The Tiny Teacher
by Umoja Writing Competition 2015 winner, Kirsten Leggett. Congratulations Kirsten who lives and writes in Tasmania.
It was her hair that caught my attention, carelessly tossed about in the wind, locks and tendrils whipping her face. Her eyes were the colour of mine, like the turquoise waters surrounding my island home. They were not cold like these waters but glistened with the warmth of the sun that turns the sand a bleachy white, much like the colour of her hair. She reminded me of the ocean, free spirited and full to the brim with an inner knowing, as though the tides themselves ebbed and flowed within her being. I am caught in this image until a gentle tugging brings me back to the hustle and bustle of the village market. I am standing in it, amongst it. She pulls me by the hand.
“Come, come quickly,” she urges me in a desperate small voice. “There is a place I need to show you.”
How did she spot me in this busy crowd, bustling with colour and noise? I must stand out, as she does too, my blonde hair shining in the sun within a sea of raven haired souls. Yet I do not feel so different from those around me. Was it the way I held myself in the crowd, the way I sheltered my eyes just so from the blazing sun, or perhaps it was the light in my eyes as I smiled and laughed at the antics of the market crowd. Yet she spotted me, as I did her, and came to me with such purpose that I was not surprised and could not say no to her gentle plea.
This child, she captured my heart in a moment, with a voice like a bird and a tiny hand with a claw-like grip sinking into the rhythm of my soul. She felt part of me, yet not. Perhaps she was from another world this ghost child? Yet she felt real, the skin on her hand so soft, the telling of a life yet to be lived. Mine felt rough in hers in comparison, weathered and worn from a life of work, the planting of things, harvest time and the raising of children. A story itself etched in the palms of my hand. So I follow her lead, keeping in time with small yet determined steps, for I am compelled to know more. Her grip on my hand loosens as we enter a dark alleyway. Her steps slow and she glances briefly behind her to see that I am still there. I smile as an acknowledgement that I am open to this journey. There is a sense of trust that I cannot explain. She will show me great things this child.
There is a little sun here and the smell of damp rises from the cobbled streets, the noise of the markets all but a distant hum. Soon, all that can be heard are our footsteps, the markers of our journey. We come to a sudden halt outside a red door, so bright it looks out of place in the greyness I find myself in. A gentle push and we are in. She looks at me knowingly and I catch the spirit in her eyes, the purpose in her mission. The door closes softly behind me, a candlelit hall extends before us and there is the smell of something maternal in the air. Is it perfume? Or is it the smell of something familiar cooking in the oven? I cannot place it, yet something stirs deep inside me, a chord of familiarity and warmth.
I step slowly down the hall, one foot with caution, the other with readiness. A zigzag of emotion. The door at the end of the corridor looms. I sense love oozing from these walls, a certain childlike playfulness, and as I draw closer to the end I see the light coming from a gap beneath the door. It grows brighter as I draw nearer, the child still one pace in front of me. We reach the end and her small hand reaches up to turn the knob, seemingly too big for her small hands. She turns to look at me but I can barely see her eyes in this low light.
“Wait,” I cry out. “What if I’m not ready?”
“I have waited and waited for you,” she tells me, her voice soft and tinkering on the edge of tears. “You did not come, and so I came for you.”
Her eyes glisten with emotion and as the door swings open I step through, without further thought, guided only by instinct, for at last I am here, in the home of the inner child.