The world is small when you’re a child. As small as you and suspended in time. Every day you travel its wondrous distance, discover the spider webs beneath the stairs, the gnarled apple trees in the yard. Each moment is a place you’ve never been. When you raise your voice, you receive an answer. Everyone is always there and no one is missing. Nothing has led you away from what you know.
The world is small and chattering birds dive in and out of the apple trees, their branches heavy with scents. You look at the shadow on the grass, how it moves when you move—flap your arms, stamp your feet—how you can never rid yourself of this dark twin, who reaches all the way across the yard in the empty hour of late afternoon and puts your head against the neighbor’s wall. Can you imagine your future pain, far, far away? Your heart fading yet not forgetting?
The world is small and carried away by its rivers of promise, you cannot do justice to what you experience. At the playground, holding hands, you will tell her about your adventure, the one you’re currently in: the birds and apple blossoms and your long twin shadow, growing somehow. You will pull at her hair, but only to close the gap and smell what you cannot yet name. She. Impossible for you to know that nothing will turn out as you expect. If only you had witnessed your shadow that day, vanishing in the moment before dark, had seen it as the end of someone’s life.
The world is small and you’re not ready for change, for the cruel revision of time. It’s unwillingness as much as incomprehension. You don’t understand how you will one day try to shrink the world by watching an apple blossom in the palm of your hand as she is silently lowered into her grave.
Image: Molly Engel is a Philadelphia native who lives in Portland, Oregon where she is studying nursing. When not at school or the hospital, she likes to eat donuts, play with her cats, and climb with friends at the local bouldering gym. She has been taking pictures since she was 13, and after an introductory photography class in college she fell in love with 35mm film. Her digital camera has collected dust ever since. Find her work on Instagram @mollyonfilm.
Claire Polders grew up in the Netherlands and currently lives in Paris. She is the author of four novels in Dutch and co-author of one novel for young readers, A Whale in Paris (Atheneum/Simon&Schuster, 2018). Her short prose is published wherever it is appreciated. Read more at clairepolders.com.