He pushed against the boulder, but he could not move it. No matter how hard he tried to, no matter how much strength he put behind it, the boulder remained with him everywhere he went, with him, yet unmoving.
Someone came into his life. He asked Someone, “Can you help me move this boulder? I don’t have the strength to move it on my own.”
Someone said, “What boulder?”
He looked at Someone in consternation. “This one here, next to me.” He could see the boulder plain as day: large and grey; heavy, with sharp edges. For all that he could not move it, it seemed to always be in his way. He pointed to it. “You don’t see it?”
“I see nothing,” said Someone. “Are you sure it’s there?”
He placed his hand on the boulder. He could feel its smooth surface, with its sharp edges. “Yes, I’m sure. Come feel it.”
He took Someone’s hand and placed it on the boulder.
“There’s nothing here,” Someone said. “I don’t understand. I can’t help you.” Someone walked away.
Frustrated, he pushed his weight against the boulder. He knew that he could not move it on his own. He knew beyond a doubt, yet he tried. The sharp edges cut into his flesh, opening a wound on his shoulder. In despair, he gave up. The boulder remained with him.
Another person came into his life. After a time, he asked, “Can you help me move this boulder? I can’t move it on my own.”
Another said, “I’m sorry. I have my own boulder.” She pointed, and yes, he could see it there, large and rounded. Smaller than his, but still heavy. He felt a fool for not having noticed it, for when Another moved, she pushed the boulder everywhere she went.
“Why do you push the boulder with you?” he asked. He wanted nothing more than to push his boulder away.
“It’s a part of me,” Another said. “I wouldn’t want to leave it behind. Why do you want to be rid of yours?”
“Because it hurts,” he said. “It gets in my way. I don’t like it.”
“I wish I could help you,” Another said. As she said it, she looked to the side, her eyes avoiding his. She pushed the boulder away.
In resignation, he pushed at the boulder halfheartedly, knowing that even his strongest effort wouldn’t cause it to budge.
The next person came into his life, or perhaps he came into that person’s. He could never be sure. This one carried a boulder with him everywhere he went. “Look,” the third proclaimed. “I have a boulder! Do you see it?”
“I see it,” he answered. “I have a boulder, too.”
“You do,” this one said. “But mine is heavier and harder to carry.”
“You don’t need to carry it at all,” he said, unsure of what to make of Third’s statement.
“How would everyone know I had it, if I didn’t carry it with me?” Third said, obviously confused. “Look how heavy it is. Do you want to feel it?”
“No,” he said. “I can’t even move mine. Don’t you think mine might be heavier?”
Third laughed bitterly. “No, I’m quite sure mine is the heaviest boulder.”
He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want this to be a competition.
Third continued about this business. Somehow, even with the boulder held in his arms, he moved about unimpeded. If Third hadn’t told him how heavy it was, he would have thought Third’s boulder weighed nothing at all.
He walked away. His boulder remained with him.
When he met her, he didn’t see that she had a boulder. He looked for it. He had learned, by now, that everyone had a boulder of some sort. Finally, he worked up the nerve to ask about it. “Where is your boulder?”
“My boulder?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. He pointed at his own. “Like mine.”
“Oh,” she said, smiling. She reached into her pocket. In the palm of her hand, she held a small object, ovoid and perfectly black. “It’s just a stone compared to what you’ve got there.”
“It is,” he said sadly.
“That’s okay,” she said. She placed her empty hand on his boulder. “Everyone’s carrying something of a different size. It doesn’t make yours better or worse than mine because one is larger.”
“I guess,” he said. “But I can’t even move mine. I’m jealous that you can put yours into your pocket.”
“Ah,” she said. She ran her finger along one of his boulder’s sharp edges. When she pulled her finger away, he noticed a bead of blood on her fingertip. “I’m sure you can move it.”
“I can’t,” he said. He wished he knew how to cry. “I’ve tried. Nobody will help me. Nobody understands.”
“It does look very heavy,” she said. She pushed with her palm on on of the flat parts. The boulder shifted slightly for the first time in his life. “It’s not too bad, though. I think you can do it.”
He gaped at her. “How do you do that?”
“I’m not sure.” She shrugged. “Maybe it’s not as heavy as you thought. Maybe I just pushed at it from the right angle.”
He looked at her stone, curious. He had never touched someone else’s boulder before. “Do you think I could hold yours?”
She tilted her head. “I suppose. Be careful with it.”
She held out her hand. He held out his. When she released the stone and he took its weight, he cried out. It pulled him to the ground, slamming his hand into the earth with its weight. He felt his bones crack.
“How do you carry this?” he exclaimed.
She quickly retrieved it, picking it up as though it were nothing. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem so bad, to me. There are people with boulders, after all, and I have only this little stone.”
“It’s a very heavy stone,” he said.
She shrugged once more. She put her stone back in her pocket. She placed her hand on his boulder. She met his eyes. “I can’t move this by myself,” she said. “You’ll have to do most of the work. But I think, if we try, we can move it together.
He nodded and, for the first time in a long time, smiled. “I would like that.”
Together, they pushed, and his boulder rolled away. Not far, not out of his life, but further. Now it wouldn’t be in his way. Now he could look at it, and think about it, but he could choose not to, as well.