THE WITCH THAT HUNG FROM THE TREE
“So tell me; what do you imagine when you look at the tree?” I ask and wait expectantly to hear what she would conjure this time.
She smiles as she stares up at the tree from where we sit under the protection of a hut. Her smile ruffles for a quick moment just as her eyes fluster temporarily, but soon enough they return to their beaming radiance.
“Well I see a witch” she almost whispers as her smile fades.
They fade slowly as a familiar cold runs down my spine. I stare at her intrigued, stuck in between the traffic of emotions her fading smile creates as I watch her intently.
“A witch?” I repeat “Yes, I see a witch. I imagine she hung from one of these branches years ago. Years before our school was even built”
Her voice has the same edgy but comforting ease that the night breeze around us blows with. I imagine her voice as a soothing bed and duvet in the middle of the valley of death. After a while I imagine her voice as God resting on the seventh day.
“Go on…” I beckon to her
“I see the body of a witch dangling loosely, swaying from left to right like the pendulum on a clock that is counting down to the end of the world” she adjusts as she brings her legs up to the seat and hugs them, still not taking her eyes off the tree.
“The witch’s body is slowly fading now” she sighs slowly
“The witch is no longer there”
“Now I imagine myself climbing up the tree. I want to hang from one of the branches too”
I shiver, again.
“The thought of the freedom is tempting, surrendering my willpower for once and allowing gravity decide my fate” Her stare still transfixed on the tree, her eyes tremble as she narrates to me what the voices in her head whisper to her
“There is a twist now” she is almost soliloquizing, not exactly conscious of my presence anymore. “The witch is back, but this time she is hovering and staring at me. She is back to life, and she doesn’t want me to hang like she did. She is rebuking me, warning me against it” Avila’s voice is sulky now.
She is disappointed in her imagination; she is upset that there is no rest for her, even in her imagination where she makes the decisions.
“I am trying to explain to the witch that I am a witch too just like her. I’m trying to let her know that everyone calls me a witch as well…” her words fade but her stare remains glued to the tree
A dreadful silence follows, just as the breeze gradually grows into a budding tempest, beginning to bend everything in its direction.
The wind howls in my ear as it rushes past, but Avila continues to stare ahead at the tree undisturbed, lost in a world inside her head.
“Suffer not a witch to live…” she suddenly drawls the words out.
The wind is soon followed by the first drops of rain, and soon it grows into a downpour and a tempest, as the rain begins to bully everything around into submission, though we remain protected under the hut
Avila soon snaps out of her thoughts just in time to see me staring at her. She shakes her head slowly and blinks back tears and pain.
“The rain is now causing the tree to shake. I can’t hang from it anymore; all I want is peace and total stillness”
I swallow, as I feel the sadness rise to my stomach. Impulsively but gently, I stretch till my hand is over hers, and they trace the scars that remain on her skin. They are the permanent reminder of her lethal relationship with the razor. As I feel the scars on my palm, my mind does a flashback to recent activities, and I swallow back dread as the memory invades my tranquility again
“You know…” I begin, squeezing her hands in mine as I struggle to find the right words. I feel the urgent need to simultaneously express ache and need
“I’m happy you didn’t die.” I finally blurt out. She turns sharply and she locks her stare with mine. Her eyes are hollow and they blink dutifully. In all her stillness, her constant blinking is the only reminder that there is life in her body
“You’re just so amazing Avila. You’re such an amazing person for you to have almost been dead. This might not be what you want to hear, but I’m happy you didn’t die when you jumped” I gush, letting the words stumble out as a tear slides down my cheek.
I am happy that in the darkness of the night, she won’t be able to see the tears on my face
She continues to stare at me with that unnerving stillness of someone who doesn’t want to take on the world anymore. I can’t see her face clearly, but her eyes stand out. After a while she sighs and looks ahead again. “I didn’t jump zombie, I fell”
“People say that I jumped because I was upset over how my valentine went” she sneers weakly
“I want that sort of life where my biggest pain would be boys, valentine, and petty gifts.”
“I imagine such a life would be so…painless”
I’m not sure she is talking to me anymore, considering how low and distant her voice sounds. There is silence for a minute before she speaks up again
“I knew I would be too weak to jump, so I orchestrated a different demise for myself.” she begins to recall what I know is a sad but true story. I’m not sure I am interested in hearing the specifics of that day. It shouldn’t really matter. The mere fact that someone tried to kill herself is already disconcerting. To want to know the reason in order to decide if the person is worth sympathy or condemnation is stupid. The reason should pale so much in comparison with the fact that suicide was attempted.
“I knew I was too weak to jump, so I came up with a plan.” “That day I had sex with someone who did not care one bit about me. Then I ate a lot of cake from my friends that got stuff for Valentine’s Day, and then I overdosed on pills. I overdosed on pills, wore a thin gown and rubbed oil on myself. The thin gown was so it could rip if anyone tried to hold me by my gown, and the oil was so that I would slip off if anyone tried to grab me.”
As I sit there listening to the details; the dedication she had put into making sure she died, I feel a stab at my heart.
“It’s a shame that none of them worked. The last thing I remember, was sitting by the balcony. That was when the pills kicked in completely and I lost consciousness. Next time I woke up, I was in a hospital. Seeing all the faces of people rejoicing because I failed to find rest angered the fuck out of me. That and the bright hospital lights” she hisses under her breath.
I remember the details that she can’t remember though. That is the part everyone else witnessed. The moment she dangled from the balcony while people held on to her, the moment she dangled between life and death. That moment was witnessed by the public, and sensitized on social media.
The screams, the genuine fear, the adrenaline, the selfish thrill, the cheap entertainment it provided. The eventual fall, the descent down to the floor…
I gnash my teeth and groan as my heart skips from the memory.
“I hear the videos of that day are online” she pulls me out of my thoughts
“my pain has been immortalized by the blogs and media, to live forever. Would it haunt me?” she says, as the rain outside worsens, raging with more fervency than before
They could have told the truth at least, I curse to myself
“I want to watch the videos…” she trails off again as something under the rain catches her attention.
“You shouldn’t” I chirp in, finding my voice
“They are blasphemous.”
The cameras could only capture the drama. None of them could capture the pain.
She stares at me for a while before she begins to hum a Billie Ellish song. Two minutes into our silence, I hold her hands again and together we rise from where we sit.
Our eyes speak the words our lips can’t, as I smile desolately. I hold her hands firmly, and together we step into the rain, squealing and gasping from the cold, till we get used to it.
Under the comfort of the rain, we hold hands as our foreheads meet. We savor the rain running down our skin, washing us off our filth and darkness, washing us clean of our pain as the noise of the downpour block out the inner voices of our torment.
My hands circle her waist and pull her close, till her head rests on my shoulder in a tight embrace that exchanges the energies of our very essence.
As my grip tightens and my breath and pulse increases, I close my eyes and imagine that the rain generates a flood that rises slowly till we are completely covered underneath it, knowing nothing but ourselves and the water around us. We would be found thousands of years later preserved, still locked in each other’s arms; an evidence of civilization’s greatest combination of pain and solace.
I also try not to remember the video of her body tumbling down from the top of a building. There is more to her than that, the more that I currently feel as heat from her body.
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