A girl with caramel hair, curly and untamed, crouches in the sun-baked sand on the bank of a massive river–the Tiber, the Amazon, the Nile. Her rosy and rounded fingers, four dimples on the back of her palm, grasp as much of the soft, dense sand as possible; then uncurling each finger one by one, she lets the sand plop like goopy raindrops on one another. With each trip, her structure grows taller, wider; her fingers grow longer, reach more grains, all the concentrated skin that made them rosy and rounded now stretches to make them long and lithe. Her hair grows darker, perhaps with the spray of the water, and longer. The sandcastle expands, growing into a pyramid, a fixture on the bank.
A solitary figured, with a curved back, dust-infused hair, a neck exhausted with the awkward, outstretched weight of my head, I crouch amidst my just-near twenty-one years. In my room that had seemingly only charted the movement of dust particles from surface to surface, I feel a fixture on the bank of some massive river. The room had been stagnant; it was made of cardboard, like a page in a picturebook. It wasn’t made up of things anymore, but was one collective idea … my room. Now, I pick up each square and turn it over–reading papers, fingering handmade jewelry, smelling old fabrics–and find individual grains of sand underneath.
But they’re not mine. I realize with some alarm that this young girl of 9 or 11 is unfamiliar. I do not know her, remember her, yet she was in my room. I have not seen or heard from her in some time and, based upon her writings, I’m not displeased with this. Just unsettled. I read her stories. Simple. Elementary. One begins to recall something in me. I remember this. Yes, I remember this story’s inception and its promise. It was going to be great. Now, of course, I see it was not and would never be beyond the bounds of my mind. This grain of sand is still not mine–time enough to warrant neglect has passed and removed it from my possession–yet it was in me all along.
The now young woman stops her construction for a moment. She delicately presses two fingers into the side of her structure, parting the grains of sand, bound by fickle water, and gingerly reaches into the core of it. She removes a single grain and examines it. This was from year nine. October. Years had passed since it touched her skin, yet she remembers it fondly–so young, sunny, hopeful. Content with her examination, she eases it back into its place in the structure.
I put the story down. While unfamiliar to me now, I recognize the story was in me all along. It’s underneath every story. It’s amidst my newest play. It whispers behind the words of my latest poem. It fortifies these words. That author is in me, somewhere in my gut, supporting the woman I know. Though she be unfamiliar, she shares my blood, thoughts, and I love her for it.
The young woman continues to pile sand on. Some grains skitter down the sides. Some grains are covered and disappear silently into the core. Yet still the castle grows.