October 16, 2007
By Sterlyn Gately, Bryant, AR

There lay a tree. A Chestnut with a mighty trunk. Its overhanging branches would sway in the cool autumn breeze and occasionally a leaf would embark from its resting place to be reborn another day. The sun resting high in the sky was an orange orb, casting shadows from the tree’s branches onto two figures below seeking a haven from the day’s events.
They sat peacefully within the grooves of the trunk, seeming as though it had been placed there specifically for them. She lay close to him, her head on his chest engulfing it with flowing, brown hair. Her deep brown eyes stared into his mysterious green ones. The entire scene was so picturesque and silent. Nothing seemed to interrupt the flow of time and nature.
He looked down at her and began to speak. As the words began to form around his mouth an explosion sounded off in the distance. It was a harsh roaring sound shaking the entire inside and outside of his body. The noise felt so close to home. A flash of light and suddenly nothing. The smell of daffodil rising from the serene wind and the warmth of her touch pressing ever close to him.
Another flash. He was now staring into the face of a young, dark-haired man; his face thin and narrow portraying a sense of grace and respect. Everything from his long hair to his thin eyebrows seemed to fit proportionally like when a sculptor spends hours trying to make the tiniest details fall in place. The most noticeable aspect of this character his eyes, were the lightest shade of green and capable of calming all within their gaze. The ensuing thunder resonated from the inside and shook the shelves adorning the wall next to him.
Gabe stared intently at his reflection, wondering how he had let the scene dissipate just as it had done before. He hated feeling like this, everything and everyone seemed so far away. They were changing and adapting, while he sat in an unwavering environment unable to escape its hold.
Turning away from the window, he immediately is enveloped by the lights and sounds of his parents’ house. He hated this place. Every scratch in the paint and mark on the floor depicted memories, ones he wanted to forget. Bright, colored balloons floated aimlessly around, carried by the winds from a portable fan. They bump passed a banner painted with odd shapes and party hats. In the center it reads “Happy Birthday,” and beneath it various family members congregate, discussing news just heard.
Gabe didn’t feel like being around them all. So happy and joyous they were, smiling through their perfect, white teeth. Everything about them was insignificant to the actual events of life. As the rain pelted the window he made his way towards the center.
“Hey Gabriel, how old are you,” shouted his young blonde-headed cousin.
He kept walking and pretended to not hear him as he braced to pass by his excessively over-weight aunt. Fortunately she was too occupied with the different variations of cheese, meats, and crackers to notice him. His mom leaned over their old cherry-wood table. She was placing candles in a massive chocolate cake with chocolate icing, and white letters reading “Happy 27th Birthday Gabe.” He counted the candles, only 26, thankfully her lack of details and inability to numerically add did not pass on to him. She wore a dressy, red outfit complimenting her eyes and spoke with a sweat voice contrasting the many years she’s lived.
Gabe sat at the front of the table and was engulfed by the sights and smells of his odd family. The candles were lit and in the middle shone the 27th candle he’s been looking for. Alone it stood there. Surrounded on all sides by others but completely isolated from the rest.
“Happy Birthday to you,” the monotonic voices trailed off as he focused on the single candle. That was the one he blew out first. The fire left that one the quickest and all others seem to fade away with it.
After the ceremonious tunes and traditional gifts, Gabe sought refuge next to the window again. His haven from the meaningless conversations about the same family matters that no one really cared about, but everyone seemed to mention.
“So I here, Jack’s back in college; studying to be an architect.”
Who cares about Jack and his third attempt at college? He looked out into the cold, voided night thinking of nothing but her. He was 23 when they met, she was 20. Things now, seem blurry compared to the clear vivid times when they were together. Emotions flood through his veins as her image floods through his mind. The memories shared with her are now painful to bear, but the fact that they would never experience another one was worse.
He couldn't just sit there and allow his life to fade away. He had to do something. Standing up and grabbing his keys, Gabe makes his way towards the door, away from the noise, away from the lights, and away from these mindless people.
His mom must have known he was about to do something for the moment he stood, she made her way to the door to block his exit. Determination set in her mind, she will not permit her son to do something drastic.
“You're not leaving, I won't let you,” his mom states.
“I'm sorry but this is something I have to do.”
“You don't have to, she's gone. You need to come to that realization Gabe. I did.”
“No!” he shouts, drawing the attention of all in the room, “you let dad go. You never once stopped him from leaving, and I'm not going to let you stop me.”
“Please don't do this, you're wasting your time.”
“Mother get out of my way, I'm leaving.”
Nervous looks from the rest of the family go back and forth between the two like in a game of table tennis. She stares into his eyes, her eyes. She knew there was nothing that could be done. She averts her eyes and he steps around her to open the door.
Walking down the steps away from the two story, red-bricked house, Gabe makes his way to the white 2001 Honda Accord waiting for him in the driveway. The footprints of his size 10 shoe stay behind and fill with muddy water as he treks across the yard. He fumbles with the slippery metal keys and eventually finds the right one to open the door.
He steps in and takes a deep breath trying to relax from the nerves and stress set in from the current events. He begins to panic just like when he was a kid. Everything boiling inside of him ready to release. Barely opening the door fast enough, brown, chocolate chunks covers the ground while a sour, bitter taste feels his mouth and burns his throat. Taking a moment, he evaluates himself. Feeling capable of moving on, he sticks his keys into the ignition, backs out of the driveway, and accelerates from the home of his child, unknowing and unaware of where he was going.

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