I remember when I first beheld you. You were such a tiny creature, crawling and learning to walk in the lush, thick grass that surround me, so that you would not hurt yourself when you fell. You tried so vainly to wrap your little arms around me. And year after year, you would try, and your friends would tease you about being a tree-hugger, and you would never mind. Then, I knew, you would become someone special to me.
Every time you went away, you would always come back. The days you came back and leaned on me were to me the brightest, sweetest days. The loveliest hours passed by as you told me of the places you had vacationed to – the fantastic, faraway secrets eternally beyond my reach. I had rued often my inability to travel, but you became my eyes, and brought me such delights. You did not know how your reminiscences meant such adventures to me! But the sparkle has gone out of your eyes; they have closed for both you and me.
Now you’ve climbed up into my canopy again. Ah! But you’ve abandoned that activity ages ago! When your parents dissuade you as you clamber up my torso for blossoms to weave in your hair, juicy fruits to relish in. Then, you would rest at my feet, protected from the glare of the sun in my shade. You would read, or doze, and grow.
And grow you did, budding into a beautiful young creature. The boys would line up all around in hopes of catching your eye, winning your smile. There were a few lucky ones that you favoured, and those you would bring to me. I was gratified, for I felt as if you were seeking my approval, though I understand your potentials probably thought of me as more a romantic rendezvous.
Oh, the outrage, the betrayal, that I am to be the instrument of your demise!
And the first time, every time, one of those boys upset you, you would water me with your tears. You would stroke my bark so tenderly, and croon, and wish – wish that you could find a man like me, sturdy, upright, reliable. Like me, always here when you need me, strong and silent. Solid and simple. I don’t need to be an ironwood to see, and despair at the irony. Like me, you say? Like me, yet never me.
Still, to me none of them was enough for you. They were all fickle and brittle, and I worry – worried – that they would fall victim to the wind. They were liable to be enticed to heeding her call and wander, or her gust would be too strong for them that they snap. Then where would that leave you? And I fervently wished that you would not settle for them, but this? You should not have settled for this.
Though I expected this, there is much more pain than I had imagined. It is more grievous that you should have chosen to shorten our time together, and you used me for that purpose. I knew I would outlive you, but now, beyond cutting a gap in me, you have inserted beetles into the wound. They would be gnawing me inside, straight into my not-so-wooden heart. Compared to you, I am almost immortal, and I see before me a lifetime of permanent sorrow that you have created by ending your short, vibrant life.
It wasn’t an unfamiliar noise. Oft my branches would fall from decay, or lightening would strike, chipping away here and there. They make that sound when feet trod over them.
And this time, it came too late for you.
The pain from my splintered limb was nothing compared to the numbing agony caused by the sight of your once-lively, once-mobile body falling to the ground.
The rope trailed behind you like a last farewell as gravity embraced you.
And last to follow, my broken bough at the end of the rope, having given away to your deadening weight.
I only regret that my old frail limb held out so long – long enough to stop your breath so efficiently.
My breath will keep going. My roots and leaves will continue to breathe for me, making food for me, keeping me alive, for decades and decades to come – a period that now seems unbearably long.
And into the morning, I will watch over you as I once did, for I never shall again. You will sleep in my shelter, more peacefully than you have ever slumbered beneath me. Until they find you, we will share our last night together, and I shall cherish every moment of this. For in those years to come, I will be reliving my memories of you, over and over again.