For Tom Winton with my thanks.
The book had within its pages passages of pure magic; when the author had tapped into her bloodstream with his words and made her turn the pages hurriedly, only to go back and read again to be certain the feeling was real.
Moments of reluctant acknowledgement that finally someone had the vision to write truth as it needed to be written. Clear, uncluttered and blinding in its demand for the reader’s attention.
She wondered about the man who had penned the words, had he experienced the things he wrote about, or did he have a mind filled with that charismatic empathy that few possess; the empathy that permits them entry into the hearts and souls of all things living? The empathy that makes the reader check their doors and windows and wonder aloud if they were indeed wearing a device that granted him access.
Who was he, this stranger?
What made him tick?
It became a challenge for her to find out more about the man behind the words. Why? To deem him worthy of her patronage?
She laughed quietly to herself at that thought. No … her ego would never be that inflated.
More likely she acknowledged to herself wryly, to find that chink in his armor, that piece of information that would again relegate him to the realms of simply writing something that shone briefly on her horizon, then like all brightly shining things flamed and burned out into the sea of almost was.
She found herself hoping that her cynicism was justified. Far easier in the long term to accept that he was a talented writer, nothing more. It felt somehow safer that way. Then he wouldn’t have invaded her safe place, he wouldn’t have connected with the hidden things within her and made her cry out in her vulnerability.
She tasted fear. She didn’t like it.
Her need to feel safe in her hidden world was the driving force behind the need to know more. Did he have demons of his own that drove him to write words that tore down her barriers with so little force.
She began to search.
She found nothing. Nothing. He was not proclaiming himself to be a messenger of hope, a purveyor of dreams, a bastion of safety in a crazy world. He was simply a man. A man with a wonderful talent. A writer brave enough to open his heart and his mind and allow others to enter.
How could something as soul changing as his writing be born of a man who simply appeared one day on her horizon? She would never know. Yet she did know it didn’t make a damned bit of difference what or where he had come from, she would remain forever altered by virtue of the fact that he had followed his destiny and written words that sang on the page.
She had not as yet read the final chapter. She refused to do so. Not yet.
The book lay close by her as if protecting her in its bound pages. She wanted to remain inside its words. To stay safe.
She read and re-read it. She committed whole passages to memory.
What if the ending were too predictable? What if it didn’t release her from this hostage situation?
More importantly … what if it did?
Came a day when she knew it was time. She despised herself for being so weak for so long. Her hands shook a little as she began that final chapter.
The book lay closed against her chest. One hand holding it firmly in place. Its cover was damp with long unshed tears.
She drew a breath that shook.
Her world had forever changed. Not in a flash of sudden blinding clarity, that was the stuff of movies … no … this was more like walking through a thick fog that gradually lifted to reveal all that had been there simply waiting to be truly seen.
There were colors here she had never allowed herself to see. Sounds from outside she had never allowed herself to hear. Words to be said that she had never allowed herself to say.
She smiled and shook her head. So much for being tough old girl. The smile turned to teary laughter. ‘If they could see me now.’ The music to a marvelous old song by Shirley McClaine danced in her head as she took herself off to bed.
She slept a deep sleep. Quenching her thirsty soul, and resting her tired mind.
In the days and months that followed she caught herself laughing unexpectedly and those who loved her noticed the change.
She permitted herself to cry, simply because she could.
She read with a renewed sense of adventure, finding much that had been hidden by her blinkered eyes for so long.
She wrote words that needed to be written.
And now? Now she is simply saying thank you to a friend who unknowingly gave her a precious gift.
Thank you, Tom.