The Forest

February 7, 2011
I was lying on my bed looking out the window when the rain started. It was that sudden kind of rain, the type where the clouds roll into a previously clear sky in minutes, and in a split second previously clear air is filled with fast, hard pelting raindrops. It didn’t last long; the clouds unleashed themselves in a fury whose duration was about ten minutes, and as suddenly as it started, the rain stopped, and save for the wet ground and water dripping from leaves, there was no evidence it had ever happened.

It reminded me of what had happened earlier, and I walked outside, looking for a trace of the discord that had swept through only minutes earlier. I was overly aware of my feet as they stepped through wet grass, crushing the trace remains of the previous chaos. I cupped my palms below leaves, hoping to catch enough water to convince myself that what had happened had been real. But the water ran off my hands and soaked into the ground, and eventually the only drops that remained were the ones leaking from my eyes.

It had been raining the night it all started, in early April, but it was more of a steady drizzle than a furious downpour. I remember worrying about my hair then, and how the raindrops would deflate it. I was struggling with a ponytail to hold my wet locks as I walked, and without noticing it I walked straight into a person, and fell backwards.

The first I saw of him was his hand, extended toward me in a gesture of either friendship or politeness; at the time I wasn’t sure which. I gratefully accepted it, pulled myself back into a standing position, and turned to go.

I felt a hand touch gently on my shoulder. “Wait,” he said, his eyes sparkling and his mouth smiling. “Can I walk with you?” I nodded, he smiled again, and so we walked. I was drawn in by his broad smile and the beauty of his dark eyes, and I wonder now if he had been less beautiful whether things would have turned out the way they did.

Thus it began, and from that night on we were together. I remember the immense happiness infused in our time together, but considering the end result of that joy, had I the option to go back and erase that time from my life, perhaps I would do so. I suppose all good things must eventually come to their close.

I stood in front of the trees, taking in their water-darkened trunks and dripping leaves. Perhaps an impartial observer would see the evidence of rainfall, but would he see the furiousness of the pelting raindrops, the intensity of the storm? He would not. Only the trees held this knowledge, not sharing their memories. I behaved the same way.

It was after a month of being together that our relationship progressed physically. “I love you,” he whispered in the midst of the act, his body warm against mine. I did not respond but for a gasp of surprise that he mistook for pleasure, and so we did not discuss it further. Perhaps he had not meant his statement to carry significance, but as I thought about it after the fact, I realized how heavily the words weighed on my mind.

It has been said that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. As I lay next to him, I pondered whether I felt the same love that he did. As I stood before the trees, I knew that I had, and that the same love still resided within me. My question for the trees was whether the loss that came with that love was better than love’s absence.

We were young, and we were reckless in every sense of the word, both sexually and in our outside life. As with many young, reckless people, our relationship was fast-paced, intense, and over quickly. Had love not been introduced into the equation, perhaps the feelings would have faded as quickly as the duration of our time together was brought to a close.

Our sexual relationship, quickly as it had developed, soon also took on the sense of risk. This was often established in the complete lack of a birth control method. Young as we were, we believed ourselves to be immune to any trouble that might come from these actions, and it was for this reason that when I noticed my stopped cycle I was so reluctant to admit it.

I let it go longer than I might have had I been more a sensible person. Over two weeks passed before I began to worry, and it was another two weeks from then that I finally was in a pharmacy, clutching a plastic bag whose contents, unassuming as they looked, had my pulse racing and my fingernails drawing blood from my palms.

I walked into the store bathroom covered in a sheen of cold sweat. Glancing around quickly to assure I didn’t know anyone in the vicinity, I walked into a stall, slamming the door shut so hard that the stall walls shook.

I pried my fingers off of the bag’s handle and shook out the box inside of it. My fingers trembled as I opened the cardboard flap and lifted out the thin plastic stick inside. Eyes shut and fingers crossed, I stuck the end of it beneath me and peed.

Once I was done, I placed the stick facing down on the floor. I took my time buttoning my pants, checking twice to be sure the zipper was closed all the way. I held down the flush handle longer than I needed to. I clasped my hands together and muttered a quick prayer. Hands shaking and heart pounding, I picked up the stick and turned it over slowly.

A small pink plus symbol stared back at me. My hands dropped instantly to my stomach. I blinked, rubbed a hand over my eyes to be sure I was seeing correctly. Tears sprang to my eyes, and screwing my eyes shut, I wished as hard as I could for the situation to just go away. I wonder now if I hadn’t wished so hard whether things would have turned out the way they did.

The trees before me, my hands dropped to my stomach once more, still as flat as it had been that day in the pharmacy bathroom. Tears sprang to my eyes for the opposite reason that they had in the pharmacy, feeling the vacuity of my body.

I had planned to tell him our impending problem the next day. He had been acting strangely, and I wondered if he had guessed what I had in store for him. Anxiety filled my mind, and I wasn’t sure how to phrase the words. But before I could say anything, he began to speak.

We had been walking on a forest path, rocks and trees roots impeding our steps. Both of us had been unusually quiet, so I saw his opening words as a relief for a few brief moments.

“I need to talk to you,” he said, and I nodded. “I’m not sure if we’re right together,” he said, his once beautiful dark eyes seeming suddenly cold and unfeeling.

“What?” I said dumbly, stopping in my tracks, utterly bewildered. He stopped beside me and took my hand.

He cleared his throat and looked down uncomfortably. “Would you mind if we were just friends?” he asked, biting his lip.

“Does it matter if I mind?” I snapped, wrenching my hand from his grip, tears building behind my cold glare.

He placed a hand on my shoulder, and I shrugged away from it. Whirling around, I began to walk quickly, disbelief clouding my mind and tears clouding my vision, paying no attention to where I was going.

“Watch out!” he cried suddenly, but it reached my ears too late. I wonder now if I hadn’t reacted so suddenly and so strongly whether things would have turned out the way they did.

I tripped over a protruding tree root on the path and pitched forward. Too surprised to react, I did not regain my balance, and hit my head with a dull thump on a large, sharp rock.

Standing, I stared at the trees as water dripped from their leaves, wondering if there were anywhere to place blame. Was I to blame for not looking where I was going? Was he to blame for surprising me in an area wrought with ways to injure oneself? Was the forest to blame for growing its roots in my path?

My first memory of the hospital was awakening with a jerk, sure that everything that had happened had been merely a nightmare. I blinked rapidly, confused as to my surroundings. A nurse hurried over to me, telling me to lie down and go back to sleep. I asked her what had happened and where I was, and as she described what I already knew to me, the horrible realization hit that it had not been a nightmare.

My hands dropped to my stomach as I lay in the hospital bed, searching frantically. “What happened to my baby?” I asked her. “Where’s my baby?” I began to scream and didn’t stop until a doctor hurried over with an injection, and slowly I felt myself drift back to sleep.

It was explained to me later that in the case of serious head trauma, the body’s natural reactions are provoked. I had, shortly after hitting my head, lost control of internal muscles. My womb had let go, triggering miscarriage.

He had tried to visit me in the hospital after my condition had stabilized. He stood beside the bed holding my hand and stroking my hair, and as I looked deep into his beautiful dark eyes, I pictured them on a child. I jerked away from his touch, my hands clutching my stomach, and once more I screamed. He didn’t come to visit me after that.

The day I was released from the hospital, my doctor explained to me that she was legally required to obtain my permission before telling anyone about my baby. “You would do well to tell your parents,” she said. “It must be difficult for you. You’ll need someone to talk to.”

I shook my head. “No,” I said, trying to conceal the sadness in my voice. “No, it was for the best.” She had looked at me with pity on her face, and I had frowned. “I’ll be fine,” I said, almost shouting, defiance masking my upset. I said it again, because I wanted to believe it. “I’ll be fine.”

He had called me after I was released. He wanted to know if I was all right. He wanted to know why I had screamed at the sight of him. I had answered in a monotone. Yes, I was fine. No, I don’t know why I did that. No, I didn’t mean it.

The longer I talked to him, the more difficult it became to control my emotions. My eyes watered, my voice broke a few times, and I sniffed, but when he asked, I resumed my monotone. No, I wasn’t crying.

His concern over me broke my heart. I wasn’t the important part of the equation. He had no idea what he had lost. He would never miss what I continued to long for.

Quietly, I let myself betray emotion for the first time in the conversation. “Please don’t contact me,” I said, my voice shaking, and I put the phone down gently. He didn’t call again after that.

Standing here, condensation from the rain misting over the leaves and my skin, only the trees will bear witness to my tears. The pain from the loss of love consuming me, only the trees will see me breaking down. Looking at the water dripping from leaves, who would guess what had happened? The fury of the storm was over. Only the trees held knowledge of what had happened, and their steady trunks revealed nothing.

I forced myself to turn away and walk back towards the house. I was the trees, letting the ferocity of the storm drip off of me. I was the ground, absorbing the hits soundlessly. I was the forest in the aftermath of rain. In time, no evidence remained of what had happened. Wiping a stray tear, I whispered to myself, “I’ll be fine.”

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