There’s a woman I know who’s immobilised by goo. First is was slushy mud around her ankles, but over the years it has spread relentlessly up her legs. No one knows how it started and no one can stop it.
The goo has been invisible to all but the most astute observers. For the most part this woman, let’s call her ‘Claudia’, (which if I remember my Latin correctly means ‘lame one’ ) has been virtually unaware of the insidious creep of the goo. Initially, she tripped and stumbled as the goo interfered with her tread. It didn’t help that she had no confidence in her path at the best of times.
As the goo covered her feet and ankles it became harder and harder to move at all. She couldn’t walk along her chosen path, but neither could she step on to another.
I plucked up my courage, went to her, and pointed at her feet. “You better watch that stuff,” I said. “Shake it off! Step away or you’ll be sorry.”
She laughed and embraced me. “Don’t worry, I can still bend my knees. And my legs are getting strong from pulling against it as I try to walk.”
I watched in quiet horror as, over time, the goo started to creep up her calf-muscles, severely restricting the movement of her legs. I tried to point out to her what was happening but the goo afflicted her hearing and her eyesight. It is plain as day to me.
The jelly-like mass accumulates. It smells of hopelessness and the cycle of co-dependency. It’s sticky to the touch (I wash my hands for fear of contamination) and it wobbles slightly when she tries to pull away from it.
I tried again to rescue her. She smiled her benevolent smile at me and said: “It’s okay, I can still lean from side to side”.
I threw my hands up in despair and walked away. I continued on my path with good bold steps. I strode bravely into the world and crossed new terrain. I had no trouble moving forward, though I admit that sometimes I was a little hasty, ‘un-anchored’. But always in the back of my mind was the image of Claudia. I kept wondering what was happening to her. Finally, curiosity overcame me and I found myself turning once more in her direction, going to the place where our paths always intersect.
I stood back a little before announcing my presence and saw her sobbing. The goo had covered her thighs and was almost up to her waist. I detected a new odor — depression and low self-esteem. The goo wasn’t wobbling. It was setting.
Claudia held a baby close to her bosom. Its tiny arms flung about and it cooed at her while she wept. When Claudia saw me, she quickly dried her eyes and put on a brave face.
“You must move, Claudia.” I almost begged her. “If you don’t move now…what will become of your child?”
Claudia gave me a sad, self-deprecating look. Then she straightened herself up, held her free arm akimbo, and smiled.
“I can still hug him,” she said bravely.
I left, disheartened but not defeated.
I returned with a rope. I wrapped it around her thick waist and arms, trying to winch her to safety. But it was no good. The goo was almost set. Claudia screamed with pain. My efforts made the goo spread faster.
I stayed off her path for many months. Called back by the last remnants of duty and, I admit, morbid curiosity, I returned for a last time.
Claudia stood immobilised. I choked back tears when I saw the goo had now wrapped itself around the feet of the toddler standing next to her.
She was stuck and there was nothing I could do about it.
I hung my head so Claudia wouldn’t see the impotent tears streaming down my face. I wept for everything she had lost: the joy of dancing, the thrill of running, the undeniable, simple pleasure of walking with the winds of change blowing in her hair.
“Don’t worry,” Claudia said confidently, though the goo now covered her shoulders and head. “It’s safe in here…and besides, I can still smile.”