For T.Dot… a very special city.
She waits until it is dark before returning to the wishing wells. There are many in the city so she rarely returns to the same one two nights in a row.
Some wells are better than others; sitting like beacons of hope in the center of the city. She returns to these ones more often than she does the obscure ones.
Her favorite is the well at Union Station. It is also the one she approaches with the most stealth because there seems to be always someone close by even when the city has gone to sleep.
She sometimes wonders about the owners of the coins she picks from the wishing wells. What did they wish for when they offered a two dollar coin to the gods of the deep? Did they really believe that all it took was one quarter and a deep breath for their dreams to come true? For the most part though, she just takes their offerings without a thought.
When she first started out, she laughed every time she found a coin that was not a penny. It was a laugh borne from joy, not malice or mockery; joy from knowing that there were people in the world that were wise enough to appropriate the right value to their wishes.
She would never laugh at wishes wished upon a well. Sometimes she laughed at those wished upon stars that no one could feel or touch and were so far away that no one knew what they did with the wishes wished on them. But she couldn’t bring herself to do that to the people of the wells.
She was born in a land where she had had to travel for miles before her family could get clean water to drink. Every day, from the time she was 6 and able to balance a small jerry can on her head, she would accompany her mother on a journey that traversed four villages to fetch water. The journey was hard on her mother, a woman who had been through 9 pregnancies (of which she had lost 5) but not on Aima. Every time they approached the well, Aima’s heart would beat faster with hope; water was within reach, life was within reach. She would let go of her mother’s hand and run the rest of the way hollering loudly like her Baba would never have approved.
So it was that she knew not to laugh at the power of water or wells or the wishes they held. There was a well in a faraway desert that held her wishes, wishes that had come true for the most part. And until four months ago, she too had been one of those people that threw away good money on wishes.
Aima doesn’t know why she takes the coins from the wishing wells but she always throws them back in the morning with wishes of her own. A wish upon a wish.
She is taking a second wish from the well near Dundas square when she realizes that someone is watching. It is the first time she’s been caught in the four months since she started stealing wishes.
He is sitting on a bench in the square and even though it is night, she can tell his eyes are on her and could not have missed what she was doing. There is nothing to do or say to lessen her guilt so she goes to sit beside him on the bench.
They say nothing for a long time, watching as the night passes them by and then he says;
“I threw in a coin yesterday. I couldn’t sleep so I came to make more wishes.”
Aima says nothing. The bench where they sit is opposite a streetlight so she can see clearly that his eyes are the kind that can keep her secret, that his soul is kind.
“What did you wish for yesterday?” She asks after a while.
“But if I told you, then it might not come true.” He says with a smile in his voice.
“But what if I am the coin fairy, the one who makes the wishes of wishing wells come true?”
He laughs and even though Aima knows she couldn’t have heard this laugh before it is all at once familiar to her. It is the laugh of hope.
“My name is Aima,” She says when he is no longer laughing. She figures she can trade him her story for the freedom from guilt he has offered her.
“I am not a coin fairy and I have had trouble sleeping since I heard my mother died four months ago. I had not seen her in 15 years, since she used all of her savings to set me free from the future that awaited me as the child bride of a 67 year old man.”
“I used to throw pennies into wells before she died. I wished for her; that she would finally find it in herself to leave an abusive husband, a stifling society, a colorless life, and come here to live with me. I wished and wished and she died. Now I figure pennies were too cheap for the kind of wishes I was wishing. So I seek out dimes, quarters and dollar coins from the wishing wells. They aren’t many of those but I reckon the few people willing to risk so much on their wishes are the ones who should have them come true.”
The man shifts in his seat and leans forward. He is wearing a flannel shirt and smells like good dreams and Old Spice. Aima can tell he is trying to find words of comfort for her and wishes she could tell him not to bother but she is out of breath for the sadness that creeps over her at remembering her mother.
He begins to tell her a story instead.
“I don’t really believe in wishes but for the past 14 months, I too have had trouble sleeping. My wife left me and it is still strange to fall asleep without her.”
“I am sorry,” Aima tells him.
“No, no, I am the one who is sorry, sorry about your mother.”
As if on cue, a shooting stars slinks across the sky.
They watch it with bated breath and when there is no trace left, Aima asks:
“Did you make a wish?”
“Good.” She tells him, “Good.”
She starts to cry then like she should have cried when her cousin Husssaina called to tell her the news four months ago. She doesn’t know how or when the man reaches out to hold her hand; it just feels like the most normal thing to find her small hand engulfed in his long, beautiful fingers as sadness ebbs and dawn approaches.
“For love.” He tells her when she is no longer deafened by the sounds of her own sorrow, “When I threw in a quarter yesterday, I wished for love and for the pain to go away.”
They don’t talk about it but they get up from the bench at the same time and walk toward the wishing well just as the sun gives its first light. She hands him one of the two quarters she found a few hours ago and they make different wishes that are really the same. Then with the sun leading them, they walk home together.
Song of the day: Terence Trent D’arby – Wishing Well