The well is tapped dry.
I dropped a coin over the ledge, leaning my shoulders over the abyss as my arms held me in place. I listened as the coin plummeted to the bottom of the world. Then it happened. It was swallowed by the darkness. The darkness swallowed it whole, the hole that swallows all wholes; it never made a noise; it never reached its destination; the well was empty with the darkness that swallowed everything.
I cock my head to the left, pitch my ear to the right, and stare at the wooden frame erected over the well that is apparently dry and defunct of use. The wooden slats are held neatly in place, hugging one another tightly as cob webs are strewn from the miniature trusses that hold this cap over the darkness in place. There is a pitch that holds the wood together; its boards being aged on the right side of the moon, apparently preventing the shrinking that would have exposed this hole for what it is. The wood is a dark mahogany, that has grown darker with age, or perhaps it has grown darker from the dark beneath it, just as the moon gets its light from the sun in front of it. The wood has a precarious position, such as Nietzsche’s sparrow, suspended over this abyss, only it remains without wings and is instead supported by columns that themselves have not the task of sitting over a dried up vitality that is this hidden indentation.
I listen as the coin was swallowed, waiting for an echo, a clink, a subtle sound that might suggest something is alive in the this wholesh hole into which coins go to die. My ears were attentive, and my hands held onto the wooden beams for support. No vibration. No wind. No noise. Nothing. The wood refracts no sound. It reflects no light. There is no living water in this well…this well is filled with darkness. This darkness beneath enveloped in a spacious cavernous pit saliently thrusting itself into the earth, as porous particles of light radiate into this sheet of nothing, a darkness that not even the light can overcome. Isaiah and John sit speechless peering over the ledge…
Precariously this empty well is contained in its place. It has stones walls that descend to its presumed bottom and rise up out of the ground, at a quaint 3 and a half feet. The stones hug one another closely, placed by a master artisan. The beauty of its construction is matched by the terror of its design. These stones are impregnable. They are wed at each joint. Their rough edges and roundedly smooth surfaces buttress their neighbors in a fortress that contains the darkness of the dry well.
What was meant to provide structure and security, now contains madness and despair. It contains coins that never return and water that has disappeared. These stones hold back the nothingness of a creativity that is lost and a exuberance that has been pillaged by the salt of time. The stones are cool to the touch, just as one’s hand can notice if one dips their arms and phalanges into the crisp presence of the dark plane contained therein. The coolness is refreshing, but it is a revitalization that betrays our senses. It is cool to the touch not because it has life but because nothing is there. Even these stones mock this reality, as mossy edges now cover their surfaces to disguise the absence of dead water and an empty well, a well run dry.
As I sit crouched over toward this wall, inspecting these stones, staring back at this wooden ceiling and hearing nothing inside this cage of nihilistic absence, at once an act of art and now also an act of creational treason, my hand touches these stones. My fingers, the same ones that grasped into the well disguised as subsisting life, now feel the timelessness of these weathered and empty stones.
These stones seem to mock me with their silence. They stare at me with their faceless expressions; The moss a testament to my stupidity rather than my anemic profundity. I sit here, bent over, elbows on my knees, staring at the dry ground around this now dry well, and I do what becomes instinctual. Like a man so long ago, I write in this dirt beside this empty well. I write what I do not know, but what must be written. I stare at the instantaneous production of semiotics. I stare at the ridges of the dirt made by the tip of my life.
I take both arms off my knees, lift myself up and in a flash of Humean conviction, I drop one more coin, just in case the first careened into oblivion by accident. To my chagrin, accidents are for Gods, not men. God’s make gardens and then repent. Men make a mess and then find no repentance, just a coin that plummets into the well that was never supposed to run dry.
I back away from the well, pulling my head back from under the protective cover of this behemoth of silence, encased by the hands of men and rocks of earth that live to tell us we too shall become empty. This well, a microcosmic disclosure of the death that is pending…of the death that sometimes kills what we never thought would die even as it still lives inside of us.
My mind cannot handle this dry well. My hands cannot tolerate grasping nothing. My body cannot withstand having no one to claim it, nothing to renew it. As I back away, I crouch once again, and stare back at the ground, my feet having now blurred the writing that was written with words unspoken and a language not yet created. I sit and stare…in silence…my hand leaning against the encasement of a well that won’t give back, despite the romantic appearance of it architecture.
My head bends down, leaning heavy from my shoulders, as if Atlas can no longer carry the weight.
Sometimes, as one kneels over such places, losing parts of our selves, the coins that once splashed in wells such as this, we stand impotent. This well has run dry. The saints used to say the only proper response to such reality is doxology: praise in the darkness. Yet, such praise is often swallowed by the demons in this well, the apparitions of hopes gone awry. I cannot sing doxology in this place, not beside this well. I cannot lie to my soul or myself long enough to speak words over a well that simply steals my voice.
What can I do, as the dirt beneath my feet contains vestiges of words written only momentarily? I can do nothing but be. I sit, crouched, yet close enough to my own oblivion to lean my head against its walls, feelings its jagged terrain press upon my forehead. I hold myself with both arms, leaning forward into nothing, only protected by these barriers of moss and compressed minerals. I stare blankly at the feet of the well, feeling nothing but gravity pressing upon my frame.
What can I do? I can do nothing…but weep. Tears trickle down the arch of my nose, to the tip of my face, the furthermost point a tear can travel and still claim to be mine. I stare at it as it hangs on this edge of my being, waiting to fall and perhaps water this now barren place. I wonder as it leaves me, if it will be enough to water this earth, seep beneath this ground and penetrate this stone laden bunker, perhaps convince the darkness that it needn’t be so mean and empty.
Yet, as the second tear crosses the pores of my skin, and moves slowly across the ridges of the face by which people know who I am, I taste the reality that neither doxology nor even tears can erase this beautifully laden scar.