A story by David Davila
I wasn’t sure you’d come, but I’m so glad you did.
Take a deep breath..
If I tell you a story will you promise to tell it to another? Someone even younger than you? Someone who might keep the story alive just long enough to tell it to someone even younger than they? If you promise you’ll tell it, then I’ll also keep my word and whisper it to you the way the wind once in a while catches your flesh and cools it.
You were here before. In another life. Whether you believe it or not. You were. I remember. Not the way you think of another life but another life all the same.
Take a moment to think. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Think of where you are standing in this park.
Think of where you are standing in this city.
Think of where you are standing on this giant rock called Earth.... Constantly spinning as it hurls itself around the sun....
Think of where you are standing as our galaxy expands through the universe....
You’re spinning now. Endlessly. Take another deep breath. Close your eyes for a moment and listen to the sounds around you.
Now think of where you are standing in this park.
The Earth is so small, isn’t it? In the vast scope of unending space.
Think about how far space might expand. Does it have some sort of ending point? The Earth is actually not much bigger than you, is it? And you are certainly not much bigger than the smallest atom of your flesh. Think of all the electrons spinning every millisecond so that you might join me here today. Now breathe deeply once more.
At least three atoms within you have been to Crabapple Grove before, spinning endlessly within someone else. Who would you like me to help you remember?
CHOICE A: Anna
CHOICE B: Bo
CHOICE C: Carlyle
CHOICE A: ANNA
When the alarm clock went off, you hit it hard.
Maybe too hard, because you knocked it off the dresser and were violently awoken from the nostalgic dream of your childhood. Your sister, Guadalupe braiding your hair. Her hands; so soft as she twisted the strands. Her laughter ringing in your ears.
“I want to be a fireman,” she used to say.
“Just you watch, I’ll slide down so fast and put out any fire that anyone can set. Put out any fire in the country; and I’ll have a dalmatian too!”
You remember the way she smelled fondly. Like strawberry Chapstick and bubblegum. It’s been three years since she passed. Don’t think of it. Don’t think of her today. Don’t think of her favorite song. Don’t think of her favorite food, or her favorite drink, or her favorite purple hair clip with the dollar-store jewels bedazzled upon it. Or the hours spent around a table with her making tamales.
The alarm is still ringing.
You reach for it in the darkness and unable to find the off button, yank it as hard as you can until the plug comes out of the wall. You wish she could have been at your wedding. Javier in his tux with that big smile grinning like a schoolboy when he saw you in your dress walking down the aisle. She would have danced all night and held your dress while you peed. Or... maybe she would have told you not to do it. Maybe if she had been there you never would have made that enormous mistake. Stop thinking about her.
You look over to his side of the bed to see if he came home at all. No. You’re alone.
Maybe alone is better.
You wish you could go back to your dream but life has plans for you today. Maybe you need to clear your head. Maybe you need a jog. You pull your hair back and tie it, put on your tennies and head down stairs.
The hum of Manhattan fills the morning air as the sun comes up over the Hudson. The fresh air fills your lungs but you eventually need a break...a place to rest as you think about what is about to change... when you tell Javier you’re pregnant.
Which resting place catches your attention?
CHOICE 1: A beautiful tree
CHOICE 2: A cozy spot of grass
CHOICE B: BO
“Hey watch it buddy!” You scream in Mandarin at the top of your lungs at the taxi who almost took you out.
Seems like drivers become progressively worse every year. It can’t be you. That’s for sure. You’ve been delivering take-out for thirty-one years. Or was it thirty-three? Who can remember? Chenguang; she remembers.
She remembers everything. Every birthday of every relative and every family friend, and every anniversary, and every place you ever hid anything. Nothing’s lost when Chenguang is around. You think of the awkward smile she displays when she’s getting unwanted attention, and it makes you smile too.
You’re yelling again; this time at that black Sedan that got a little too close for comfort. Next block make a left against traffic. You don’t have time to worry about bike lanes and right-of-way, this food is getting cold.
You pull up to the beautiful red brick building on Amsterdam, and the doorman buzzes you in. “Shank-man” you say with a thick accent. “Wrong building” he says without even looking up. “Shank-man... Shank-man” you repeat but he only replies louder “wrong building!” You look around the lobby, and check your phone to make sure you have the address right. Everything checks out. “Shank-Man.”
“Sir, am I gonna have to call security?”
You walk onto the street and unlock your bike. It smells like rain. You look up at the sky and see the clouds gathering. The air is thick and humid. It will certainly release something upon us soon. You look at the food in your bag and back at the address. Maybe you mixed up the orders.
Maybe Chenguang is right. Maybe you’re forgetting.
You feel a drop hit your skin. It feels good. What if you don’t go back to work today? What if instead you walked over to that park nearby and ate this food? What if your remembering days are numbered and you only have days of “living in the moment” left. You enter Crabapple Grove and decide to enjoy your feast.
Where will you eat your take-out?
CHOICE 1: A beautiful tree
CHOICE 2: A cozy spot of grass
CHOICE C: CARLYLE
They weren’t kidding when they said today would be a scorcher. You wipe the sweat off your brow with what little bit of dry cotton is left at the bottom corner of your tank-top. It’s hot as an iron out here and all you’re missing is the starch. You think of the days your mama used to iron your Sunday best and needed that crease. It was all about that crease. Getting that crease in your pants and on your sleeves so you looked all fresh when you’d show-off your threads.
You were always trying to show-off to Latrisha Warner. Oh boy, talk about the one that got away. She was always staring at you from across the church and looking away as soon as you’d give her a glance. Her sister elbowing her to ensure maximum embarrassment.
These jackhammers always give you a headache. You gotta stop to stretch every now and then or your back cramps-up the next morning. It’s too hot to be working today, and you don’t have enough water. There’s a pool of sweat collecting in your matted hair underneath your hard hat and all you want is an ice cold beverage - the maltier the better, but water would do.
You start-up again but soon you’re thinking of Latrisha. You wonder what she’s been up to? And does she have a kid? Does she have several? Time sure passes by quickly doesn’t it? And yet all these years later you’re still thinking of Latrisha, and wondering if you should have gone with her to Boston when she asked. Why didn’t you go? Why couldn’t you go? What was there to lose? What could you actually have lost?
Funny thing to think about love and to realize it really was as rare as all the poets said. Is it a blessing to know that the love you felt at sixteen is still alive at forty, or is it a curse?
You think of Latisha’s dimples. The way her eyes flickered away from yours on the beach when you brushed her hand with yours. That’s it. Work day’s over. Hmmm. Your hands are still vibrating like soundwaves. You haven’t called your kids in a while.
The heat is breaking just a bit and you’re right across from that pretty park. All those people who have time to just think. You think it might be nice to just think.
Which thinking spot catches your attention?
CHOICE 1: A beautiful tree
CHOICE 2: A cozy spot of grass
CHOICE 1: TREE
You walk over to this wondrous beast of nature that has cracked open the Earth and demanded your attention. It’s a mess of branches twisting in every direction as they demand a share of the sun’s rays. As they demand to be seen by this massive ball of burning gas.
Think about all the ways you’ve demanded to be seen. Think about a time that you’ve failed in those demands.
What did you learn from failing?
Could this tree find resilience in its failure to be seen? Does it reach upward towards the sky and think about what its purpose in the world is? You know that it certainly has one. It transforms carbon dioxide into oxygen that all the living creatures who walk the Earth can breathe. It’s very purpose you think, might be to give you life.
Or is your purpose to give it life? In times when we fail to be seen, it is comforting to know that we can find purpose in such a simple thing as giving a tree life. That there might be a simple reason that each atom within you is joined together to create yours.
Look up at your tree and breathe in its oxygen.
Take a leaf from this beautiful living thing.
Upon this leaf cast your biggest failure. Let the failure fully take over this leaf. Study it. Say anything you need to this failure.
Now let it go.
CHOICE 2: SPOT OF GRASS
You walk over to this welcoming spot of land and sit in its inviting bosom. Go ahead. Sit.
Are you comfortable? Make whatever adjustments you need to make to truly feel relaxed.
Now let down your guard.
Take a blade of grass and pluck it.
Hold it in your hand. Upon this blade of grass place your biggest regret in life. Let the regret fully take over the blade of grass. Look at it.
Say anything you need to say to this regret. Let it all out. Take as much time as you need to fully talk to this regret.
Breathe. Forgive yourself.
When you have forgiven yourself, blow the blade of grass into the wind and let it be forgotten among all the other blades.
Repeat as many times you need to, for as many regrets as you need to.
The Earth is still spinning.
Can you feel it? Close your eyes and try to feel the Earth spin. Try to feel the universe expand.
You’re still just a massive conglomerate of atoms stuck together that will one day be released from their hold. Just as one day the Earth will be released, and the galaxy will cease to exist. Yes, your story, like theirs, will end one day.
Are you ready to say goodbye? Are you ready to become the Earth? The Sky? A twisting tree? A passerby?
A memory one day forgotten; a riverbed run dry?
One day you will be forgotten. One day you will die.
But today you are alive, and the sun is bathing your skin, and the trees are giving shade, and the dirt beneath your feet is giving you support to take the next step.
So take your next step.
Go ahead, you’re alive today after all, and tomorrow holds no promises. Tomorrow never promises.
Remember you were here with me.
Take a picture for a memory
And send it to a friend or three
And caption it with poetry
About a cozy spot you see
Or shadows underneath a tree.
For in this moment, spinning quickly through the ever present chaos of an unforgiving world you have the choice to forgive, and you have the choice to move forward, and you have the power to make change.
Are truly free.