i am a child again, spending every stolen moment in the company of the dried-up riverbed that stretches, lazy and old, through the ten acres of our desert land.
the arroyo is a mentor to me, a solace, and i love her dearly. she loves me too, and sometimes she brings me gifts: an old brass lion doorknocker, painted pieces of pottery, smooth stones. she catches them in her hands and leaves them at my feet, and i take them, and i tell her "thank you."
the arroyo is a protector to me, too. on her left bank is a small mountain, topped with hair of trees and scrubs-- this is is where her heart is, the old yucca plant with searching roots. she will keep me safe.
it was there that i hide, belly-flat on the ground, watching with animal-hunted eyes as he strides through the tall dried grasses in the valley below.
he calls my name, but i do not answer. i know what will happen if i do.
he is getting angry now, and i beg her not to give me away: please, please, please, don't let him see me. don't look up.
i pray to the ages-old spirit of a long-gone river and she hears me, a thousand miles and a thousand years in the past, and her anger is strong.
mother nature does not take kindly to men who hurt little girls-- but the arroyo is old, and tired, and all she can do is hide me away, tuck me into her twists and turns. give me yet another gift.
he does not look up. i am safe-- the arroyo is my protector, and she teaches me the most powerful lesson of all:
he is not omnipotent. he doesn't see into my mind. he is not all-knowing, all-doing-- this seed the arroyo plants in my mind, and she cultivates it. carefully, carefully. slowly.
this is the knowedge that saves me, years later, when i finally pick up the phone and call the police-- after all, an arroyo is one who is very well aquainted with the patience and difficulties in nursing life in harsh conditions.
she taught me so many things and even now i am grateful to her for that one bright, searing memory of his eyes sliding past me, unseeing-- for giving me the gift of an evening with no time spent on his lap