The dusty bottom of the old, dry well, with only a few marbles for toys, was no place that any boy should choose to be. Maybe for a lark, he might explore such an isolated place as a kind of anti-environment to the usual, wide-open spaces or the woods where other children ran, laughed and played. He did not run freely like other boys and girls. There was no need for him to hide in the way other kids might hide – for fun. This boy was choosing to climb down into the well for safety. He stayed there for safety. He made little noise. Nothing hid him better than the dry well did. Everyone else completely ignored the well.
At the bottom of the well he was safe. Hidden from view. No one knew he was there, or if they did know where he was, they did not care. At the bottom of the well he was out of sight, out of mind. He was no trouble to others, and he was not troubled by others.
At the bottom of the well the boy saw nothing of the outside world except a small circle of sky high above him. He saw walls, close, stone walls. He felt the dusty well bottom beneath his feet and against his knees when he knelt to play with his marbles.
No one cared that the boy was there. No one searched for him. He was simply no longer part of the world of other people. It was as if his presence had been a dream to them, a vague remembrance that could be easily forgotten, a dust mote, drifting slowly, that could glint in sunlight at just the right angle, but then blink off, disappear from view, just as quickly as it had appeared. One might search, but one would not find that dust mote again.
And the boy felt that he would not be found in his lonely hiding place. There at the bottom of the well he would not be beaten, he would not be tortured, he would not be humiliated, in fact, for all practical purposes, like Hamlet’s end, he would not even be! Keeping only unto himself, he would be safe.
Limited, lonely play. Over, and over, and over again, same outcome. Might does not make right. Good triumphs over evil. People, banding together, can resist even the mightiest of well-paid armies. It does not occur to the boy that if he wants compatriots in a campaign, he must be ‘out there’ where friends might be made, allies gathered, issues discussed, plans made. But “out there,” is not safe. “Out there,” is where the bad things happen. Even though most people would regard being in the well as the bad place to be, the boy has found peace in the well, though he can be heard each night, whimpering to himself, his little body curled on the ground, face kept just above the dust by resting it on his tiny curled arm, whimpering with fear, with cold, with loneliness.
He feels safe with his fears and his discomforts in the well. He prefers these demons to the tortures to which he has been subjected. His domain may be tiny but he mostly controls that which he experiences within it, or at least, he can stand what comes to him there.
A dark shape suddenly projects itself into the otherwise pure circle of light above him! It is a head! He can tell by the lightbulb shape of it and the ears that jut out on either side, otherwise the head is dark against the brightness of the sky which makes a halo for the head, perhaps.
“Hello!” the head cries down to him in a friendly voice.
The boy does not answer.
“Hello!” the head says again, “What are you doing down there?”
Again, the boy does not answer.
“Are you hurt?” the head asks.
The boy knows he shouldn’t answer. He is disturbed at having been discovered. But as he faces the floor and his marbles, he blurts out, “I’m fine.”
“Oh, good! I’m glad you aren’t hurt. What are you doing down there?”
“Playing? By yourself? At the bottom of a well?”
“Are you having fun?”
The boy does not answer. He has to think about this question. Fun is such a relative thing, he thinks. Fun compared to living a full, rich, life safely among friends, no! Fun compared to not being tortured and neglected by those who were supposed to love him, yes!
The head says, “I asked if you were having fun.”
The boy does not answer the question, but he does look up at the dark head shape. The boy squints his eyes in an effort to recognize who might be calling down to him, who has found him down here? But the boy can make no such discernment.
“Who are you?” the boy asks the head.
Now it is the head’s turn to pause in answering. Thought must be given to his response.
The head says, “Look, either you should come up here, or I should come down there so that you can see me better.”
“I can’t come up.”
“You mean you’re stuck down there?”
“No, I’m not stuck. I could climb out, but I’m not allowed out.”
“You’re not allowed out of a well?”
“No! I mean, I could come out, but I won’t let myself out. I belong here. This is my home. This is where I must stay.”
“Who says so?” asks the head.
“I say so!”
“Why do you say that you belong there?”
“Because I’m bad. I’m terribly, terribly bad. I am the reason that millions of people have died horrible deaths. I am a curse and a burden to my family, to everyone I know and to the whole world! I have bad, bad thoughts of people doing terrible things to one another. And sure enough, people do terrible things to one another because I think them and my thinking them makes them happen.”
“Gee! I’m certainly glad we cleared that up!”
“Why do you think the things you just told me are true?”
“They’re true! I know they’re true! My daddy told me they were true and my mommy and daddy beat me because they’re true and my mommy and daddy won’t hug me because they’re true and others beat me because I am so very, very bad!”
“I want to talk to you about this, but we have to find a way of getting closer so that we don’t have to shout and so that you can see my face and know me better than you do right now.”
“You never answered my question, head-in-the-circle! Who are you?”
“I could answer you but if I did you wouldn’t believe me or believe anything I said anymore. Trust me, boy-in-the-well, we need to see each other up-close. How can we make that happen?”
“Are you gonna hurt me too?”
“I promise on my word of highest honour, I will not hurt you!”
“Lots of mean shits have made that promise to me before!”
“When you see me and look into my eyes, you’ll know that I couldn’t possibly hurt you. You’re going to see kindness in my eyes. You’re going to see compassion. You’re going to see and feel the same kind of gentleness you feel within yourself.”
“Yeah, well next you’ll be telling me that you are me, that you are myself!”
“Can I come down to you, or will you come up to me?”
“You can come down, but it’s dark down here. I probably won’t be able to actually see you all that well, and until your eyes adjust to the light, you won’t be able to see me very well either.”
“So I can come down?”
The boy made a deep, dramatic bow with a sweeping gesture of his hand as he said, “You may enter my realm if you are kind and honest, and pure of heart.”
“Okay!” said the head as it became a large, adult body that clambered awkwardly over the edge of the well and began making its way carefully down the side of the hole. “I’d appreciate any wall-scaling advice you can give me along the way about good handholds, footholds and so on. It’s been a long time since I did any well-wall scaling.”
The man dropped the final foot or so onto the well floor and man and boy were finally quite close together. The man sat down with his back propped against the wall and rested from his climb. He said nothing.
The boy looked at him closely. The boy looked into the man’s eyes.
“You are me!” the boy said in amazement. “You are me, only all grown up!”
“Now you know why I couldn’t tell you who I was from way up there,” the man said pointing upward. “You wouldn’t have believed me.”
“But how is this possible?” the boy asked incredulously.
“You know, I don’t have all the answers to everything. I’m not God, nor am I a messenger from God, nor am I strictly speaking from the future, as you might think. I am the present. Yes, I am all grown up. I’ve had a rich, full life. I’ve done lots of things, gone lots of places, but my life would always be lacking unless I came back and found you again. You help to explain so many of my deepest feelings. I need to know you and you need to know me.”
The man continued speaking, “Maybe you can think of me as the daddy within you. Not your daddy, rather, the daddy you would be to yourself if you were a daddy. I’m you, so I do really love you, but I had to learn to love you because you had made up this terrible story about yourself, and I lived much of my life with that story, believing that story. I know more truths than you do right now, and if you trust me enough to learn from me, I can tell you that you are not a bad boy, that you did not cause terrible things to happen, that your daddy was wrong to tell you that you caused terrible things to happen and that your daddy felt that he was doing the right thing by not holding you and not letting your mom hold you either. It may sound strange and unbelievable, but your mommy and daddy felt that they were doing what was best for you by not hugging you.”
“I know that you will always miss the affection that you didn’t get from your parents , so know that I love you. The ‘daddy-within’ loves you, and together with my strength and experience and your imagination we can climb safely out of here. We can leave this place behind. We can go wherever we wish to go, safely. Your imagination can put us together to make a kind of superman if you wish, able to meld personalities in a single bond! Just promise me to take it easy on these old bones, kid, and we’ll be great together. Safe, happy, joyous even! Apart for so very long, but now together again! I’ll enjoy the new boy part in me, and you can enjoy the loving daddy part of me.”
“What do you say to all that?”
The boy said, “Turn around and face the wall!”
“Really? You want me to turn around and face the wall?”
“Yep!” the boy said as he motioned with a circular turning of his hand and downward pointing finger. “Around.”
The man did as the boy asked. He was surprised by the order the boy had given but he fully trusted the boy, so he did as he was told to do.
The boy clambered up on the man’s back, wrapping his little arms around the man’s neck and draping his legs around the man’s lower torso, piggy-back style.
The boy whispered into the man’s ear, “Do we climb out slowly or do we fly out like Superman?”
“Kid,” the man spoke over his shoulder, “you can have it any way you want it from here on!”
The boy said, “C’mon dad, let’s fly outta this hole!”