She came out of the dense wood into the soft light of a receding day. Dusk fell earlier in September, bringing along coolness, freshness. Now, late afternoon, the world was still warm and dry with the summer fire. The color of the lake ahead of her was the perfect mixture of blue and green. The whole day she was looking forward to a swim, and then a dinner and bed in the B & B she´d booked before the trip. She came to the lake shore framed with stones, big, hard cushions, some creased, some even surfaced. She found one that accommodated her butt and crossed her legs comfortably, part of the tiredness washing away, before she even dipped a single finger in water.
Her backpack sat next to her, the only companion. It contained a pair of bikinis and a small towel; it would be a pity not to dive into the water. She also could come the next day after breakfast. That would be different though, a different day, a different light, a different her. She fidgeted on the hard stone and then leaned above the water as if she wanted to find the answer to the question: Swim, or not to swim?
Calm surface reflected a face back to her.
“Who are you?” She asked, and the question seemed natural.
“You tell me.” The face in the lake responded. It still felt perfectly all right to be having this conversation.
The face smirked: “Try something better. That is an old tale recycled and upcycled endlessly.”
Fine, she felt slightly irritated by the face patronizing her: “Then, I am you and you are me.”
“That is better.” The face´s smile has broadened.
“Do not get so easily contented,” she leaned a bit closer to the face. “You are me; I am you, but who are the two of us together? Not Narcissus, I understand.”
“No, no, let´s leave the guy out. You and me, we are…”
She was leaning closer and closer towards the face, not wanting to miss the answer, until, what was bound to happen, happened; she tilted an inch too much and splashed into the water. In her shorts and t-shirt, barefoot, because she had taken her walking shoes off. The water was neither cold, nor warm, velvety, and soft; as the lakes in the mountain are. After the first wave of surprise, she steadied her senses and started to feel: wet clothes clinging to the body, water element enveloping her and bringing new sensations. She tried to reach for the bottom, but the lake was deep from the very edge, she barely could feel the stones under her with the tips of her toes. She was a good swimmer; she did a somersault, emerged above the surface, smoothed strays of hair off her face, lay on her back with arms spread wide, smiling towards the blueness of the sky. The sun was still visible behind a peaky mountain, warming her cheeks, eyes, and mouth. The face! When she had fallen to the water, the face disappeared, of course, with the unanswered question. She was floating, barely moving her arms and legs, just a little, so that she stayed on the surface. She drifted away from the shore; the idea there were dozens of meters of water below her – thrilling. Who are you? Who am I? She repeated the questions as one recites ritual phrases, not fixing on meaning, more on the sound, melody, rhythm.
Once the sun disappeared for the day, she turned and used efficient strokes to get back to the shore, to the stone with her things. She unpeeled the wet t-shirt and shorts and panties, dried herself, squeezed water from the garments and wrapped the wet towel around them. She put on the bikinis and a cream-white cotton mini dress; it would be an all right outfit to walk in the few kilometres towards the village. The following day she would take a train to her hometown, there, in her old room, in the wooden wardrobe, she would find all she needed. She was almost ready to go, a bit cold, a bit hungry, and hugely tired. Still – the lake surface bellow her was calm, getting darker and darker with the evening. She leaned above it again, and the face reappeared.
“So, back to the question, right?” It retoured.
She nodded, and the nod was mimicked back.
“Who are we, you, and me?” She asked.
The face smiled: “We are pure desire.”
Then, as if somebody switched off the light, the lake darkened. She shivered, stood up on unsteady legs. Time to go.