Once, when I was five years old, I took to a place away from the house.
I was a visitor at my Aunt’s. It was early evening and the house was filled with huge trees of people, clouds of scarves and silk, cotton, glass, music..a small boy, I was wafted through this fragrant sea, a kind of fish, gliding from the tinkling rooms and out to a hallway, where a door lay ajar.
I crept out unseen, and pressed onto the lawn towards the small roofed structure in the centre. I thought this structure a wishing well at first, but there was no well inside, just a waist height wall, pillars and tile roof around a small concrete base. I tucked myself into the corner, watched and listened. I could hear the clink of glasses and laughter and the scent of the women passed on the breeze..
And it was there that I first realised the wonder of being alone near to a crowd, the delight of my own thoughts and company, and the comfort within them. It was not a dislike of those around me, but more that I relished to feel the waves of them at near view, to enjoy their spectacle, but to remain intact, for that wave to not cover me.
I was a boy of stories, quietly humming there within my stiff, self conscious frame. Too intense for most other children to understand me, I took to nature – talked to grasses, birds and tiny quivering worms. I engaged myself in an observation of the world as mini scientist, participating in life with a studious tone.
“I wish that child would take off and run a little”, they worried, not quite knowing how to take me. But the truth was it simply wasn’t built into me to run, to be dizzy or silly. My legs hung there to walk my mind about, my mind ran for me, in all directions.
The next morning, the wind blew across the lawns of the house, coming in warmly from the sea. I was carrying a tea tray over to my Aunt, my mother, and her friends, very carefully so as not to spill. I treaded one foot steadily before the next, imagining myself tightroping over a ravine.
“Here, mother” I said, and they all looked up from their conversation, regarding me with something like laughter, something like concern.
“Thank you, dear, just lay it there” Mother said, gesturing vaguely towards the table. I did, then gave her cheek a small kiss and turned on my heel, back to the house. A few steps on, and my back was showered with the peals of giggles of women. “Such a serious little chap!” one smirked. “My goodness, a little monk!” the other replied. Fond, teasing. I skipped it off, quietly enjoying this small confirmation of uniqueness, as if my shoulders had been showered with butterflies.