The Soul scrabbles at the creek bed, fishing with a bare hand in cold water.
She's searching blindly, by hand, for something. Standing back up, ramming with a long stick into the rocks beneath the water. Looking for some kind of leverage. Bending back down, knee-deep in cold water and reaching down into the white cold froth, hoping to catch hold . . .
. . . of what? the handle to . . . ? There is the iron ring she imagines in her mind but cannot find. Is it a door? or the lid to a box? Is it in a small depression between the rocks? Is it attached to a chain? Has she put it there? Or dropped it, lost it? Is is something she was sent to find? Or something just remembered?
Now again, six days later she is still searching. Or back again searching. Her hands are cold, her feet in the cold water, numb up to the knees. Anger and grief the only thing warm about her. She is stubborn, past thinking. All the world is gone to her. Nothing but the cold creek, the rocks slicked over with moss and wet. The white turbulence like liquid ice, the dreary woods around her.
What will happen when she finds it? Why does it matter so much to her? Is it in itself a thing of value -- a key, a seed, a medicine, a map? Or is it just a pointer to some greater lost or hidden thing?
Come on, give her space. Step back and stop talking about her in overvoice as if she were an interesting aborigine and we the documentary crew filming. The Primitive Soul shows her teeth but doesn't seem to otherwise notice our retreat.
This is what I was writing this time last year. Whenever I sat down to write I saw in my mind this desperate character who would give me no name but the Soul:
I was riding back from stats class in the wide- windowed, high-windowed county bus, riding down Cornelius Pass, a winding steep road, punctuated with memorial crosses where other earlier vehicles took a nosedive and lost their animating drivers.
I thought I had found a new way to write, compelling at least to me, dragging me away from studying for stats over and over, because I couldn't get her , the Soul, out of my mind. In the margins of my math notebook:It was the latter half of January, the Chinook, winter's own small spring break here in the Pacific Northwest. A week or two of watery sun, a trembling warmth. Illusory you could say. Promissory you can hope. Pleasant though, and I was looking out at the melting watershed when I suddenly became aware of her, the Soul, scrabbling desperately, doggedly, in the cold water foaming up over her wrist and forearms. She was out there just out of sight. Before my eyes, the opening in the trees seen from the broad windows of the bus, clattering, chugging down the dangerous pass. The deep-cut watershed full of brooding trees. Ferns like green hands jutting up, signalling from the mist, the only bright thing in that dull wood. The bright thought of water moving down the sharp cut rift.
I want to bring her in, the Soul, to move her along. I try giving her a companion: He. Standing a little back and watching her efforts warily. His whites (cricket whites? tennis?) but long-sleeved, rolled up above the knees, rolled up above the elbows, with white sweater vest, a little prissy, a little spackled near the hem with muddy water drops. He says, "The flood's gone down," because I'm thinking of the snowmelt each spring that filled that other creek running down the back boundary of my first remembered home, the same creek running later a little higher up past my grandmother's garden. It was a house new to them, but suited to them entirely, whimsical, arty, cerebral but not quite logical. They were fresh from Princeton where Grandfather had been a researcher and lecturer after a long career, and lucrative, in a well-known pharmaceutical.
Little did I know, until pneumonia laid me out, gasping and weak a few weeks later, that my lungs were all that time slowly filling up with liquid. This was not the Muse, but the Body, signalling.
The Soul ignores him, no matter what lines I give him. Bends to the water, both hands now, thrashing in the turbulence, wriggling around under water with icy fingers feeling for the handle. Is it a drain she's looking for? Ridiculous. He shifts uncomfortably, knows he's not living up to his role.