I couldn’t help but look around in awe. The trees looked so beautiful as the light shimmered through the gaps in the leaves. It was April, and the flowers were in full bloom throughout the undergrowth of the forest. Thistles, eager to grab at my skin and clothes, stood defiantly upright, proud to show off their purple flowers. The floating seeds of recently bloomed dandelions floated on the breeze, turning bright golden when they were covered with the sun’s rays. While the flowers were eager to show off their flamboyant heads, the humble grass was content to be overlooked. I liked the grass. It was just like me. Proud to be what it was and durable enough to be walked all over.
I ambled through the trees with no destination in mind. Only the trees and grasses kept me company. Occasionally the wind would whisper in my ear, but it never stayed long enough for me to whisper back to it. That was the worst part of the wind, it was only there long enough to be missed, and then it left. Just like him.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a flash of movement. Fear shot through my heart, though I didn’t know what I was supposed to be scared of. I slowly turned my head towards the movement and I was just able to catch the silhouette of a rabbit before it ran behind a tree. I decided to try to spy on the rabbit some more.
I got down on my belly and started to crawl towards the tree it was behind. The grass was smooth on my arms and legs. Blades of grass tickled the spaces between my toes and my nostrils. The smell was sweet, dirty and fecund. I crawled on my elbows, swaying as I moved from my right to my left and back again. The grass was a soft cushion under my elbows, but small rocks and sticks scratched my skin. In the pleasure of my surroundings, the pain of the insignificant seemed so much greater than it was.
Once I got to the base I saw a dark thin line squirm around near the base of the tree. Distracted from my original objective I decided to check it out. It was a line of carpenter ants walking down the tree to their nest. They carried little pieces of leaves, sticks and bugs down into the hole. I assume they get turned into food or plaster for the walls. It was kind of brutal, but so was life.
One of the ants was walking in a zig-zag pattern. It looked lost and confused among the hundreds of other ants in single file. I couldn’t get close enough to see what was wrong with it. I couldn’t help but watch as some of the larger ants walked towards it. These ants had larger teeth and legs than the injured ant. They seemed determined in their actions and they didn’t hesitate to begin tearing the injured ant to pieces. They then picked up its body parts and fell back into line. That was all it took. Any vulnerability was an excuse to kill something.
He crept back into my head. The screamnig, the violence… the sex. I began to feel empty and cold, like a porcelain doll. Cold, broken, unloved. I hated those ants and I hated him.
I stood up, brushed the leaves from my dress, and walked around the tree. The rabbit sprinted away as soon as I came around the edge. I ran after it as hard as I could. I didn’t know what I would do if I caught it, but I planned on catching it. Maybe I would put it out of its misery. Wasn’t a merciful death an acceptable one? I didn’t think I would ever know. The living will never know the consequences of death.
My legs carried me at a speed I had never experienced before. My whole body was in sharp pain. My lungs burned, my eyes filled with tears from the wind and the pain, my teeth felt like they were going to crack, but it all felt so good. This was my own pain, pain that I had created and unleashed on myself. It felt good to choose to be in pain. It felt good to be in control.
I finally came to a stop at the side of a creek. I fell down into the sticky mud and cried. I sobbed and shook and heaved on the ground. In between sobs I sucked air into my body, trying to keep myself alive as the pain swallowed me up. I must have cried for half an hour. My eyes were swollen and red, my nose was stuffed. The mud was thoroughly caked in my hair, in my dress, and in between my teeth. I looked like a crazy, mud covered, animal without a doubt.
Once I could finally stand I walked over to the creek and looked at the water. In between the small ripple made by the current, I saw that I did in fact look like an animal. My dress was stained and ruined. I slipped the straps off of my shoulder and watched the dress fall off of my body into a muddy heap.
Where the dress had been I was naked and pale off-white. I was like aged ivory, slightly browned with age. It made for a stark contrast against my blackened extremities. I made a weak practiced smile at the person looking back at me. I kicked my dress into the creek and watched the ripples dance away downstream. That was where I decided to go next.
I followed the winding creek bed downstream, squishing the mud between my toes with every step. The mud sucked on my feet as I took each step. My pace was slow, but steady in the mire. I followed my new path for hours, until I reached the lake it drained into. The trees were thick near the lake’s edge and it took a lot of effort to move past them, but once I made it through the foliage I saw a beautiful scene.
Sun was just beginning to set. Purple, orange and maroon colors splayed across the sky like the prettiest painting I had ever seen. The moon was full and set perfectly against the background of the sky. It all seemed too beautiful to be real. I stood there watching the sun go through its slow death, until if finally set behind the trees.
Once the sun had gone down I became aware of how cold I was. My nakedness and the shin deep water were quickly sapping the heat from my body. I wrapped my arms around my chest and my body began to shiver. The wind died down and the stars began to twinkle against the black canvas of the infant night. It was all so beautiful, so cold, so uncaring. Nature cared nothing for me, and yet it seemed to be beautifully crafted just for me.
I must have subconsciously known where I was going when I started walking through the forest, because the decision to begin walking towards the center of the lake didn’t seem like a rash one. It seemed natural and premeditated, like the setting sun.
By the time I was up to my breasts I was shivering uncontrollably. Goosebumps covered my arms, my legs and the back of my neck. When it became too deep to walk on the bottom I began to swim with strokes made short and twitchy by the overwhelming shivering. My breathing was quick, but shallow. The water that splashed onto my head made my scalp go numb.
Nearly half way to the center I started to feel cramping in my thighs. My right leg was the first to seize up. It felt like I was going to tear the muscles right off of the bone. After that my calves cramped tight. My legs were tightly clenched against my will, but it didn’t reduce the pain. For a flash I was overcome with fear. Did I really want to die? It was so permanent. Maybe I could swim back or hold my breath and float. I began to thrash around when I took the first mouth full of water into my lungs.
The acceptance of my fate came with that first mouth full of water. I was going to die. I was going to kill myself. I was going to have my lungs fill with water and I was going to drown. That was just how it was going to be. Once more the thought of him came flooding back into my head. I hated that man. I hated him so much. It was nice to know that unlike everything he had done to me, my death was entirely my choice.
As I began to sink under water I had one more memory come into my head. It was the first time that I had kissed him. It was the first time I had loved anyone and it was the first time I had ever felt loved back. I still loved that side of him. Maybe I would see him on the other side.
She closed her eyes and fell still. If she hadn’t been underwater you could have seen tears of regret, of relief, of love, and of hatred as they flowed out of the corners of her eyes.