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The Girl and the Man in the Moon
When I was younger, my grandfather would scoop me up into his lap, my round body conforming to his knees and elbows. The rocking chair moving gently- like a tide kissing the shoreline, sighing its age as I sat with my mouth gaped open in wonder. My grandfather spun dark stories of the north together like a spider spins his web- delicately, every piece having a purpose.
“Years ago,” he always began, “there was girl who lived in a house at a bottom of the hill. She had nothing, except the hill that rose up to the sky out her window. On that hill, a lone oak tree grew. Every night, since she was little girl, she would sit upon that hill and wait. Wait for the pale, white moon to be overhead, casting the girl in a milky sheen. Her body would fill with the glow and the most harmonious music ever heard across the land. The girl closed her eyes to fully embrace the symphony and upon opening them, she would find a man cloaked in darkness- a man known to her as the Angel of Music.”
At this point of my grandfather’s story, I always interjected with the same question and he was more than happy to indulge me.
“Was he handsome, Grandpa? Like angels from other stories?”
“No, darlin’, he was not. He wasn’t anything like other angels.”
“But then…” I would trail off. I would then whisper: “what did the Angel look like?”
My grandfather’s face grew distant.
“He was but a silhouette. His eyes were like a sad reflection of the moon— the only feature truly distinguishable from the blackness that was he. Yet, the girl was unafraid of him and so, every night they would meet upon that hill top; her compassion and beauty and his anguish and darkness entwining into music that would either lift your soul or tear it apart.
“Years passed and one night the girl awoke extremely early, long before the moon could draw her in. She dressed in an elegant white gown and went to meet a secret suitor, one that nobody— not even her Angel— knew about. When the moon arose over that hill, the Angel appeared but she was not waiting for him.”
My grandfather’s face would fell and took on somberness that exceeded even his old age. His eyes were tired and glistening in the lamp light. The chair grew still.
He then choked out, in a muddled whisper, “She was not waiting for him.”
“Then the Angel sang out in tormenting agony and sighed that he loved her. He took off his cape, revealing his human figure. He tied the fabric to a branch of the oak tree and…”
I would watched my grandfather’s cheeks as tears rolled down them.
“He hung himself. A life without her was not a life worth living.”
I couldn’t accept that, even now I can’t, so I always interjected
“The Angel died?”
“He was only a man.”
My grandfather always looked away as tears fell silently down my cheeks. Then, he continued:
“The moon, who had watched the whole ordeal, pitied the Angel of Music and promised him that as long as he sang for her every night, he could live in the moon. He agreed and his face took over the moon, watching over the earth from afar.
“When the girl awoke the next night to meet her Angel, she stopped in shock at the bottom of the hill. She saw a black shadow hanging below the branch of the tree and told herself that it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. Holding back a wave of tears, she sprinted to the tree, collapsing at the bottom of the Angel’s body. A torrent of woe fell upon her and she released it, sobbing into the grass. She sang his song, trying and hoping that with each note she could bring him back. A melancholy silence fell upon the hill and the moon watched in sorrow as she knotted a rope around her neck and hung herself next to him… both of their music extinguished nevermore to fill the earth. Now, the moon watches over us with all the sadness of the world in its eyes.”
My grandfather would carry me down the hall and lay me in my bed. He’d opened the curtains so that I could watch the moon glow above the hill in my back yard, an oak tree silhouette in the light. The man in the moon’s music swirled around in my head.
Grown up now, I still fall asleep with the man in the moon’s help. But, only because I have learned to hear his song clearly and have the Angel of Music call to me softly as I drift away into my dreams; dreams of music and nighttime.