I am alone in this glass house we had built on the crest of a mountain within the forest. The Covid pandemic has risen to proportions which have sent me reeling back to our resthouse where I lost you one evening at a party when you decided to leap into the dark forest and leave me with nothing but memories of you.
We are without children. These things – the teapots for steeping ginger tea with its shadows cast on the pine table, the tall vases now bereft of flowers, the soft mattress we laid on the floor before the fireplace with pillows where I can still feel the indentations of your head, your skin – are all that’s left of you from the night the police came to take pictures of your demise. You did not choose death nor to leave the country. You chose to live in the forest among the wilds where I wonder how you would survive, in the cold.
I often wondered about your fascination with the woods as we walked the trails or when I found you watching the trees with a subtle smile on your mouth. Your eyes wandered about the trees through the glass panels of our house as though there was adventure and mystery within them that only you could understand.
I have long been used to the idea of you, gone. But now in the quiet solitude that this pandemic brings, I am back to my contemplation of you and why you chose to leave me for the forest. What held your fascination so strong you could leave civilization and become one with the trees, flowers and shrubs. I hear the night owl and it gives me shivers as to how you must live out there.
That night you left your pale mauve party dress and shoes in the garden where we found your foot prints past the hedges of shrubs and disappear into the mud leading us nowhere to find you because you never wanted to be found again.
I place my hand against the warm glass warmed by a dying sun and wonder again over the beauty of your demise. To leave me for the unknown life of the woods is the most unlikely of deaths anyone could imagine.
Tonight, I sit before the cackling fire of the fireplace where we used to read each other stories from books we read. Then I heard a sound, the first sound beyond the burning sticks in the fireplace. A step, breaking a twig. The door to the verandah is open and I let the cool night air permeate through the sliding screen door.
I am riveted by the sound of an intruder who has no fear of me being awake and wishes to take things which are mine. Perhaps there is someone in need of shelter for the cold night. Or a lost dog from the wilds. I stand up and open the sliding screen door.
Among the shadows of the trees, among the hedges, you emerge alive. Your skin is mottled by roots of trees, your skin a patina of green, and your eyes feral like a minx. Your hair is streaked back with mud and your mouth an orb of red from dye.
I hold you in contempt for becoming who you are now. Not a forest from the trees but the forest herself baring itself upon me as I once, perhaps, thought it would do so.
You tried to speak but only the warble of the birds emerged from your mouth like a terrible mistake because it was nothing at all human. Your body is coated by mud and leaves and you walk, step by step, dragging the wilds behind you towards me. I stand back afraid of who you’ve become, almost inhuman now but more organic and fertile like the loam of the soil and what it brings. Butterflies and moths on your hair, the scent of pine on your skin, the mountain who you’ve become. You slide towards me and reach out.
You finally say my name.
“Why now, Elena? Why have you come back?”
And you raise your arms to embrace me as I sink into the promise of your everlasting love. The roots of your skin runnel towards my own skin and soon I am a patina of green as well, deep in your embrace. You rock me to sleep moaning a deep guttural sound that could only come from the deep of the forest whose mysteries we can only fathom now that we know where the pandemic has come from.
Soon I am asleep and later awake to the tidings of things you left behind. Things which are distillations of you. You are gone, again. This time though, I know where to find you, as I walk barefoot to the garden, undress and run, past the shrubs and the trees deep into the forest, to find you and be with you, forever.
About the Author:
Shalom Galve Aranas is a freelance writer published in The Blue Nib, Enchanted Conversations, St. Andrews and elsewhere. She is a loving, single mother of two.