Reciprocation

I’ve seen myself walking a path through a barren land. In the distance, the very farthest end of the horizon, beautiful clouds gathered, non-threatening and cool in appearance. Rolling over itself casually as if waiting patiently for my arrival. I did not rush to meet it, because my companion was lagging behind. The sun where I stood circling in the sand, was beating down mercilessly. I could walk towards the comfort that awaited me, but my companion was looking worn and disheartened. From where she stood, the horizon looked very different. It was barren, just like the area surrounding us. She was too far back to see the clouds awaiting our arrival. So she slowed even more.

I too slowed down. I could see it for the both of us, so it didn’t matter that she couldn’t. What mattered was that we got there together. So I halted, waited, and slowly made my way back to her to help her along. Shielding her eyes with my hands in the hope that it may reveal the clouds, she continued to look back. Back at the barren land with traces of smoke still pluming into the sky from where she left. She kept looking back hoping for the smoke to stop, but it didn’t. And the smell still stuck in her nose taunting her with images of the horrors she had seen before leaving that place.

So I pulled her closer, steadied her footing, and gently nudged her forward so that we could start our journey again. The horizon slowly fading, even the clouds dissipating as I dragged the weight of us both towards that horizon. What little food and drink I had, I kept for her. She needed it more than I did. I could see the end in sight, and it gave me hope. She couldn’t see it, so she needed hope. And the little sustenance that remained was hope enough for her. If nothing else, it delayed the inevitable, as she peered over her shoulder again staring longingly at the plumes of smoke still barely visible in the distance.

She ate and drank and regained her strength, as I slowly wilted beside her. But I didn’t show my wilting spirit. She needed hope, and I needed to be strong. Each step drained me more, while each step infused a newfound sense of determination in her. As she picked up her pace, I started lagging behind. The clouds on the horizon now creeping into view for her, she finally saw what kept me going all that time. Almost spent, I needed a moment to gather my strength for that final push to tear us away from those plumes of smoke forever.

As I paused to rest, she grew impatient. I looked at her with the slightest smile on my face, as if asking her if she finally sees what I was pushing for all that time. Instead of a soft word, I received a scowl. I had now become the weight that was slowing her down to get to the destination that I fought to reach for the both of us. But that didn’t matter. The plumes were now gone, or even if they weren’t, she found hope to distract her from those plumes. Nourished with the little reserves we had left, she powered on and left me there, catching my breath, taking a moment to pause, to gather my strength so that I could stand up tall enough to get a glimpse of the clouds that was enough to feed my soul and my battered limbs.

The clouds. Even though I could no longer see them, I still knew they were there. She disappeared into the distance as I kept steadily advancing a single pace at a time, until I rediscovered my rhythm. The same rhythm that kept me going for the both of us before, was now more than sufficient to keep me going by myself. I gathered pace, and scanned the horizon. Suddenly, the clouds melted in a haze of heatwaves rising lazily from the sand. As I looked around, I realised it was a mirage, and to the right, a slight distance further, around the side of the rocky cliffs that flanked our journey for so long, it appeared majestically in lush green shades, and the whitest clouds. I wanted to call out to her to turn back, but she was gone.

[This attempt at a creative abstract personifies the journey that many of us take in our efforts to uplift others. Sometimes we expend ourselves to the point where we become the burden that we hoped to help others rise above. And sometimes, if we’re fortunate, we catch ourselves before we reach that nadir of our existence. That point that is so low, that looking up is too daunting, so we keep our gaze firmly fixed on the ground before us hoping for a sign as to when it will welcome us home. Today is not that day.]

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