Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
It’s funny, isn’t it?
How our brains can capture a memory so vividly that every time you look at something, you think of it, crystalized in violet?
The tree that connected our yards stood tall and proud, elongated and elegant. Its branches stretched out towards the sky, our very own beanstalk to climb. Its roots dug under the sidewalk and split it open with lightning. We leaned against it and scrambled up it and swung from it, seeing which of us could reach the highest branch.
When we were eight, I laid underneath the tree, staring up at the clouds. Dessie sat on a branch, her legs dangling, hair frizzed, smile wide. It was months before the game of chicken, years before the migraines. It was beautiful.
"If you had a weapon--" she said, swinging her legs back and forth as she stared down at me from far above, "--what type would it be?"
I watched her. "What do you mean?"
"Like in all those adventure books," she said, reaching her arms up and grabbing the branch above her. She pulled herself up to stand on the branch she was on, balancing easily with a bored expression on her face. "What type would you have? Like a sword, or a bow, or an ax or something."
"I dunno," I replied. "I'd probably have a gun."
She made a face at me. "You're no fun," she complained.
"I'd always win," I pointed out.
"The storm troopers had guns and they always lost," she argued back. She balanced on her tiptoes as she walked around the tree to step onto a higher branch, perching like a bird mid-flight.
"Yeah, but the Jedi had lightsabers, that's different."
"Lightsabers are just swords that glow!" She said incredulously, then let go of the branch to mimic swinging a lightsaber, making a bad imitation of the noise to go along with it.
"No, the lightsabers have the force!" I argued, sitting up and cocking my head upwards to keep watching her.
"No they didn't! The Jedi had the force to help them with the lightsabers! The lightsabers could be used by anybody, stupid! So," she continued, holding herself up like a child on monkey bars and swinging her legs through the air in boredom, "you would choose a sword."
"I would choose a gun," I repeated.
"That's not an option!"
"You said any weapon!"
She groaned in exasperation and said, "Well obviously I didn't mean, like, any weapon!"
I smiled a little. When she saw it, she rolled her eyes and was about to make a retort when something snapped. She plummeted to the ground, the broken-off tree branch still clutched in her hand. She landed hard on her arm and immediately cried out.
I shot to my feet. "Are you okay?"
She was crying hard and clutching her arm. She couldn't seem to push words out. I ran to her front door and banged on it. "Ms. Wilson?" I called out desperately.
Her mother answered the door. "Clayton, is everything--"
"Dessie fell out of the tree," I said, and she hurried past me, gasping when she saw Dessie on the ground. She pulled out her phone and dialed 911.
The ambulance got there in less than five minutes. The siren hurt my ears. They loaded her up quickly. By that time, her dad was outside too, and my parents were ushering me back inside our house.
"Is she gonna be okay?" I asked.
"She'll be fine, honey," my mom said worriedly. "Let's just go inside now, alright?"
Dessie broke her arm that day. And when she was in the hospital, her grandma brought her lots of candy, and her grandpa bought her a toy lightsaber--
"One that really glows!" She exclaimed giddily when she proudly showed it off, swishing it around with one arm, the other in a cast. I was in her hospital room, alone with her. Our parents had gone to get coffee.
"See? HIYA!" She pretended to stab me, and I yelled out, then fell backwards, pretending to be dead. She giggled as I stood up again, putting the lightsaber down. "Do you want any chocolate?" She asked, reaching her good arm over to grab a candy bar. "My grandma got me tons! You know, this whole hospital thing really isn't that bad!"
She tore open the candy bar and took a big chomp out of it, talking through a mouthful. "I's really gud achully!"
I reached for a candy bar and she said, "No!" She swallowed a big bite of chocolate and said, "You didn't break your arm!"
"You just said I could have some!" I said.
"No, I asked if you wanted any," she laughed, before taking another big bite out of the chocolate bar. "Bi' diffwence," she declared loudly. The door to the room opened as her parents began walking in. She held her good arm out, hand clawed like she was trying to use the force as she narrowed her eyes in concentration. "Boom!" She yelled loudly, and her mom jumped.
"Desdemona!" Her mom complained, "You nearly made me spill my coffee!"
"Do you know what that was?" Dessie declared, staring at me triumphantly as she lowered her voice and said gleefully, "I just blew your brains up."
"Dessie!" Her mom scolded, "don't be so gross."
"I thought we said no more chocolate," her dad sighed, walking forward and pulling the bar away from her. She reached her hand out after it, chasing it vainly.
"Aww, come on!" She complained. "It was just one more bite."
He held the bar up and looked at her with his eyebrows raised. "You ate half the bar."
She grinned bashfully. "Oops." But she looked back at me, and I could see that gleam in her eyes, and I knew. And she knew. And we both knew together.
My brain has captured that memory so vividly that every time I look at that tree, I think of that moment, crystalized in violet. I think of that fall, the ambulance, the loud siren. I think of the giggles and words around mouthfuls of chocolate. Swishing noises as the lightsaber cut through the air-- hand outstretched to blow my brains up.
I can't drive down that street without seeing her there, sitting in those branches, watching me with bright gleaming eyes. That sly grin. And when I pass it, I know. And I hope that out there somewhere, she knows too. I hope that we both know together.
It’s funny, isn’t it?
I appreciate all feedback, and would love to hear it all, but I especially love hearing about how the piece makes you feel, your theories on what it means and its implications for the story, and your opinions. Thank you for reading!