There are two trees in particular, right at the beginning of the road, before you enter the small forest. The two trees seem just like all the others behind them, with equally green leaves in the summer and an equal coating of bright white snow in the winter. One would never walk by and stop to consider that something so seemingly insignificant would in fact be a very important part of a forgotten past. Three weeks ago about a handful of people probably walked by with their faces buried in whatever touch screen device they had in their hands at that moment. Those who did look up probably didn’t even notice that something was weird. That the leaves on the trees were rustling more than usual or that the shadows behind the trees were 3 shades darker. That the thin mist around the forest was more than just your casual low hanging cloud, and that it was masking more than just a stray dog or a wild rabbit hopping around. Three weeks ago two shadows materialized out of thin air. They walked out of the forest surrounded by a wall of silence and clothed with exhaustion. Three weeks ago we set our minds to the same simple goal. To forget.
“So, now it’s all over, will we just go back to not knowing each other?”
She had answered with a simple, “Yeah.” I don’t blame her really. Out of the two of us I think she had the hardest time. It didn’t matter who was stronger or faster, once it was dangerous, she would be the one to take the lead. “I can handle this. If I can spare you, I will.” Is what she said. I’m the weak link, I guess. I can’t keep anything in. I don’t keep secrets. That’s just not me. Or at least, it wasn’t. Sometimes I see her walk by with some of her friends. Catching up, for old time’s sake. Laughing at the little jokes, worrying about the small things. I remember when I used to watch her. Always surrounded by people, always a part of the group. Always laughing and joking around. I remember admiring her smile from afar. It didn’t light up the skies or make flowers grow around her and it wasn’t magical or surreal, but it was quite the opposite. Her smile wasn’t devastatingly attractive, but it was painfully honest. When she laughed she looked like a clumsy 5 year old, but when you heard her laugh, you’d instantly laugh with her. I was perfectly fine with not knowing her at all if only I could just see her smile a couple of times. Now I know her I’m still amazed by her every day. How does she continue, like life has always made sense? How does she forget, as if there was nothing to remember in the first place? How does she keep smiling after years and years of forgotten history and when did her smile stop reaching her eyes? 5 Years have been erased out of the past to make a better future. Things I knew so well, friends I loved so much and a smile I learnt to care so deeply for, all gone for a world that wasn’t much to me. After everything that had happened her smile was the strength behind my every step, because that alone was undying and after one single moment even that faded away.
Three weeks later I felt myself drawn to where it all began, wishing I could go back to the dark cruel world that had become my home. So now I’m here again, staring at two trees, looking like a complete idiot. I see people walking by questioning my mental health and wondering how long a person can stare at a tree before getting tired. I used to come here feeling magic and life drawing me in. Now I’m feeling judgmental eyes puncturing the back of my head. I don’t care, I keep staring. Hoping that some sign comes to me proving it wasn’t all a dream. Not much later the sign comes in the form of a hand touching my shoulder. I look around. “Mia…”
“Hey Leo, it’s been a while…” She smiles at me. We share a long minute of painful silence, both looking back and forth from the tree to each other until Mia breaks the silence. “Let’s sit down and talk for a bit ok?” Without answering I sit down leaning against the tree and wait for her to start talking. “They just look like trees huh?” She says. “What else would they look like?” I respond with a little more hostility in my voice than I intended. “Don’t do that.”
“Push me away.” I look at her. Honesty all across her face, but that’s all. No pain, no suffering. Just life going on.
“Last time I checked you wanted us to go back how it was.” She looks down.
“I’m sorry.” I quickly continue. “I get it, really. It’s just kinda hard sometimes and stuff just seems so easy on your side.”
“It’s not, you know. It’s not gonna get easier anytime soon, I can promise you that. But I guess it’s just better to look at it from the bright side.”
“I can’t. I just can’t. Where’s the bright side in all this? Where do you see the light, tell me because I don’t see it at all!” A small hazy edge appears just in my line of sight. The world starts fading away a little as the haze grows. I find myself looking at her without really seeing anything, as a tear slides down my cheek towards my chin. “I can’t stay strong. I can’t keep laughing. I left my family there, and here… You have people that care for you in this world, but the past I gave up to save them was all I had.”
“Leo!” She puts her hand on my knee. “We went there without knowing what we got ourselves into, but we always knew that at one point we had to go back. I know that it’s hard. I’m struggling too, but you have to try. Smile. A little longer, a little harder. Smile a little wider and a little happier. Smile more, as if you’re happy. Maybe if you keep on trying they start believing it’s real. Maybe after a while you start believing it’s real too.”
I look at her in amazement. She’s smiling at me. Again.
“When did you stop smiling like you did?” She looks surprised. “Mia, what you’re doing isn’t brave. It’s not staying strong. It’s torturing yourself. It’s not dealing with your problems, but it’s stuffing them away. It’s acting for the world but you’re building yourself a time bomb.”
“What should I do, not smile. Let the world know what happened and that I’m not ok? What good does that do, I’m not helping anyone with that!”
“You’d be helping yourself. Something you’re really bad at. I’m an emotional wreck and I can’t keep myself from crying, but you… Let me help you, Mia.”
“No thanks, I’m fine, really.” She stands up. “Don’t worry so much ok, Leo? Look at the bright side and you’ll be fine. I’ll see you soon ok?” She starts walking away, but I quickly grab her hand.
”It’s not me I’m worried about.” For a split second I think I see her crying, but she quickly pulls away.
“I’m here if you need me, Mia. Please take care of yourself.”
As she disappears into the crowd I lean back against the tree again. Her smile wasn’t real. It hadn’t been for the past three weeks. With a shadow over my head I start walking home. When a shiver runs down my spine I look back. Not everyone would see it, but for me it came natural. A cold feeling spreading under my skin gave away a hint and the shadows behind the trees formed the conclusion. Through the thin mist I could see the shadows had become 3 shades darker.
Day 2: Use the sentence “Her smile wasn’t real.”
I don’t know why, but getting myself to write something down feels like a tough challenge lately. My mind is just completely blank, so I’m kinda glad that I at least got this far. And hey, there’s even a lesson in here somewhere, next to the whole vague, I don’t know what on earth I’m reading part 🙂