In solitude, she picks the pebbles one by one, big and small, round and edged, and stacks them in the middle of her garden. Not to build a tower and climb its circular stair; to raise a fountain into the sky is not to defy the gods but to honor them with air and water spiking and sprouting from the land. The stones swell up and the mound takes the shape of the layering years when the mosses have not yet reached the necks of her sculptures. She looks at them now and then squinting from the sun’s glare wondering how long it will take the merchants to be lost on her side of the island once more.
Business is dead, but the stone-faces still hold their frozen frown. That is how skilled her hands have been in this craft: in heaving marble and mud, in molding and carving them with fire: fire that lingers in stone-eyes without so much warmth but such sharpness they cut right through the wind. Anyone passing will marvel at such statues: the younger ones will mistake her beauty accursed of turning life into stones. So stones become the answers to their awe and youth, stones that they fling at her, stones that she is happy to pick and add up to her piles of lonesome assembly.
She once hollowed boulders and rocks forming caves and wells, not to dig deep into dirt but to understand the air and water coming out of earth. On her skin, she looks for the pits and crevices from whence the stench of her quietude is coming. To understand its source and offer this secret scent to someone will be the greatest of the most unlikely delights. Air now mixes with salt, water coats with tears, elements rolling into one seam of human flesh; on her side of the island, the ships do not wander by the sea anymore.
The sky gave her talent and clay, and so in gratitude, she chucks little pieces of her heart in between stones. She sees in the mess of clouds and in veins on marbles that one day a man will wander into her garden and claim her head as a trophy. She waits for the day when there is nothing more to give. But for now, all she wants to do is tend her garden of stones, raising fountains and mountains to the sky, waiting for a flower to grow, a flower finding its way through a crack in the courtyard of her loneliness.
Jeff Javier is a Creative Writing student at UP Mindanao.