In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
The path towards that narrow hole in the skirt of the mountain was muddy and rests of leaves and tree trunks made it more difficult to walk as quickly as they wanted. One of the children fell on the ground. They all stopped. The rain was falling down again. The little boy looked up to his mother. His eyes weary and wet. He was scared. Strong arms held him tight from the muddy path. A few words whispered in his ear told him everything would be fine. A baby girl cried in the short distance as her mother tightened her embrace. They had to speed up.
She made her body go inside the cave first. She had to be sure there was no danger inside. It was dark and humid. The echo of her steps sounded like thunders in the distance. The interior offered no welcoming sensation. Determination invaded her. She will make them safe. Nothing would stop her will to survive that night. She took the hand of the mother and her little baby girl and asked her to step in with her. There were fear and anguish in the eyes of that young woman holding her child as if her life depended on it. Hesitated a little and then let her friend guide them in.
Outside, the boy all muddy and terrified, looked at his mother. He didn’t want to be alone. The rain was then heavier, and they saw bolts on top of the more distant mountains. The younger woman came back and extended her hand. They should get inside quickly. The boy followed her mother commands and stepped in first. Then she followed. All five of them were inside, but they couldn’t see much. Darkness was their sole companion. They sat together in a bend formed by the rocks, breathing, expecting, hoping.
The older woman looked around as her eyes got used to the absence of light. They needed to fight this coldness that was getting in their bodies. She sat her boy in the younger woman’s lap, and, with her hands, she felt the floor searching for something. She knew others have been in there before. And she knew they had lit a fire in the cave. She knew how to lit a fire to cook for her child. She needed some rocks. There must be dry rocks in there. She knew that. So she searched. She felt with her hands as she listened to her boy calling her. The younger woman soon joined her in her quest. But now the boy and the little baby girl were crying.
As they scan the floor with their hands, they heard a humming. A sweet, calming humming. The voice broken at first, but it became steadier as the humming continued. The woman that stayed with the children were trying to soothe them. She succeeded as only a mother could. Meanwhile, the search continued. They had to go way further inside. The humming disappeared. Their shoulders bumped in the dark and even though they could not see each other faces, they knew there was no possibility for them to go back. Never back, always further.
So they searched more trying to stay together. Time passed and there was no success. The younger woman let a heavy breath escape her and the older woman knew she was about to cry. She reached for her and embraced her. There was no space for surrender. They searched more. And more. The older one stopped and let a gasp out. She had found what they needed. She could recognize the rocks by touching them. There were also sticks all dry and useful. They put themselves at work. A fire must be lit. So they struggle, they tried. They did it. And when their surroundings were lit, they saw each other smiling.
The younger woman stood up quickly and with a lit stick in her hand traced what she thought was the way back. Soon, she found the boy, the little baby girl, and her mother. All surprised and relieved. She called them to follow her where the older woman was. It was drier there. It was safer. A short time later, the boy ran towards his mother as she kneeled to hold him tight. They were all together again.
They thought it would be better to go further into the entrails of the cave. The night was cold, and they needed to get dry and warm. They walk a little insecure whether they were doing the right thing. As they stepped into a huge vault, they held their improvised torches up. And when the light hit the wide space, they saw wonders.
Life were above and in front of them. They hold their breath for a moment and felt a touch of reverence. The boy, holding his mother’s hand, looked around with his little mouth open. Those images of wild bison, strong and powerful, amazed him. Fear crawled onto his body but his mother’s gripping reassured him she was there.
The bewilderment in all of them was clear. The younger woman, who had walked further into the vault a few feet away from the others, turned around and extending her arms sideways let a huge smile drawn on her face. The older woman walked towards her with her boy, smiling too. They understood that they were in no common grounds. It was as if the world swirled around them and brought them to the most sacred place on earth.
But there was nothing to be feared. Others have been there before and have transformed the vault in a prodigious universe full of wonders. The older woman knew well how this had happened. She was among those who colored their hands and made an imprint in the walls creating portentous figures of those splendid beasts. She remembered how they revered them and yearn to grab their strength. She recalled the instant when bison and mammoths populated those rocky surfaces. She revived that instant when her fingers created a figure so powerful and impressive that she felt both humbled and proud. Her heart was beating stronger than ever.
Suddenly, tender sounds from the little baby girl caught their attention. Her mother had sat in a corner and breastfed her baby with such love and care. The boy sat beside her holding the little girl’s hand delicately. The other two women gathered wood scattered around and set a small bonfire so they could get warm. In the far distance, they could hear the thunders, but they were safe.
When the little baby girl was satisfied, the mother offered the boy to feed him. He looked up at his own mother and saw her approval. The younger woman held the baby girl, the boy climbed the mother’s lap, and all the love fed him.
The older woman chanted in a very low voice, but a few minutes later she found herself wrapped in the warmth of her own voice. They were sitting close to one another, and at that moment they all understood that they were there together, that together they were life, that life surrounded them in that vault in the form of those monumental figures. All together.