It happened Sunday evening, whilst I sat watching me watch myself in the glass water. An older self this time. There are happy ones, and sad. This one was sad. Lines on her face spoke of a hard life.
There were no feathers on her.
As she and I were looking into each other’s eyes, trying to find things to recognise, the water shimmered. Rippled out from the centre as if someone had thrown a stone. And there was Commelina. Or rather not. It was a cygnet. A younger Commelina I’m thinking.
I think she got lost again, and this cygnet came out in her place.
It can’t stay here. No cygnet can be alone, they don’t leave until grown, and this one is small, covered in grey fluff. Weeks old, no more. It already looks so very lonely. But at least it doesn’t hiss at me when I feed it. It’s been here for three days, growing gradually more melancholy.
One day, I’m sure, I’ll come to the pond and find it gone. Perhaps Commelina fully grown will be back. One of her anyway. I think that’s been the problem, too many Commelina’s coming through, and none of them right. The last one didn’t hiss when I fed it either. Just what kind of Commelina is that?
Is it odd that I want to jump in the pond, into another life? Just to see.
I’m afraid I’ll end up in a sad life though. There are as many sad as there are happy, as there are normal. Do I want to enter a life where there are no feathers growing between my breasts, or on the points of my shoulders?
I used to let them grow when I was a child, until I could stroke them and they’d feel like my Nana’s chickens, that bouncy, prickly softness. I haven’t done it for so long. Apparently it’s not right, and so I pluck them. I tell mama and papa they’ve stopped growing.
Their relief is almost worth the pain of the lie.
There are new people in the village. I haven’t seen them. Petra has. She tells me they’re from the travelling show. Twins. Dancers. Why they left the show and stayed I don’t know. I wouldn’t. I begged and begged to go and see the show, but mama was having none of it. I made Petra stay all night and tell me every last detail, right down to the beads of sweat on the ringmaster’s brow.
Now she tells me the dancers are here.
Albinos. Slender as pins, with pink eyes and white hair like spun candy. A male and a female she says, but you can’t tell the difference. They like to dress as one another, and will often tell you the woman is the man and vice versa. Petra plans to sneak to their house and catch them naked. Identify them by their parts once and for all. I don’t see the need. We are what we want to be.
Or at least, we should be.
I know I shouldn’t hide my feathers. I want to find the dancers and ask them how they came to be in the show; why they left. Why they’d come here of all places. I haven’t seen them yet, though. I keep waiting for Commelina, the right one, and missing them whenever Petra sees them out and about. I could stop waiting here for her cygnet to go back and for her to return, but I’d feel wrong.
Who else will sit here and know she’s the right swan when she returns? It seems important to let her know that someone cares enough to try.
Today I am young in the pond, and I recognise myself. Pigtails and pride and feathers, and a crush on the butcher’s son, Jose. So tall and broad and handsome, even though he was only three years older than me. My crush didn’t last past summer, when he called me ‘bird-girl’ in front of all my friends and yanked my pigtails so hard I fell and cracked my skull open on the pavement. I still have the scar. Every time I see him, it burns. The dislike, I mean, intense as too much vinegar on capons.
The scar I wear with pride. It reminds me that there is nothing more misleading than an exterior.
© Ren Warom 2013