I just rode back to my town in the bed of a pickup truck. There weren't many passengers; one ancient man with glassy eyes sat on the bench across from me, and inside the cab there was a woman.
Even these few companions disembarked by the time we crested over the mountain. And so, I thought, it was just the driver and I for the ride down the hill to Fajã. But when I peered into the cab more carefully, I saw another passenger I'd missed.
The driver was an old man, no less than 60, and next to him was a young girl, no more than two. She was curled up on her side, feet toward me, head toward the engine, face toward the passenger door, and eyes shut.
The weather was cool, but the sun was bright. We drove slowly, and yet the wind still blew the hair out of my eyes, so that as we rounded each curve I could see the shift in the angle of light that filtered through the windows of the cab. Chunks of shadow and brightness rocked back and forth in lockstep across the seat, one moment shading the sleeping girl's face and then making it brilliant again.
What I loved was this: Every time the road straightened for a stretch, the old driver looked down at the little girl. If the sun was on her face, he took a hand off the wheel and held it over her eyes. Not that her eyes weren't closed — they were, and I'm sure that in her dreaming mind the blackness was total. But out of concern that she might be burned, or that she might waken too soon, or perhaps merely on the principle that a person shouldn't have sun in their eyes, he protected her.
And to think: she'll never know she was loved today.