I remember there was once when, as a child, i met a water nymph. His eyes carried the strength of the undercurrent in them and his hair was always damp, looking as though water had solidified the light that passed through it to form hair. His body was that of a child's, but his voice carried the knowledge of centuries that he'd seen run past him, mourning his waters, which were damned to end eventually in the sea, their freedom to run through the grassy hills taken away to feed whales instead. When i was but a mere kid, and i didn't know better, i often sat at the edge of the pond and talked with him.
I remember once, when i was a child, a fresh, damp kiss was placed on my lips as a blessing might have been. That was his parting gift to me, the murmur of the little waves lapping at my feet, whispering in my ears and into my heart.
He said: Child, when you're older, and the world has tainted your pure heart, and jaded your luminous eyes, remember to come here, and i shall heal you. I could take you with me if i wished, but then you'd never grow and you'd never know life beneath the sun. You would only know the voices of seaweed and mermaids, and the world would be lost to you.
I don't care, i had said. I said to him that i would give up the sun, the trees and the wind, if only he'd take me with him. But he told me i was too young to truly miss the things I'd mentioned. Because i was too young to know true longing, i would eventually forget i had ever been beneath the sun, and i would start to feel curiosity for those things I'd left behind. I would leave his side as so many other kids like me had before. He'd tried to preserve their innocence, their wide doe eyes and the untouched freshness of their skin. But they had all gone back. They'd left him alone, so he made a promise to never again take anyone whose heart could change with the wind.
But you haven't been thinking the other way, i said. I'd miss you if i were to leave you for the birdsong and the fires of the hearth of a house. I'd cry beside every stream i walked across, because my heart would cry out for you as you say it would for the trees once i went underwater with you.
Still, i simply cannot allow you to come with me. I was once a little boy, just like you, and when my nymph refused to take me with him i threw myself into this very pond, but i ended up drowning.
My water sprite turned me to be like him, and ever since that day i have been looking for someone to be with me.
I really want you to take me with you, i said.
I really want to take you with me, he replied.
We stared at each other for a while, until he sighed and motioned for me to come closer to him. I leaned down so our eyes were level, and he kissed me again. Suddenly water was flooding my mouth, and i felt a rising need to breathe. I started to struggle, but he held my head in his hands and didn't let go. Eventually the impulse was too much and i gave in to my breathing reflex. Water flooded my lungs, making me want to scream in pain and yet soothing me at the same time. I was soon going to be like him, with him. My eyes closed, and the last thing i saw were his translucent eyes, looking at me with longing and yet a hint of regret. After that it was as if i had fallen asleep.
When i woke up, i didn't recognize my surroundings. I wasn't in my house, but it didn't seem as if i was underwater, either. I tried to get up, fully intending to go back to my beloved pond. However, a nurse stopped me from leaving the room.
My eyes teared up as i tried to explain to her why i had to go. But she held steadfast and refused to see the slight slime marks that his hands had left on my cheeks, forming perfect prints of tiny fingers splayed out on my skin. The only thing that i had left of him was the memory of the low murmur of his laughter, a flash of a smile much too old for such a young face.
So i held his promise true to my heart, and let the world taint my heart and i let my eyes become jaded and dull. But underneath all that, underneath the flat voice and wind-broken skin, i still had the spirit of the child i had been back then. I am still waiting for the day when i will be worn out enough to return to him. When i have a heart that will sink to the bottom eagerly, as lead, instead of floating up like the air in a bubble.
Sometimes, i still go and sit in the middle of the parking lot, where our pond used to be, and try to recall the way he often leaned his arms on my knees and smiled up at me with a dislocated smile.