There was a time when I used to watch for them. I could tell them by that look in their eyes. They had a look of disappointment in them. As though the world they looked upon was not the world they’d hoped for, or wanted.
I saw so many of them in the villages going about their daily chores. I used to stand by the village well and watch the women. The older married ones bent over with the weight of their lives full of children and husbands who wondered what had happened to the girl they’d married. They had the saddest eyes of all. They would look around; trying to find the life they’d thought they would have back when they were young. But all they could see was an endless line of days of drudgery stretched from where they stood wiping the sweat from their brow as they waited in the queue. Occasionally there would be talk, gossip and laughter.
I would watch from the shadows. I was a stranger in their village and I knew better than to step out into the light where the women could see me, talk about me.
There would be time for that later.
The younger women, the unmarried girls would come to the well too, often walking faster, almost running if they still had the energy of youth. They would look around eager to find something new in their worlds, looking for the boys, wary of the men who watched from the corner of their eyes. The girls knew what the men were thinking, and the wiser ones were wary. The foolish ones would wink back, show some flesh to the men. Think it was all a game.
It was no game.
Not to the men who felt the heat in those girl’s eyes, who felt their own need growing and the disappointment of their lives.
I was lucky in a way.
I was not trapped in a village, farming the land, hammering iron or cutting and sewing leather or any of those other tasks that trapped men in their lives from the days of apprenticeship to the last day of their grave.
I walked free and I had once thought I was better for it.
But now I would make my way to the heart of each village as I stumbled the last few yards of dusty road and make for the well.
I was thirsty enough usually, especially in the summer, to drink a bucketful of water from that well. But I had another thirst, one that I could not quench with water.
I was lonely.
And I knew I would die alone.
Perhaps bandits on one of those dusty roads would kill me when they found I had nothing worth stealing. Perhaps some wild beast or creature of the night would take me when I made my camp in the middle of nowhere.
Back when I was young, and full of the stories that were my trade, I could have taken any of those women from the well. I could tell them enough tales of what lay beyond their village to mesmerise them into letting their clothes fall for me.
But now, I’m too old and I’m tired of travel.
Tired of being alone at the well.
I would go home… if I’d ever had one.