An updated and revised version of this chapter is included in a collection available for purchase on Amazon: Of Leaves and Water: A mini collection
It was after the bombs and magic had stopped and when the earth and sea had finally started to settle when she found you on the riverbank. She was called Uehara, and you clay, then.
You learned about her by touch and the silence she held when you two were alone together. It was rare that others would visit but when they did, they often carried with them the same heavy solemnity that weighed on Uehara. In those early days you weren’t sure if your presence helped relieve that weight, or added to its heaviness. Some days Uehara would just look at you, other days her hands would shake whenever she tried to take you into her palms. Some days, she would never come into the room at all.
And so you kept silent, patient.
One day, she took you from the shelf and introduced you to the wheel. There was something different in Uehara, a feeling of intensity that made you shiver in her fingers. You weren’t sure why, nor did you know what to expect, but all that mattered was that she was there with you.
It took several days, though, to get used to the wheel. Never had you felt that kind of spinning, nor did you understand Uehara’s pushing and prodding. You tried to read as much as you could from her hands. But it was here that you experienced, for the very first time, the sting of frustration, and failure.
But in that quiet you shared together, you both gradually learned. Uehara learned how to gently make requests and you learned how much you could give under her touch, and when to warn her that it was too much. It was a slow give and take, where the both of you learned to alternate moments of intense connection and pressure, with moments of space and rest.
It was in that quiet ebb and flow that you first felt a change in you. Where you had before always been solid and full, there was now a hollow emptiness. You wished you could share in Uehara’s joy, or relish being taken outside. But as you laid drying underneath the blue sky, you couldn’t help but notice how different the sun felt on you.
You had known that there was more to come but you hadn’t expected the fire. It took you days to recover from the shock. As the exhaustion faded, it left a stiffness in its wake. You realized then that this hollow, rounded form would be your shape forever.
You spent more days afterward aching from the emptiness. Then finally, just when you thought you wouldn’t be able to take it any further, Uehara returned. She took you from the shelf, caressed your newly smooth surface then carried you to something you had completely forgotten.
Before, whenever you and water had met, your forms would join together. But there was none of that now. Instead, there was a new feeling.
So this was what your emptiness was for.
You didn’t even mind the fire now, so entranced were you by all of the new sensations inside you. When the water inside you began to move more rapidly, a pressure began to build. You tried to contain it within you. Uehara had been so happy lately, it wouldn’t do to bother her. But try as you might, shaking and shivering with effort to keep quiet, the pressure became too much for you to take.
And you learned that you had a voice.
Uehara came to turn off the heat, tipped you to free some of the water into another vessel, shaped of clay like you. But it had a different name now.
Just like you.