No one knows who she is. No one has ever seen her. She comes and goes as if searching for something or someone. When she is present her presence is felt, perhaps with fear, and maybe wonder. No one feels comfortable when she is near. And if by chance in passing she brushes against you, startling you into wonderment or dismay, you consider yourself chosen.
She is invisible yet her presence seldom goes unnoticed. Such was the case with me. I was one who never knew about her, or heard about her, yet from time to time I sensed a presence, a nearness of which I could not account. The others with me knew something and feared something. She, the presence, invisible and awesome, brushed against me one night. I hardly noticed it, but when it happened again I wondered if a god has just passed by. I was not afraid of being touched by the unknown. I was curious, inquisitive. I wanted to ask questions, but I was sure no one would have an answer. I simply let it go.
Much later, as I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink I felt the presence again, only this time more powerful, invisible, yet substantial. I did not speak, I did not turn my head, I remained as if nothing had happened, for indeed, nothing had yet happened. The presence was strong, commanding, as if to awaken something in me that would be capable of responding. I questioned in my heart how I could bring the presence into the light, to uncover its secrets and somehow to make it visible. Did I have such a right? Would this be the right thing to do? I could not, dared not, decide.
The presence was manifesting much stronger increasingly, and I knew that I could not ignore it for long. I wondered if it, she, the presence was reaching out to me, and if so, why? A thought suddenly sprung into my mind. Sprinkle water onto the source of the presence and see if there is a reaction. Again I thought that I did not have the right to deny this presence its hiddenness, its secret places. But what if it was beckoning me to do something to reveal it? I decided to follow my idea and sprinkle water on the presence. I was not sure why I wanted to do this, but the idea had suddenly taken hold of me, and it seemed as if I could not abandon it. Turning very slowly as not to alarm the presence, I sprinkled a handful of water onto the place where I sensed it was standing. Immediately, the presence became visible.
She was a young woman at least by appearance, though I could not see her face fully. She was not shielding her face as if caught by surprise. I thought, she is just not accustomed to others seeing her as she is. I left it at that. She spoke without words, still not looking at me directly. I turned slightly away from her, wanting to preserve whatever protocol of privacy she deserved. I responded to her, also without words, and she nodded that she understood. Silence followed briefly, and a heavy sadness enveloped her as if to protect her.
After an eternity had passed, she said, “I am not at home here. Please help me to find my home, or I shall soon perish here.”
Trying to remain as calm as possibly, I replied. “I am sorry you are not at home in my world. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you.” I paused and then added “I shall do my best to help you return to your own home.”
I wanted to reach out, to hold her closely, and shield her against the dangers of my world of which she was so terrified. Instead, “where is your home,” I asked, and she did not reply immediately. When she did reply, perhaps pausing to wonder just how much she may reveal to me, she said, “I am the child of the ocean. I must find the ocean soon, or I will surely perish. I will show you the way.”
“I will take you there now.” I said, and she consented. As it turned out, it was not very far, perhaps not as many as ten kilometers. She had to be carried all the way, for she could not navigate my world. She was a light as feathers, and it was no effort to carry her. For most of the journey we remained silent, the one objective most clearly positioned in our minds, reaching the shore of the ocean as rapidly as possible.
When we arrived I put her down gently upon the beach. The sand was glowing brightly under the stars as if extending a joyful and generous welcome to her. She thanked me for helping her, and asked me to take her into the water. Again I lifted her into my arms and waded waist deep into the water. I lowered her slowly and deliberately, not wanting to disturb the smooth calmness of the ocean. The water itself seemed to open its arms to receive its daughter. Again, she thanked me for rescuing her.
“I shall return to see you,” I said to her, “so you do not abide always alone here.” For the first time she looked at me fully in my face. She was as beautiful a young woman as I had ever seen, a beauty that glowed under the starlight. I was grateful for this sight, which has remained with me ever since.
“I will look for you,” she answered.
“I shall call out to you when I return,” I said. “I will call out from the shore, and if by chance I have a boat, I will sail out into the ocean to find you.”
She waved good-bye, and slipped silently beneath the calm waters.
She was at home, at last.
She dwells in the deep.
She is “The Water-Girl.”
No one has ever seen her.
As for me, I cannot say what I saw. I can only recount a tale of mystery that captured my life one night, a long time ago, in the plain ordinariness of my kitchen. And if by chance a presence brushes against you one day, don’t be afraid.
Thanksgiving Day, 2015