Time stops passing like it does in the outside world and instead sort of hangs in the air, stale and inert.
Content warning: implications of suicidal ideation
No matter how many times I visit, the beauty of the park will always astound me. It looks like something from a Monet, with indulgent stretches of emerald green interrupted only by the occasional burst of colour from the vibrant flower beds. The sky, peppered with white cotton-candy tufts, hangs over the whole scene like an infinite blue lid. Even after three whole days here, it is still as breathtaking as the first time I laid eyes on it.
I hadn’t come here for a while because the journey is over an hour by bus and I’m usually so busy that I can scarcely even leave the house. Most days, I spend so long scrubbing or cooking or entertaining guests that by the time the park even crosses my mind, I’m already lying in bed next to my sleeping husband, and by then it’s far too dark outside to undertake the trip.
I’ve found that once you’ve been home long enough, time stops passing like it does in the outside world and instead sort of hangs in the air, stale and inert. The calendar dissolves. Days ooze into weeks ooze into months ooze into years until one Friday morning, you look in the mirror and suddenly realise that you now have wrinkles on your forehead. And also, it's been over two years since you visited your favourite place.
When I was younger it was different, because I still lived with my children. Children have a certain ability to inject the everyday with an infectious sense of dynamism and optimism that adulthood inevitably lacks. Sometimes I look back on photos to remember what it was like to hold them against my chest so very long ago; to feel their tiny hearts beat against mine, to breathe as one, and feel our futures stretch out interminably in front of us. Even now, as I close my eyes, I see the moment they first learned to walk and how they always gurgled when I spoon-fed them and how I used to dress them each morning, and when all of this comes to mind, I think:
‘Yes, this is enough to sustain me.’
Before I arrived in the park a few days ago, I had never noticed the well. I initially assumed that it must have been a new addition; it seemed unlikely that I had simply overlooked it.
Curiosity piqued, I approached, only to discover that the reality was the exact opposite; it was antiquated and sloppy, like something torn from the pages of a storybook. It had been pieced together hideously from uneven slabs of stone that jutted from its grime-coated walls, sharp and piercing. Except for the few centimetres of brown-speckled rainwater that I now sit in, it had also completely dried up.
It was the glistening of something shiny and reflective from the bottom of the well that really caught my eye. It was so small, yet so luminous, so bright, so inviting. It reminded me of a campfire, slicing through the dark of night. I guess I must have leaned in too close, because I somehow lost my footing and fell in.
After three days in the well, I heard some voices from up above and soon after, the faces of an elderly couple materialised above me. They wore similarly perplexed expressions, their faces slightly resembling prunes with their crinkly skin and screwed up eyes. For a few moments, they said nothing.
“Hello?” the old man eventually choked, rubbing his eyes hard. “Are you okay? Should we get some help?”
“Hi!” I cried, standing up too quickly. My vision flooded with static and I fell to my knees, the pain shooting up my legs like bolts of lightning. It occurred to me that the deprivation was starting to take hold, but I managed to continue, “How are you?”
The couple stared at me, their faces distorted into looks of horror and preoccupation, as if watching some wounded animal stumble around their cage. The man attempted to stammer out a response.
“We’re… well… thank you. We were just going for a walk by the lake… Can we help you? What happened?”
“Oh, I know that lake!” I exclaimed, trying to prop myself up with the little energy I still had left. “I was actually heading there earlier. But I saw this well and I’d never noticed it before.”
The woman leaned over a little more. “Really? It’s not new. We always pass it on our way through the park.”
“Oh, yes, definitely been here a while.” The old man nodded towards his wife. “But did you want some help? You don’t look… well.”
I knew he was right. I couldn’t go on like this. But as I started to respond, my mouth dried up like sand. Each word came out a choked squawk as the grey walls of the well began to collapse inward into my vision, crushing me slowly. By the time I could finally speak, the only thing I could say was:
I heard shuffling from up above as they rushed off. Maybe they will come back to save me. Maybe they won’t. Either way, it’s too late.
It has been three whole days in this well and it is only a matter of time before I die; I see everything drip through my hands like water. But before I go, I will find whatever glistened at me from the bottom of this well. I will run my hands through the cement-like mud, rummage through sticks and stones and rotting leaves until I find what is golden and beautiful. I have not found it yet, but I am sure that I will. And only when I have found it will I die.