Frayed Memories

April 28, 2010
It was the last place I wanted to be, but the only place I was allowed to go. It was July of 2009 and my uncle was getting married. Though it may seem like a rather happy event in life from an outside perspective, it was not exactly that in reality. And this is not because I wish him ill; on the contrary, he used to be one of my best friends, one of the people who really knew me and knew me well. But that all changed, made proof by this marriage. For he was not marrying any ordinary woman, rather he was marrying my worst nightmare. Everything she did, still does, got on my nerves; she was arrogant and self-centered, a know-it-all and the most obnoxious self-righteously proclaimed feminist who would settle for nothing less than being waited on hand and foot, and worst of all, she stole my name. I actually did not fully comprehend why I was even there, considering that eight months prior, she had told me that marriage was degrading to women. To top off this entire suckfest, they backhandedly designated me as the gratis family wedding photographer. I did not want to be there for the ‘union ceremony’ in the first place, and now I had to watch intently from the sidelines through my lens, never looking away so as to miss a moment to allow me to spit the inevitable bile that would arise from my stomach. A bra-less, forty-year-old woman with a bull-like ring through her septum and hair strongly resembling Carrot Top was the last thing I wanted to stare at all afternoon.

As soon as I arrived at my uncle’s house, I slipped off my shoes and told my parents I would be back soon. They gave me a pitying smile and told me not to go too far because the “erm—event” would start soon. As a quickly pivoted and hesitated before taking off across the lawn, I heard Jenny asking where I was going, I had work to do, who was going to pick the flowers for the table? I darted towards my uncle’s half mile driveway and began my walk to a piece of land across the street my uncle had bought a couple years back. I climbed down the rocks to reach the shallow stream at the bottom of this down-sized model of the Grand Canyon and sat atop a protruding rock, poking my toes into the water, watching the ripples softly crash into the edge of the rocks surrounding the water. I don’t recall how long I sat there, yanking grass from beside me, shredding it into a pile in my lap, but at some point I decided I had to be less selfish, less pouty; I had to be less Jenny and more Genny. I had to suck it up and do what had to be done, do what made my family happy, even if that was not always their shared mentality.

I hopped to my feet, tastefully clamoring back up the rocks in my floral dress, and crossed the road. I stood at the head of the driveway, breathing deeply, staring down its length to see Jenny directing my family’s every move, continuing to be task-free. As I was about to take my first, very hard, step towards the house, the first step of my walk of bitterness and teen angst, I quickly glanced to my right. I had forgotten all about it, as most people do, most people over the age of thirteen. In the wide open space of my uncle’s half-acre front yard was a single tree, roughly ten yards from where I was standing, a gorgeous, strong, tall oak tree that stood out so much from all the towering Evergreens bordering my uncle’s land. I walked with tender steps, as to not harm the beautiful life in front of me, slowly closing the space between us.

I sat at the base of the tree, facing its rough exterior. I examined every inch of that old, worn surface that filled my vision. The knots, the gnarls of the tree made it that much more beautiful and I ran my fingers down its bark until I reached a rope. The rope was dirty, frayed, and had numerous knots tied within its body. It was attached one end to a withering, torn tire resting against the trunk of the tree; the other end had become unattached from a thick branch hovering above, the rope having broken due to being tugged, pulled, used, and then forgotten for so long. I remember playing on that tire swing; I was practically glued to it during the summers. Every summer, my parents used to send my brother and me to up-state New York to visit my uncle. It had been some of the best times of my young life; he taught me to fish, to kayak, let me drive my first boat, and most of all, he set up an old fashioned tire swing that I had consistently begged him for around the age of six. I spent hours on that swing, singing songs I made up spontaneously, reading my first chapter book, eating lunch. But then he started dating Jenny, and things changed. I didn’t get sent up there anymore. She didn’t think it was appropriate; she said they needed their privacy and that she did not need unruly children running about the house. That’s when I stopped swinging; that’s when the rope broke.

I sat in the grass in my dress, still, toes in the earth, staring at the aging rope. I fingered the rubber remains of the decaying tire, shreds coming off in chunks into my palm. Every once in a while, my eyes would venture beyond the tree, beyond the tire and the rope, beyond the tie which had broken, and I would see my uncles “partner”-to-be standing on the porch. She frantically waved her arms, shouting about vases or bees and that I have to do something about it or something of the sort, and beckoned me. But I turned my focus back to the tree, to my tree; I concentrated on where its roots were, where my roots were, and I let the house fall out of focus.

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