I see Jacinda alone in one of the school’s breezeways. She dances a kind of three-hop number, a light skip down the middle, then back the way she came. She sings to herself as well – a quiet, private song. As I come around the corner, I can hear just a few notes.
Concrete above and to the sides frames her in a rectangle of light. Behind her, I see the expanse of empty playground. A bit farther, a chain link fence. Beyond the fence, four lanes of traffic. September rain has fallen and the asphalt grit glistens.
I remain at the breezeway’s far end, about thirty yards away. Cold air lingers the way cold often does in the between spaces among concrete buildings. As soon as I see her, I know she is in a place of her own – one that I cannot access except to witness. She dances as she pleases, and the word that comes to me is delight.
How true that reverie comes less often to me now! I may have to bring it on more by force than by accident. As a boy, the glow of daydreams came to me all the time. Now, I fill the emptiness with a next step or a change of subject. Jacinda, however, demonstrates no hesitation in acquiring reverie. She slips into dancing with invisible friends and wanders her realm with a sure foot. At one with her steps, with the sweet breeze, with her humming, she pirouettes just outside of the roar and the rush of circumstance.
I call her name and she comes to a full stop. I know that I have interrupted. I question myself. Why did I do that? I fall into a brief moment of self-reflection against the mirror of her non-time and non-place. I see that I am curious about how a child travels to a place I once knew, but no longer know how to find.
She looks at me. She waits. Her eyes ask “Yes?” as in how may I help you. I come to understand that I am uninvited, but not in a mean way. I step forward from the breezeway shadows, almost tip toeing, and move on. I hear the hum and know she has started dancing again. I look back and wave as I turn away.
Enchantment remains for me, but more as a faint glimmer, connected, but far away. Soft exchanges of light and dark, instances that slip below and rise again. My own dance with memory and time can come to me that way. The quieter spirits get dismissed, replaced by rougher, cruder shapes.
To step in between as if no distinction between in and out existed – that’s what a child can teach us! Ears tuned to the quarter tones and eyes to the shimmers just beyond the prism. Whether I hold or dismiss them with a harrumph has no bearing. At midlife, I feel time’s quickening. But I also get a lift from knowing that a child, by dancing, offers a kind of proof for that which I can no longer see.