The Girl and the Monkey
Once upon a time on the streets of the Mont Saint Michel, there lived a little girl. She had a pet monkey and spent most of her time stealing apples for it and herself from the many vendors that lined the streets. The vendors kept a blind eye to her stealing, because her features were so angelic, and they all knew that her uncle, with whom she lived, was a drunk, and did little to care for her.
Stealing became her way of feeding herself and her small pet, and she laughed when the monkey often took her share as well. Her favorite time of day was when she would run to the ocean and play in the surf with her monkey. She would laugh as they dodged the current, and well before she needed to, she would gather up her monkey and head for higher ground, watching at a safe level, the tide swallow up the land like galloping horses.
After the tide came in, and the beach was no longer accessible, the girl would climb her way to the top of the Abbey, and listen to monks singing. Her monkey waited for her outside, as she sat in the pews and traced the arches of the ceiling that looked to be miles high.
She imagined the effort of the stones holding together to reach such heights, and felt their power akin to that of the tide that washed up on shore swallowing everything like a giant sea monster, and creating an island in mere seconds. She recognized the waves as loud strength, and the bricks squeezing together as quiet strength, and that is how she came to see the world, in various degrees of loud and quiet strength.
One day she encountered a young boy who had come to the mountain to become a deacon. She watched him intently from the pews. She surmised that he was in between loud and quiet strength, because he seemed too malcontent with squeezing tight together as quiet, and she felt something stormy and loud raging underneath his surface, that much more resembled the sea. In fact, it seemed very unnatural for this boy to comport himself in the manner of a deacon, but he strained to do so.
She watched the boy perform his tasks, at the beckoning of the priests. She noticed his eyes become round in agreement as he affirmed their instructions. She also saw his body crushed with heaviness as he did his work in silence.
One day she saw him walking on the beach. It was the first time she had seen him outside of the Abbey. He saw her and her monkey, and smiled when the monkey weaved in and out of his legs almost making him trip.
He was curious about the girl and the monkey, but made no effort to introduce himself. The girl also remained quiet, and only the monkey made any contact between the two of them.
The boy made his way back to the mountain, and the girl and the monkey followed, knowing that they needed ample time to avoid the tide coming in.
The girl sat in silence with the monkey and watched the incoming tide just like they did every day, and the boy stayed too, clearly uncomfortable at her presence, but curious enough to stay to see the waves rush in.
When the waves hit the shores, the girl and monkey delighted in their usual way, and the boy felt it too, although he didn’t show it. He turned away and began his climb up the hill. The girl and her monkey followed.
Day after day, this routine ensued.
Then one night, the girl had a very vivid dream. She dreamed the boy had stayed below and been swallowed up by the sea. She had dived in, become a mermaid and saved him. Her monkey had become a dolphin and helped too. She took some of her uncle’s ink and began to draw the mermaid and the dolphin.
The next day she went down to the sea, and saw the boy linger a little longer than usual. When he made it up on shore, just in time for high tide, she handed him her drawing. He took it, but didn’t open it.
That night the boy had a dream. He was in a giant ocean liner and he saw the little girl and her monkey on a sailboat, sailing freely and laughing. The monkey was scurrying up the mast, and playfully swinging around. The girl’s head was wrapped in a colorful scarf that matched the sails. When he awoke, he drew a picture of this scene and rolled it up, tying it with a bit of cord.
When he descended to the ocean, he handed it to the girl and made his way back to the Abbey.
The boy and the girl continued to dream. They continued to pass to one another their drawings, as if adding to a storyboard.
To the mermaid and dolphin was added a merman and then the three of them swimming in open waters.
He added to his pictures a rigged zipline from the ocean liner to her sail boat, and the three of them began to sail together.
They both hung the pictures in their rooms, and marveled at the stories being created.
Still not a word transpired between them, but she noticed that he seemed a little more relaxed.
One day the sun shone down and she noticed that he closed his eyes and let himself bask just a bit more than usual. She did the same.
Then one day she saw him in her dreams jump into rushing waters, but he couldn’t become a merman, and he was drowning.
She couldn’t become a mermaid, and her monkey couldn’t become a dolphin, and she watched with horror as he was swallowed up by rough waters.
She didn’t see him after that on the mountain. She wondered where he had gone, but when she asked the priest, he dismissed her, telling her only, that he had been sent away, that the Abbey was no place for this boy.
That night, when she went to bed, she didn’t dream at all. There were no more mermaids, and for the first time in her young life she felt afraid of the sea. She stared at the pictures he had drawn of her and her monkey sailing, of the adventures she imagined they’d had together, as he ziplined into their boat. There was even one drawing of her monkey on his shoulder.
She began to feel herself squeezing tight like the bricks of the Abbey, coupled with a feeling stirring inside her to be wild and free like the galloping sea. She felt a new confused state emerging within her of both of these forces competing. This left her aching. The next day she sat up in the Abbey and heard the music. After a long while, she lost herself in the sound, and the sensations of the music penetrated her entire being. For a moment, she forgot her ache. For a moment she felt herself a musical instrument, played by the music itself, as her body danced in sensations and explosions of feeling.
This struck her as extraordinary, that for a moment she felt only a power itself. When she stood up to leave, she fainted. The next thing she remembered was a bunch of people and a doctor milling about. She noticed her uncle distressed and tender in the background, and she heard the galloping of the waves out the window. She felt cold. She couldn’t see her monkey, but she heard him squeaking outside the door.
She fell into a deep sleep. In her dreams she sailed on her boat the boy had drawn with her monkey. Then suddenly right next to her boat, a gigantic whale surfaced, with a mighty force blowing out his blow hole, and a whale tail emerging before her, as big as her boat. She could see the dark shape of the whale underneath the water. She felt dwarfed by this animal, and strangely calmed by it. She recognized the same energy of the whale just like the galloping tide waters, the bricks squeezing themselves together in the Abbey, and the music she’d felt played upon her. Next, she dreamed she saw an ocean liner and up from it burst into the sky, fireworks, and she felt the presence of the boy.
She saw images of the boy in scenes she had drawn animated before her, in the stars, in the heavens, carved on trees, painted on caves, written in books, and she understood something that she would never put into words, nor would she need to.
She woke quietly a few days later. She heard her uncle crying in relief, promising to do better by her, to have food on her plate three times a day. She smiled.
She hugged her uncle softly, giving him a kiss, and after a few bites of soup, she went outside and gathered her monkey in her arms, and down she climbed to play on the beach.
It rained a cold drizzle which made her blink often, but she didn’t feel the chill. She felt the rain as radiant splashes, the same she’d felt from the whale that splashed her in her dreams, as she sailed the sea with her monkey, her hair tucked back into a colorful head scarf that matched the colorful sails of her boat.
On her way home she stumbled upon a something hard. It was a bottle half buried in the sand. She opened it up, and in it found a rolled up paper with familiar cording. She felt her heart swell as she opened the parchment and saw a drawing of her sailing with her monkey on the high seas, but in this drawing was also a picture of a giant ocean liner, with fireworks lighting up the sky, and on the deck of the giant ship was a boy waving. Sandwiched in the drawing was a silky scarf bursting with colors. She had never seen something so beautiful. She held it in her hands for a while, and then proceeded to tie it around her head.