I am a replica of Rodin’s The Thinker, and I sit in a small green space next to the Central Library. Just a statue, ironically pondering. Folks jokingly called me the Ponderer.
The library did a lot of outreach to folks with learning challenges. The library got involved in the Read to a Dog Program. Therapy dogs listened to kids who were struggling with reading. There was no pressure to perform; the dogs loved to listen to every sounded out word. Kids gained reading skills and confidence. On nice days, the dogs and the children would sit in the green space next to the statue.
This was the beginning of it all, I guess. During a session, perfectly shaped marble ears opened up and sent a jumble of sounds to an forming brain. No sense could be made of the noises; I didn’t realize they were words.
Like the children sounding out their words, I gradually made sense of the noise. It was an echo from the park. As strange as it sounds now, I was learning. Gradually my eyes opened to the world too.
It took a while til I could match a word with a meaning or a thing. But overheard conversations, other classes held in the park, attached a value to what I knew. I could make short sentences on my own. Pigeons go. Nice Day. Good Luck.
I had no idea about emotions, feelings, sensations. I had open ears, a developing brain, but I was a statue. No heart. No spirit. No spark. The lost and the lonely often came to talk to me. Now I could at least listen to the often sad story of their lives. On some level, I even think I began to understand the sensations they felt.
I tried speaking but my statue lips wouldn’t move. So I taught myself to mumble through the marble. There was one woman who often came, leaned against my pedestal and wrote frantically in notebooks. Sometimes, she would read a scrap of a poem or paragraph or two of prose. Then she would turn to me, and ask my opinion. I imagine she had been doing this long before I was aware of the world.
“Don’t feel like writing,” she said one afternoon. “So today, you will be forced to listen.” She read several stories, including some flash fiction, all based on discovering who you really are. “So, whadda think?,” she asked. “Good,” I mumbled as loud and clearly as I could. “Like.” “More.”
She jumped back, wrapping herself and her writing deeper into the raincoat. “Tell me I haven’t started hearing more voices. Please tell me I haven’t started hearing more voices.” There were pleading tears in her question.
“Me,” I mumbled
“Yes,” I mumbled back.
“Okay,” she said, as she walked away. “Let me process this. It’ll take time.”
I was so impressed with myself. I had mumbled 6 words and although weirded out, she understood me. My first real conversation!
I heard a whispered “Do you really want to hear more of my stuff?” She had walked back, now standing in front of me, rocking on her heels, a little shy and uncertain yet.
“Yes.” I wish I could have shouted it! I was yet to be a great conversationalist.
So, on dreary days when the park would be empty, only a few going in and out of the library, she wrapped herself in a giant rain coat, flowered rubber boots, and an umbrella of singing birds. Leaning against my pedestal, she read poems, prosems, and stories she wrote. She told me all the stuff (as she called it) dancing in her head. We called each other friends. She brought the words and I fully listened.
With the same suddenness as hearing and seeing, one day my marble lips almost moved. I could more than mumble, though with difficulty. I became a better conversationalist, putting together fuller and fuller sentences. I could critique what she read in simple terms. I made her laugh – not because of my speaking, or misunderstandings, but because, she said, I was the only real person she knew. “You never cover anything with lies,” she said. “Honesty is what you have taught yourself.”
I almost thought I was beginning to feel the sensations I once knew only as words, then began to understand the meaning. Could there be a spark, a spirit somewhere inside my solid statue’s body? To have and be a friend, I had to more than understand the concept, I had to feel something more than just words.
To all that might walk by, I was still a statue. Even though my marble ears could hear, my marble eyes see, and my marble mouth speak, to the viewer, I was carved from a single piece of marble, placed here and nothing had changed since then.
I remained a statue on the outside. When workers cleaned me it didn’t tickle. I could hold that pose forever without hurting my back or getting “pins and needles”. But, the “Ponderer” really did now ponder. Imagine that!
Written for Mindlovemisery’s menagerie, tale weaver’s prompt 32: The Velveteen Rabbit.