Uprooted Memories – Vol. 1 (The Eucalyptus Tree)

STORM BREWS AND TREEExcept for the obvious storm brewing inside his head, the day had seemed otherwise promising when it started. Morning had come wrapped in a blinding splendor, radiating the kind of confidence and grace only a clear sky could inspire. He stood up and parted the blinds, and his sleepy eyes automatically squinted so as to adjust to the glistening light now penetrating the windows and illuminating the room like an altar or podium of some kind. He stood there for a few minutes staring into the blue canvass before him, which seemed to extend for millions of miles, or just far enough to lose itself inside the shimmering horizon engulfed in an orange and yellow fire. He liked the image and felt a nostalgic tranquility at letting himself get lost in it; it was like staring at a beautiful painting where no single brush-stroke could be detected – it was Marvel and Perfection at its best. His lips slowly parted to let out a nearly inaudible “click” sound and he slowly winked his left eye to mimic the shuttering of a camera, then he moved away to begin dressing himself. But as he reluctantly put on the same white gym t-shirt that was part of the mandatory ensemble at his Private Elementary Christian School, his mind began drifting to an earlier and morbid time which violently shredded the picture he had just snapped. He continued functioning on a basic level, putting his green sweater-vest over the t-shirt and then getting inside his grey trousers, but he was no longer there: his glazed, paralyzed and petrified look clearly said that he had returned to that sinister morning when he had witnessed a brutal accident at the tender age of seven, or perhaps eight years old.

On particularly warm and sunny days when gym class was scheduled for his fourth grade class, the teacher would opt to have the class in a little park that ran adjacent to the east side of the school, only separated by a small street that rarely saw any traffic. Aided by one or two assistants, the teacher had a very well established system for crossing the street, where a chain-link of four or five kids interlocking their tiny arms with a teacher in the middle would look both ways then dash across the street; then the second team would go with one of the assistants and then third. Once across, the kids were always warned not to get out of the parameter the teachers had set for them, for there was a river that ran behind the woods which, although wasn’t easily accessible, could easily mean the death of any of one of them should they fall in, for it was a mighty river that was used to over-flooding in the rainy season and that roared invisibly behind the trees like some kind of hidden wild animal. But there was never any real danger of that, because the parameter was wider than the kids could actually reach, despite how much they’d run. In any case, the kids loved the place, which obviously made gym class everyone’s favourite. But on this particular day that had so callously intruded his memories – and from thereon, in fact – gym-class had ceased to be what everyone looked forward to.

Everything happened almost in sync, like it had been perfectly choreographed in a studio somewhere and was now being faithfully executed, step by step. Just as soon as he had finished crossing the street from the park, still holding on to the teacher’s hand, he turned around to see who his friend was crossing with. At that very moment, all his young eyes managed to see was his friend’s left foot take the first step off the sidewalk and onto the street when a whitish-grayish automobile zoomed by in an almost surreal speed, leaving only the faint trails of the backlights lingering and a white gym-t-shirt that seemed to hover weightlessly in the air for a few seconds before hitting the ground with a petrifying THUMP! The entire scene seemed to come to a standstill for a few seconds and the sound of everything around simply disappeared….it was a soundless and paralyzed scene that seemed to linger for minutes as he tried making sense of what had just happened. Then a sea of people suddenly surrounded what was now probably certainly a cadaver of a seven or eight year old kid, and a horrendous wallowing began to fill the air…There were savage yells echoing throughout what now seemed like a morose and desolate atmosphere, clamouring for “911” and “medics” and every other emergency responder they could think of. Soon thereafter, one of the assistants led him by the shoulder through the Big Metal Gates and into the school while the others scraped the remains of the poor kid off the side of the road. The rest of the kids who had already been gathered in the classroom seconds earlier were speculating about what had happened and what the fate of the kid could possibly be. By their comments, it seemed that nobody had actually witnessed what had happened…except our protagonist, who could not help but be surprised at how easily everyone else around him seemed to toy with the possibility this poor kid whom they had run around with just a few minutes ago might be dead. The conversation went on for a few days before things seemed to just kind of move on…

By now, he had finished getting ready and eating his breakfast, and was already walking towards the bus-stop where he waited every morning. He tried shaking himself loose of that dark memory but not before wondering if other people also remembered horrible memories like he did – so…vividly. And then he remembered that there were other things on his mind, or perhaps things that should have been on his mind, or perhaps things that were so ubiquitously on his mind that they made everything else as morose and tragic as they seemed to be…But why? He thought to himself. But he did not wallow, and instead he let the warm rays of the sun shower him, which seemed to wash away the lethargy of his soul as he waited for the bus. Moreover, despite the dark and obscure corners children are sometimes pushed into, they are resilient vessels with a kind of Inner-Light, and the inkling of innocence, joy, play and friendship often prevails in them like animal instincts, even if it is in short-dosages. So at school, like every other day, he played, and enjoyed, and laughed with his friends, knowingly distancing himself from the harsh realities of having to see one parent on weekends only and of going to a house which isn’t a home. But the faster his little legs ran after the ball, the more he forgot about it all. When it was his turn to wait on the bench, so as to allow others to play also, he sat back with arms stretched and looked up at the tiny birds dancing in the blue sky; then, feeling the Sun’s Warm Rays on his face, he gently closed his eyes, still seeing the Silhouette of the Heavens and the Tiny Birds above in a reddish hue…For a second, as the Sun’s Rays rained down and engulfed him like a sort of armor, he felt as if the Sun was actually watching over him, and feeling what seemed like the warmest feeling he’s ever felt, he let go of all those fears and worries  that had tormented him seconds before. The Morning came and went like that, slowly disappearing as he sat in class and day-dreamed staring out the window, into the sky full of birds soaring and singing freely. By the time lunch had come, he had forgotten about the Dark Clouds that followed him, and the storm seemed to dissipate.

******

By the time he stepped out of the final class that afternoon, the sun was only a specter of itself, still keeping a vigil on the day, evidenced by the melancholic purple and faint-orange sky, but no longer watching over him; the Sun had left, and even squinting, it was now only a Bright dot in space. Even the warm breeze felt chilly and cavernous to his tender body. He began walking towards the Big Metal Gates slowly and languidly, no longer enthusiastic about the day and rather pessimistic about its ending. But he knew he had to go on. So he did. However, when he finally crossed the doors, nothing was like he expected and, in fact, he felt shaken to his very core by an image he had never imagined he’d seen…at least not while awake.

There were two Black SUVs parked at the curb right outside the Big Metal Gates, and one or two men standing just outside the doors, dressed casually (with black sunglasses) but obviously in command there. Just outside the back passenger door stood the kid’s father, being half-covered by the presence of one of the other men standing by the front passenger door. In his hands he held what the kid immediately recognized as the same plastic, inter-galactic toy-gun they had seen in a window-shop weeks, or perhaps months, earlier. They had been walking along the street looking through shops’ windows and making noise and laughing loudly as always, knowingly but placidly hiding from the brutish toll a hostile separation takes on all family members. Upon seeing the gun on the shop’s window, the kid had immediately demanded it, unable to contain his love for anything that shot plastic bullets, made a loud noise or had bright lights shooting from it. But for one reason or other, his dad had said no; he had resorted to some logical argument, most likely surrounding financial issues, as to why he couldn’t get it at the moment….of course, the kid only heard a big, fat “no”, and disappointment and hate were the only things he could feel…at least for the next few minutes, or perhaps hours…and then, no mention of the gun was ever made again….Until that morning.

The kid knew exactly what the gun signified; what the entire scene yelled at him in the clearest and most direct terms. But it was his father’s face that most struck him. He had never seen something like that before. His father had always been a Eucalyptus Tree that stood high — far beyond the reach of everyday men, of Commonality, of Routine and, particularly, of Fear; and he had felt as being on top of such when he’d ride high on his father’s shoulders, defying the entire world together as one. Indeed, for anyone other than himself, this Tree had seemed un-climbable and out of reach, and certainly unmovable. But now he was privy to something he’d thought the world should never know or see: he had seen the Eucalyptus Tree Moved and Eroded by a Primal Fear – the Fear of being uprooted; of being savagely torn away from the very roots that kept him grounded. Now, the man who he’d though would Never Lose was trembling with fear and loathing at the sheer possibility of being severed from his Seed…Indeed, for the first and only time, he had seen his father Defeated: The tear running down his cheek, so out of place – so foreign to his old and hard countenance – pleaded “sorry,” as his trembling hands yelled “come here, my son!”

Was it me? The kid thought to himself, overwhelmed by sadness and fury. Did I cause my father so much pain over a stupid toy? Did he not know the toy did not matter? Why did he buy it? Did he think he Needed to buy it? Why does an Eucalyptus Tree lose its leaves? Why does it fall?

******

It was a special visit – unscheduled and allowed by both parties: the father and mother who, until then, had not been able to resolve their differences. They enjoyed the rest of the day together, probably shooting that inter-galactic gun at anyone they could aim….

The rest is History…

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