I stumbled upon it again today.
It pops up in the strangest places, and the in the strangest moments.
That inviting path that leads into the tempest woods that was us.
That heavenly trail I tread so heedlessly and happily
And got lost in, with you.
An elixir of extremes infusing the vitality of hope in cynical bones.
Where we laughed so thoughtlessly in that dream state, and learned about each other.
Where I sat with you and we told the stars about us.
Where I pointed into rippling pools to show you the life inside the dark and rested with you embraced in afternoon meadows. When had we known before such peace.
Stopping at mile markers and landmarks, marveling that we ever got that far with each other.
I was so naïve, almost arrogant in my assumptions
Through the turns and the tricks and the misdirection.
When I regarded you with such sincerity of purpose
Accompanied always by that beautiful living and breathing thing that kept me safely guarded in it’s dazzlement. Strong in limb and brazen, it had incredible stamina. It ran and ran
Often in front of us, sometimes behind us.
Always with us.
Chasing off anything that threatened us, distracted me or caused me to wonder.
Keeping me in that dream state, insulated from the vast world of complexity and pain outside of your possession.
How it was thriving in the care I gave it. So careful and attentive to it.
Such life in that thing, and you, as it fed from the light I gave you both.
Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, under the glare of full sun, you proudly shed your skin before me. Frightening to behold. I endured many of your strikes. In a desperate moment of clarity, I pushed you from me. Down into the rushing falls below before you struck with those fangs and poisoned me for good.
In tremendous shame and guilt, I thought I saw you break on the rocks.
I turned to abandon the precipice, but couldn’t find my way out. I began to wander those very same well worn paths, alone and seeking some break in the thickets. Or maybe you, or the door back to what I was, or not sure what I was looking for at all, but foraging for some peace, at least, like what I had before you.
I knew this trail so well and I looked upon all that we once gazed upon together.
stopping briefly by our milestones, seeing the remnants of our passing.
Miserably visiting our landmarks and touching the arrows we scratched in the trees to guide our way together. Suffering. Suffering as if it was I who broke on the rocks
I stumbled in shock upon the emaciated body of that thing I fed for you. Where once it was so beautiful now a withered black creature lying feeble in the grass. Rather thoughtfully I contemplated it as I knelt beside to listen to it’s painful gasps
It wasn’t quite dead yet, and it whimpered to be fed, and it cried out for water, for my light, for anything to restore it. And you were not there, and although it gave me great pain (and guilt and self hate for my cruelty) I refused it those comforts.
God, how I hated to hear it suffer so terribly in loneliness and neglect.
So as gently as I could, I gathered it up in my arms and walked with it.
I took it to our places, our pools, our meadows, our groves.
I spoke to it of our ending.
I showed it our last marker. Where I begged for you and you punished and horrified me for that weakness. Where I drowned you in your cruelty and I scrambled away in humiliation
It understood then, that living on was pointless.
I felt it give in with the gentle caress of it’s final rank breath across my face.
The last shudder and shift of weight as the soul of it left at last.
I wept bitterly over it and
I hope it suffered a little less since it was not alone.
I’m incapable of abandoning my compassion, you see.
I buried it there, in beautiful little spot hidden deeply by the ferns.
Unmarked, so nobody could find it, unearth it, and give it life again.
No stone or cross to say what lies underneath there.
I stood up, dusting off my hands.
And after a final glance, I left.
But the road was no better.
It was tricky, trying to find my way out.
I made mistakes; got lost, confused and got stuck in the mud of shame.
In a moment of panic, I called for help. And out from the dark something else approached.
“Steady yourself now. and listen.”
It walked with me and spoke to me. Explaining honest and horrible truths.
It showed me all the mysteries of that deadly forest, and laid the maps on an altar of stones I kept bleeding over. What happens if I go here, what I will see if I go there and what is waiting down there. It told me everything without filter and stripped me of my delusions of you.
We saw that there was a bright inviting path winding in dreams and mist. My spirits rose just seeing how beautiful it was and how easy it was to dance my way down it. I glimpsed a familiar meadow just around a bend in the distance. The setting sun behind it was warm and golden.
“I could be happy there. That way looks wonderful.” I said.
“Of course, it does. It’s meant to look like that. That falshood is the way back. The trap is set and ready to spring.” it said. “He’s waiting down there for you.” And my eyes filled shamefully with hopeful trepidation. And I ached in longing. “Yes, he’s still alive. And that thing you buried, too, can be resurrected. It can always be resurrected” It pointed, “just there ….see that silhouette.”
I could think of no words as I struggled against the rapturous temptation of self annihilation.
Awesome and terrible.
“Look away, now.” It said, “See down there.” And it pointed to a stark opening into dark twisted downs. Brutal and angry thorns grabbing along the brush edges. Sharp uneven stones that wobble and cut when you trip under barren branches long bereft of life. All humming incessently with eerie songs of ugly night creatures. My blood ran cold.
“What way is that?”
“The way out.” And before I could argue my disbelief, it cut me off. “The ONLY way out. And when you go that way, never, ever come back.”
I hesitated. For a long time lost in the confusing pain of the right choice, and the destruction of self with the wrong one.
I forced my treacherous feet towards the timbers. Dragging myself through every painful step, cut by a thousand thorns wanting to hold me back, leaving me bloody and stinging. The struggle against them was exhausting, but the impossible fight to kill my lying dreams of you was infinitely more devastating, and left me often on my knees. Until finally, I fell out gasping from the edge of the wood, disheveled, raw and stinging.
But I was out. And Free.
Free of you. The false delights of you. The corrupt ecstasy of you. The secret shame of you, and the cruel misery of you.
And when I find myself surprised with the sudden appearance of the way back to you in unexpected places, I don’t go there.
Where I know you lay patiently to spring the snare for me, I don’t go there.
With your wickedly deceiving camouflage skin and your long arms open to cling to me, I don’t go there.
I lift my sweet face to the wind, steel my bright gaze to the horizon, straighten my proud spine and the crown I earned conquering YOU.
And turn my back. Because I don’t go there anymore.