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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sam kicked his legs back and forth, enjoying the noise that came from his pant legs rubbing against each other. Mother had surprised him with new play clothes the day before, his previous ones finally having been worn beyond repair. This fabric was brand new, and the boy was anxious to break it in.

His view from his family’s rooftop was unrivaled. No, it wasn’t the tallest house in the city, but the closest to it’s walls. Mother didn’t like it, said it was a safety problem, but Sam loved it. Every morning he rose before anyone else in the house and silently claimed his perch. From there his legs hung over the edge as he sat back and watched the sun slowly rise.

Mother would have scolded him for such trips, but his sister was the only one who knew. It took a weekly bribe of two sweets but she kept his secret. Often she asked him why he bothered with the whole silly venture, and the only answer he could give was that it made him feel “smallish.”

When the sun peeked out from behind the mountains it made the distant trees and hills glint with gold, and steadily lit the whole landscape before him. Miles and miles away from the walls of the city grass and rock came into his view. On some days, if the weather was right, even the silhouettes of other cities could be seen. Such a spectacle dwarfed this town he called home. Towering mountains made these walls seem childish and far-stretching fields made the small boy feel like no more than an insignificant speck on the land.

It was an overwhelming feeling, one the lad was too young to find the words to describe. He simply felt smallish.

It wasn’t an intimidating feeling, really. He wasn’t discouraged by the vastness around him. On the contrary, he found it immensely exciting. Such a large land was filled with so much potential. There were numberless places to discover and explore, numberless beasts to conquer; Numberless people to meet, and numberless stories to hear and to tell. While some might shudder at the thought of their own insignificance, Sam marveled at the thought of his own individuality. So much to do, to see, to find, and so many decisions linking it all. No two lives were the same, and every person and story was unique.

 

On many days, this was a forest of beauty and of comfort. Today it seemed it was the forest of hands. From the rot and debris of their corpses, dark, rigid arms stretched forth gnarled hands, pleading with the sky for an unknown something. Was it for mercy or for forgiveness? Were these the desperate fingers of victims or perpetrators? Was there a question in their grasp? The fog hid and distorted their struggles when perhaps all they wanted was to know why. Why, when so many trees were allowed to live in the glorified sunshine, were they trapped here in this world of darkness and mist?

Here, the sun, that guardian that was meant to nourish these trees, had turned its back on them. All of their pleading, and they were met only with cold silence. No gentle rays through the mist, not even the singing of birds pierced the grove. A grave feeling of forced indifference shut out the desperation of the hands that sought to find an answer. Only a single being moved here, separate from the plight of the forest around him.

This man, eyes down and shoulders hunched, resolutely shut out the situation around him as he walked. There was nothing he could do. Those hands, those pleas, they would never get what they were looking for. They would remain that way, perhaps forever. He couldn’t stand to acknowledge it, that there was nothing that could be done. So he walked on, interrupting the scene only with the quiet crunch of leaves beneath his boots and the white ghost of breath when he exhaled.

Despite his own determination, this man couldn’t deny the reflection of the forest in him. His eyes held the cold of the air, the absence of sunlight, the forced indifference. His lips, tight, betrayed the desperation of the trees with an occasional break, an inexplicable twitch. The gnarled hands were his own, covered by gloves and clutching a package between them. It was a grocery bag, holding a mysterious brown box.

Perhaps I was meant to interrupt this event, or perhaps I was meant to stay far, far away. Whatever the case, it’s where I ended up. There was something about that day that drew me out to wandering the streets downtown. After so long I found myself transitioning from city to suburb, and after following a set of railroad tracks I soon left the buildings of civilization altogether. The fog was heavy here, but hands in my pockets, I continued to wander. I was too caught up in day dreaming to realize that I was right in the thick of a quiet grove of trees with little idea of which way I’d come or which way was out. I swung around, trying to grasp some sense of direction or familiarity from the forest, but it gave me nothing.  Then I heard the quiet crunching that signaled another being.

It was an older man, just above middle age from what I could tell. His eyes met mine and he paused. His face melted into a tired smile, partially obscured by a lightly greying beard. “Hello, young lady. Not often I meet folks out here. Are you visiting Doris?” His voice cut through the silence in a way that was almost startling, but he seemed too calm to notice.

“Hello. Well, no sir, I was taking a walk and I think I actually just got myself lost.”

He laughed and nodded knowingly. “I thought so. There are not many that want to deal with this darned fog what don’t have to walk through it to get home. If you want to come with me the road by my house leads right on back to town.” He seemed to notice my hesitation and shrugged. “Unless you want to try and find your way back out of here, it’s up to you.” The man turned and continued on his way.

As much as I disliked the idea of following a total stranger, I had little choice if I wanted to escape this isolated place. So, I caught up to him and tried to keep up. After a few moments of silence, I made an attempt at small talk.

“I guess I’m lucky I caught you out here when I did. Were you out shopping?” I asked, noticing the bag in his hands.

He let out a sigh and his eyes turned to the ground. “Yeah. It’s a present for my boy.” There was a half-smile on his face and his eyes spoke of a kind fondness.

“Oh,” I smiled, “you’re a father then.” It gave me at least a little more comfort to know that I was being escorted by a family man. “Is it his birthday?”

The look on his face went stolid, then sad. “Nah.” Brow furrowed, he shook his head. “I lost my temper with him yesterday. Kids, they get upset easy, you know. Not his fault, I just… Well, I told him I’m sorry but I wanted to make it up to him.”

I nodded knowingly, looking at the man with a thoughtful admiration. I’d had my share of being yelled at by parents. The fact that he was actually admitting his own faults and making up for it like this was something of a surprise, however. “He’s lucky to have someone as thoughtful as you.”

The man only grunted in response, his face growing stolid once again.

Wanting to keep things lighthearted I changed the subject, and as we continued to walk we talked about the weather, the president, politics, and how to cook a good hot dog. We were both laughing at a bad relish pun when we finally reached the man’s lonely house: a small wood cabin.

“Well, here we are. Thanks for walking an old guy to his home. Could you hold this for a second? Got to find my keys.” He handed me his grocery bag as he began searching his pockets. As I weighed it in my hands my curiosity got the better of me.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what was it you got your son?”

“Oh, it’s one of those big packs of crayons. He’s a drawer that one, a real artist.” The man laughed and then, still unable to find his keys, took off his jacket. I hadn’t been able to see his shirt before this, and it quickly caught my eye. “He likes to draw people, mostly.” Splotches of bleach splattered the front and the sleeves. “He makes up his own stories, like an illustrator for books.” They must have been old, and what needed bleaching in a log cabin? “Goodness, I’m sorry; these darned keys are always hiding from me.” The man took off his gloves and set them on the ground. The color immediately drained from my face.

His hands.

The trees behind me pleaded, asking why. They begged me to stay, begged me to answer. They begged me to leave, to forget. They ushered me forward, pushing me into finding mercy, into solving the questions of a victim. They pulled me back, dragging me into giving forgiveness, into leaving the perpetrator be.

“I told him not to draw the wife.” A sigh, the key was finally found. “Ah but kids they just… They don’t get the sensitive things. Sometimes they just don’t get ‘no.’ Sometimes words just aren’t enough to make em stop…” His door unlocked, he turned and held out a hand to me, gesturing for the grocery bag. I could even smell it: the dried, metallic scent of a now dark crimson. Dried, silent, subtle, but at the same time stark and screaming of something horribly wrong. For goodness sakes, it went all the way up to his elbows. Numbly I handed the package over. Oblivious to my state he smiled and thanked me again. “The roads right over that way. You follow it a few minutes, you’ll find the city. Goodbye now!” The door shut.

On many days, this was a forest of beauty and of comfort. Today it seemed it was the forest of hands. Gnarled fingers snatched at secrets, searching for them, hiding them. I should have done something. I should have told someone. Instead, I left. I walked away, down that road, until I was back in the safe ignorance of the city. I didn’t stop until I was shielded by structures of metal and concrete, away from hands of bark. The sun and I, we turned our back and pretended not to see, pretended not to know the answers, leaving the question of mercy and forgiveness to hide in a little wood house in the fog.

I’ve heard that there are some who refuse to see a loved one after they have passed on. They want the image in their mind to remain that of the person while they were alive and not have it overridden by their death. It’s a concept I wish I had thought of early last summer. I wish I had stopped at the end of that street, turned my bike around, and continued pedaling home. Well, not home, just to my mother’s house.

No, on that day I did go home. For the first time in two years I was riding my bike to the only place that had ever been home for me. I don’t know what brought me there in the end, but I think it was denial. It was stumbling on the listing online and seeing these real estate websites describe it in such unfitting, foreign words. It was seeing the pictures of what it had become and disbelieving that any of it was really true.

Two years prior, when my Dad first made us leave this house, we took only a bag of clothes each. My siblings and I were promised that we would come back for the rest of our things. However, every weekend living at my stepmother’s house brought another excuse and another way of pushing it off. It was our Mom who told us in the end.

“I drove by, there’s a bunch of stuff and a dumpster in the driveway?”

We begged, but he wouldn’t let us go and see, he wouldn’t tell us what was going on. It “wasn’t our business.” It wasn’t long before the magic word was finally revealed: “Foreclosed.” By the time we knew, it was too late. By the time he finally quit the lies and the excuses, everything was gone. Sold or thrown away, we didn’t know. It didn’t matter anymore.

As I stood there staring at the corpse that was once my childhood home, sixteen years’ worth of possessions and memories came crashing down on me. The photos online were generous, they must have been old. On one side the grass had been ripped from the yard, and on the other, weeds and tree saplings had grown into an untamable jungle. The mouth of a front window gaped open in the expression of one who had been brutally betrayed just before death. Through it I could see inside the body of the house, stripped bare and entirely empty.

It is one thing to have to let go of a house and get used to a new one, but this, for me, was different. This home was a symbol. It was the anchor at the end of a rope that I had held onto for the past several years of sailing through otherwise impossible waters. It was the only proof of simpler, happier times. It was the only proof that once upon a time my life, my family, had been whole. Now here I was, having pulled up the rope only to find nothing at the end. This should have been my chance to say goodbye, to shut the door once and for all and move on. Unfortunately though, this door that had been shut for me and taken briskly away.

The weight of everything settled heavily on my shoulders. I could no longer hide from the daily storms that life brought me. I couldn’t fall back on memories and wish that somehow everything would go back to the way it was. This was the undeniable nail in the coffin telling me that those days were up and I could no longer turn to them for my happiness. It was a painful realization, having the door closed and gone. As I got on my bike and began to ride away, however, I also knew that this was my chance to seek out and open new doors. Sure, it still felt like that happiness had been taken from me, but now I had no choice but to go out and make my own.

I had seen the end that had been forced upon me, and it was time for me to finally make a new start.

There is light in those green eyes

With so much time yet to brighten.

They’ve still seen too few years to be called wise.

 

Sometimes it rivals the sunrise

With ambition to move a mountain.

There is light in those green eyes.

 

Other times filled with only tired sighs,

Hopes that have been let down too often.

They’ve still seen to few years to be called wise.

 

Seeing so many hellos, so many goodbyes

Seeking new ends and places to begin.

The light in those green eyes.

 

To some there may be a surprise,

Seeing the scars when they were forced to darken,

They’ve still seen too few years to be called wise.

 

As discouraged as they may have been by lies

There’s still so much to see in this world of men.

There is light in those green eyes.

They’ve still seen too few years to be called wise.