Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #3

February 23rd, 2009 by Wordsman


“You know,” Abigail said as she weaved her way through the bodies, “this place is actually pretty cool.  Once you get past the sheer quantity of tourists, that is.  Oww!”  She suddenly stopped and began hopping in place, cradling her throbbing foot in her hand.  “What was that?”

The tourist tide in their immediate area began its ebb, and a few moments later the crowd parted enough for her to notice the large rock against which she had just stubbed her toe.  It came up to about the level of her knee and was decorated with a rope and paper squares, like just about everything else at the shrine.  There was also a large sign that presumably attempted to explain why someone had thought it was a good idea to leave such a big rock in the middle of everything where someone could easily trip over it, but of course Abigail hadn’t the first clue how to read it.

Before she had a chance to repeat her angry question, Theodore materialized at her side, already flipping through the English-language version of the explanatory pamphlet.  “This is the Love Fortune-Telling Rock,” he announced after a brief search.

“You’re making that up,” said Abigail.

“I am not,” he countered, making sure to hold the pamphlet high enough that she could not snatch it away from him.  He held it in such a way that the brightly-colored pages covered his face, but it did not matter.  Abigail knew that Theo spent so much time making things up that his face remained straight (as straight as it ever got, anyway) whether he was lying or telling the truth.

“The Love Fortune-Telling Rock . . . ah, excuse me, Love Fortune-Telling Rocks are part of an important tradition here at the shrine,” he continued.  “If one can successfully walk from this rock to the other, then that person shall be granted good luck in all the affairs of the heart.”

“What other rock?” she asked, looking around.  Eventually she spied it through the swaying forest of shifting legs.  Another miniature boulder of similar size and shape had been placed on the ground approximately ten yards away.  “So that’s it?” she asked skeptically, peering at the glimpses of gray that flashed between the mostly pale white calves of the other visitors to the shrine.  “Seems like a pretty easy way to get lucky.  I mean, get good luck,” she corrected, though since they were talking about luck in love she realized that they were essentially the same thing.

Theodore consulted the guide again.  “Ah.  It says here that the participant must either be blindfolded or have his or her eyes closed in order to complete the ritual.”

“That’s crazy!  Look at this place!” Abigail said, sweeping out her arm to indicate the area around them.  The only reason she had enough space to perform the gesture was that it had not yet grown so crowded that people had to stand on top of the Love Rock to fit in the shrine.  The tourist tide had flowed back in, making the short journey to the second Love Rock, which was no longer visible, appear to be near impossible even with one’s eyes open.  “Try to do that walk with your eyes closed and all these people swarming around?  You’d get knocked flat on your back before you even took two steps!  Probably get trampled to death, too.”

“Love is blind,” said Theodore.

“Uh-huh,” Abigail replied.  She firmly believed that Theo knew as much about being in love as he did about being blind.  Totally blind, that is.  He was practically a world champion at the selective kind.

“Perhaps being willing to undergo the dangerous trek is a sign of total devotion to one’s lover,” Theodore suggested.

“If you’ve already got the lover, what do you need the luck for?” Abigail muttered bitterly.

Theodore could not possibly have heard her in the commotion of the crowd, but he continued, “Or maybe it is a symbol of one’s willingness to sacrifice to the gods that inhabit the shrine.  They are the ones granting you the good fortune, after all.”

“Uh-huh.”  Abigail was not particularly interested in sacrificing to the shrine gods right at that moment.  “We should go,” she announced suddenly.  “All these people are making me feel a little claustrophobic.”

“So you’re not going to do it?” he asked.

“No,” she replied as she searched for channels in the sea of humanity that surrounded them.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” he said gravely.  “It also says here that people who touch the rock and then don’t attempt the trial are cursed with bad luck until the end of their days.”

Abigail grinned and turned back to face her brother.  “Now I know you’re making things up.  Give me that pamphlet.”

“I am merely reading what is written here,” he said, holding the brochure safely out of her reach.

She sighed and looked back down at the rock.  For no particular reason, she reached out to touch it.  The surface was very smooth, as if it had been stroked by hundreds of people who had hoped some luck might rub off on them.  It was also probably covered with hundreds of people’s worth of germs.  And at that moment she decided to try it.  She did not believe that completing the dangerous journey would really give her good luck.  She was not doing it “just in case,” either.  Abigail chose to try the Love Rock Challenge for the same reason that great men before her had chosen to climb Everest or fly solo across the Atlantic: because it is there.

Abigail placed her feet right up next to the Love Rock, fixed what little she could see of its partner in her gaze, closed her eyes, took a step out into the unknown . . .

. . . and was immediately struck in the face by the elbow of a tourist who was backing up to take a picture.

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