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A Restless Thing
My fingers itch. The breath of a looming winter tickles my skin. The chill kisses my cheeks. I can feel the roses blooming there, pricking with the remaining heat my body can muster.
My steps fall faster to the sidewalk. My feet work in tandem with the palpitations of my heart—quick, clicking, erratic. My fingertips go numb, and I clench my fists, dig my nails into my palms to regain sensation. I can taste raw, metallic fear in my mouth.
Or I’m going to it.
Here it is—I force my eyes forward—don’t look, Lilly, don’t look.
But this restless feeling rises, relentless—and my eyes fall to my right, find it.
There is nothing, not anymore. Nothing. No thing. A shiver ripples through me at the phrase. No thing.
And yet it stands, haunting, in my memory, clear as ever: the screeching of cars passing on the road, matching the screams splintering my mind. The mangled body of a goose strewn across the sidewalk. Its spine bent in a gruesome, unnatural way. Its wings flattened by the tires of careless vehicles, crushed into the soil beneath. Its bruised innards lying exposed to the sky. Its skin crusted with gore. Its blood gathering in a pool underneath and around.
That was a year ago. It is gone now, perhaps rotted and mixed in with the soil, the grass—but still I break into a run each time I reach the place where its body lay. I fear its distorted body will somehow piece together and follow me—or drag me down with it, into the soil, into nothing.
For surely it does not have peace, not when it met such a brutal end. Surely it misses its family? Its previous life? What did it feel when it died? Anger? Sadness? Indifference? Or did it have time to feel only a blank fear?
And what of the killer, if one could call it that? Did the driver feel guilt for what he or she had done?
Surely not. The goose was beaten in so many places, torn asunder so horrifically—it could not have been the doing of one driver, one car.
A fiery irritation flares within me, somewhere deep in my chest. I grip the straps of my backpack. My teeth grit together. I am ashamed of us, what we are capable of. We are not so much capable of extreme intelligence as we are of inordinate complacency and cruelty.
I turn into the development, leaving a trail of this blazing, anchoring feeling in my path. I grimace at the hallmarks of civilization as they stand in all of their repugnant pride. The houses that line the streets stare emptily—silently—back at me. The people are no where to be seen. But the evidence of their very existence is everywhere to be found.
It is in the trimmed, tamed grass that lines the houses so neatly. It is in the hacked trunks of trees that lie on the side of the road, dead and waiting—but without hope—for redemption. It is in the cracked earth that sits, prostrate, with mouths open toward the sky, waiting for rain, for a reassurance from God that He has not abandoned them—not quite, not yet.
They—these people—we are forever throwing the rest of the world away, forever taming, oppressing, killing. Taming, as if the rest of the world is inferior.
I let out a strident sigh, passing under a canopy of trees. In spite of everything, my anger erodes away. It is difficult to be angry here. Tender ribbons of sunlight are thrown across, down, and through the veil of leaves. The trees whisper to each other words that are like caresses.
History breathes here. It thrives on the barks and within the trunks of these trees. It stirs, restless, longing to be known. I can smell it, this deep-rooted, grounded aroma. My fingers itch once more, but from wonder this time. I bring them to the wrinkled bark of a tree. What has this tree seen and what people have seen it? Did a sixteen-year-old girl ever happen upon it and pause to marvel at its beauty as I do now? I leave the tree, my fingers tingling, feeling consecrated.
Oh, what the others miss. They immure themselves within those walls they call safety, and fail to realize that the greatest things are out here and worth the risk.
I stop. I stand before the concrete stairs that lead to my door. I bend down to see more clearly what has caught my eye.
Between the cemented stairs, a disinterred flower withers away, limp and lifeless. I can almost taste its agitation, its want to shoot up and revel in its own glory and to tame the others.
But, no. I pick it up and place it back into the soil, where it can grow again, slowly, slowly. And when the flower is standing once more, a sliver of sunlight plays on its petals. Already, it is regaining life. The Earth has pieced itself together, healed itself. Slowly, slowly it heals.