An Imagination

If only you could focus. If you’d only concentrate.

A child sits shackled to a classroom desk. A heating pipe pings and plonks, becoming either water torture or a lure. The child examines the pipe. Discovering it’s a tunnel, she crawls inside. It takes her down, below the floor, through dark corridors, and under ground. She emerges in a leafy woods, where, through the trees, she sees a procession of people dressed in black, the men in sleek-black top hats and the women in long skirts, their heads adorned in feathers. They follow a black carriage, windowed and lit and encasing a coffin. Black horses with trembling plumes on their heads pull the carriage. The driver gentles their reins. The animals see the child. One calls her name. Panicked by being spotted, she runs back to the tunnel, slipping under ground and up dark corridors. Her name’s called again. She’s gasping for breath, and before she reaches her seat, there’s laughter. The teacher’s hand presses itself white-knuckled on the child’s desk. Her name is called again—as sharply as the whack of a ruler.

If only you could focus. If you’d only concentrate.

A window beckons. Outside, the wind is up. A hedge of bushes and trees, bright green with spring growth, sways. The new leaves twinkle as if they’re daytime stars, and the branches beckon. A corner of the window peels back to reveal a carpet, which she settles upon. Closing her eyes, she leans back. The air is fresh, uplifting. She smiles. Below, far, far below, there’s laughter. The carpet hovers. She hears a name, her name, a whack

If only you could focus. If you’d only concentrate.

Beneath her desk, a crack in the floor catches the sole of her shoe. She presses against the crack, and it slides open, a draft of salty air enveloping her. Seagulls scream, and waves slap against a breakwater. A galleon’s docked. Against the wishes of her teacher, who insists she to pay closer attention in class, she climbs aboard. She may sail to parts unknown, and be wrecked upon an island like Robinson Crusoe. Unlike him, won’t seek company or a return to society. She’ll make a life for herself on the island. The only Friday she needs falls at the end of the week. Today might be Friday.

If only you could focus. If you’d only concentrate.

If only you could focus. If you’d only concentrate.

Friday. The child is given assignments for the weekend. Some are okay, maybe, but the math assignments clink like chains. Never mind. Chains remind her of bikes, which takes her out the family compound, up a narrow alley stinking of open benjos, past farmyards with crowing roosters, murmuring ducks, and bellowing water buffalo. She pedals past a wooden hay cart pulled by a Brahman cow and slips between glinting rice paddies. A solitary Buddhist temple, its roof of tiles glazed in a rainbow of colors and adorned with wings of dragons glimmers. And through a copse of pines, she pushes her bike along a boardwalk. The beach. The South China Sea. Waves sweep ashore. Kids swimming in the surf call her into the water where she just may swim around the world.

Who says this girl cannot focus, cannot concentrate? Look at how far she travels. Look at how far she’s come.

Why not feed curiosity? Free the wandering mind? Follow the urge to explore?

A girl with an imagination in Obergoms, Switzerland

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