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The Boy and the Flower
They tell me my thoughts are wild, crazy. “Your mouth will be the death of you,” Mother never fails to remind me. After years of being stared down by the cynical eyes of my community, I learned to keep quiet. The pounding voices in my head make this a near-impossible task. They won’t leave me alone, whispering to me as I try to rest, gradually growing louder and louder until my sheets are soaked through with sweat. There's more beyond the boundaries…
“Stop,” I mumbled desperately as I gasped for breath. Allow yourself to wonder… “Stop!” Silence encapsulated the room for a moment before the worried whispers of Mother and Father break the stillness. I squeezed my eyes shut to escape to utter darkness and faked my rest when I heard the slight creak of the door. Remaining still, I turned my attention towards their murmurs.
“He worries me,” I heard Mother say quietly.
“I understand, I will talk to him come dawn,” Father responded. I carefully opened my eyes to make out the figures standing just beyond my doorway. A single hallway light dimly lit my view. Mother was dressed in silk, just barely skimming the freshly polished floors. Her hair was tightly bonded in hostile elastics, where a single strand would never dare to escape. Her expression was stern, yet the shadowy circles resting below her eyes were much more prominent at night. In daylight she spent hours immersed in her reflection, critiquing each flaw until she was an image of perfection. Father was no different with his hair gelled back despite the late hour, and his sleepwear steamed each night to be rid of creases.
“Thank you,” Mother replied before letting out a faint sigh and following Father back to their room. I sat upright and peered into the darkness, staring at the blank walls. I had once asked Mother why there were no windows in our home.
“Because,” she had replied, “windows allow for looking at the night sky''. She had then placed her pale hand on my cheek, gazing into my hopeful eyes. “And son”, she continued, “the stars lead to questions and wonders about the beyond, and you know just as well as I do, curiosity is selfish. Our community would not thrive if everyone was wondering about the stars and not what was right in front of them; your duties to your neighbors and this family. That’s all that your little mind needs to know”.
Fathers words replayed in my head, I'll talk to him come dawn. This wouldn’t be the first time Father had a chat with me. After years of violating community guidelines by pressing my teachers and parents with questions about the beyond, Father has had many talks with me. Each stricter than the last. The idea of what first light was to bring made my stomach turn. I could feel my heart pulsating as I reflected on our previous talks. His body and voice always composed, yet his words cut through my soul. “You need to take your questions boy, and any ounce of curiosity streaming through your blood, intoxicating your mind, and bury it away… forever."
The point of exhaustion was now far past me as I slipped my feet off the bed. Heading over to my desk I was careful to tread lightly. Gently sliding my hand into the drawer I found the loose panel of wood and moved it aside. Then ever so carefully picked up what I was looking for. Its soft, velvet touch calmed me. I placed it down and flicked on the desk light. I gazed upon it, remembering our first encounter. I was young, 7 years or so, beaming with a desire to learn and know more. I couldn’t contain my curiosity the way I can now and eventually, it took control. I ventured out to the city walls, in broad daylight I must add, an ignorant mistake on my part. I still remember the cold stone against my soft hand, and the energy I could feel on the opposite side. I had pressed my ear against the wall and closed my eyes. The voices in my head were loud, yelling at me…. I had to know more. As I analyzed the wall, looking for a way to cross it I heard distant calls of Father. Before making my way back, I took one last look around, trying to imagine the possibilities of what was unknown. A glint of yellow sprouting from the base of the stone caught my eye. I had never seen such bizarre obscurity. Reaching down, I ripped it from its base and gently placed it in my pocket.
Every night since, for 10 years, I’ve allowed myself to ponder over its beauty. The one time I could let my thoughts run free. The one time I could breathe. Despite my care, its vibrance had dulled, and its luxurious exterior had shriveled into sagging despair. Pieces of it had fallen from its dainty center, however, the relief it gave me never faltered. A faint smile found itself upon my face.
“I’m going back,” I mumbled beneath my breath. I wanted to feel this free, not only in the solitude of a dark room, but surging through my blood. I couldn’t swallow my feelings any longer. They’re getting stronger, much stronger than my ability to hold them down. My excitement took control of my body and guided me through my next steps. I tucked the little, yellow obscurity safely into my pocket and slipped into my boots. I had no plan of what I’d do once reaching the wall, but at the moment I was strictly driven by passion, not structure. Walking down the stairs I was careful, treating each quiet step I took as a success, despite the dreadfully long process. Approaching the bottom I gasped for air not realizing I had been holding it. I reached for the doorknob, adjusting my wrist in a slow circular motion until I heard the click of the lock. Pausing, I waited for the sound to evaporate into the silence. Nothing but my heartbeat stirred the tranquility. I pulled the door open just enough to slip through and closed it gently behind me.
My eyes peered upwards surveying the expanse of the night sky. Its enormity made me question my existence. Why must I be okay with feeling so small when the inscrutable idea of infinity was right above me? It truly perplexed my mind. Before proceeding I turned my head to look behind me. My eyes focused on my home first, then the surrounding houses, each a perfect representation of the last. Beyond the peak of their roofs, a subtle beam of sun cascaded across the horizon. Break of day was approaching and I had a long way ahead of me. I took a deep breath allowing my chest to expand to its limits. Then letting the flow of air naturally escape my body I began to walk.
Time elapsed in intervals. For periods of the trek, my eyes were in control, focused on the details of my surroundings. The moon dimly lit the packed dirt encompassing the entirety of the environment. The city was distinguishable by nothing but a mere speck in the distance, and the cool air was thin and accompanied by a slight breeze. At moments I allowed my mind to wander, while my body continued forward. My thoughts were placid, quieter than usual. I reflected upon the past 17 years of my life. The teachings of my community have suffocated my ability to connect to something greater than life itself. They have blockaded my existence from a deeper purpose. My mind's serenity was interrupted by sudden anger. I have never allowed myself to feel rage towards my life, but in recent thinking, I feel my rage is justified. I’m allowed to be upset, I told myself, I’m allowed to be unsatisfied by the gatekeeping of the beyond. Tonight for one of the first times, my actions felt right. Something deep inside me was praising the direction I chose. In the fleeting moment of passion, I quickened the pace. Mother and Father would be waking soon.
At last, emerging from the blurry view of the dawning sky was the familiar, formidable wall. It was no different than I remembered, daunting me with its enormity, laughing at my insignificance. My depleting energy was revived by sudden adrenaline. I began jogging lightly at first, then lengthened my strides into an unabridged sprint, until I was standing no less than a foot from the barrier. To the left, stone extended farther than my eyes permitted, The right of me, the same. Suddenly, I was taken aback by the realization of my lack of planning. I questioned how I was to make it to the other side. I spent so much time pondering about what was beyond the wall, I failed to remember the physical blockage standing between us. Panic flooded my senses. I began pacing back and forth switching between gnawing at my fingernails and rubbing the sweat from my hands onto my shirt. My thoughts were jumbled, fighting one another to be detangled by my brain. The sun was climbing fast, much faster than my ability to think.
“I can’t go back yet, I can’t go back,” I muttered to myself over and over. My breaths were short, dismissing a steady flow of oxygen to my brain. Dizziness demanded I take a seat. Now grounded, I searched frantically for the one thing I knew would calm me. My sweat-soaked hands rubbed irritably against my jeans as I jammed them into my pocket. I palmed the soft, delicate object and held it out in front of me. I carefully analyzed each of its features until my breathing returned to normal, and my thoughts detangled themselves. I looked at the obscurity pinched between my fingers and then to where the ground met the bottom of the wall. My memory recalled the stock of green left in the ground after I had ripped the object from beneath the stone several years ago.
“You were growing from underneath the ground,” I said to the obscurity in my hand. That means, I thought, I could reach the other side by passing below the wall. I stood up alert, with a plan in place. I rummaged through the small bag I brought in search of something to dig with. Failing to find anything, I decided my hands would have to suffice. The dirt was loose, and easy to pick up. I started right away with little time to waste. The sun continued to rise, racing me against the morning clock.
My focus was linear with a clear goal in mind; make it to the other side before the sun has reached its zenith. I began digging, prowling at the ground with enough intensity to create a human-sized hole, in less than an hour. I continued. The earthly scent of dirt engrossed my senses, nauseating my hungered stomach. In the course of time, the pain agonizing my fingers subsided as my mind slipped away from my body’s actions. I became unaware of the labor I exerted, as my thoughts flooded my brain. What if I was wrong? What if my efforts resulted in the findings of nothing? I shook my head fiercely. No, no, no, I thought. I could feel it, I had to be right. My sense of time was impaired. I truly wasn’t sure how long I had been going. My body was giving up. My breathing was heavy. My head was in terrible agony. But all was forgotten when my hand reached to grab yet another mound of dirt and broke through instead. White light blinded my eyes as I finished digging and heaved my limp body onto the other side. I laid on my stomach with my face pressed against the ground. Exhaustion denied my weak attempt to stand and coerced my existence into sleep. Before complying, my eyes detected the vision of luscious greens and browns blurred together by the sealing of my eyelids.
I awoke, peeling my face from the dewy ground, and sat upright. I then unsealed my crust-enclosed eyes one at a time. Dry mud fell from my tangled hair and down my face. I grasped the bottom of my shirt and used it to wipe my face, and clear my vision. A multitude of colors captured my sight. Bunches of green, tall and wide, row after row of reds and pinks, each swaying calmly in the loose breeze. I stood, entranced by its beauty. I allowed myself to proceed by walking. Grounded on lush fields, my mind sinking into the heedless gaiety of my surroundings, I became immersed with the creation presented before me. My rejuvenation is a gift, given to me by the infinity of my environment. The warming of the air sunk deeper than skin's surface, reaching and melting my soul, seeping down my body and into the soil beneath me. I unlatched the cage captivating my thoughts and let them ponder over the vastitude of what I saw. I brushed my fingers across the rough surface of the sepia-colored base of the viridescent blades towering above me. Their height fascinated me. I reached my arms above my head, extending my body, breathing in the sweet smell of emancipation and breathing out the intoxication of society. I smiled slightly, with my eyes closed against the sun as I lowered my arms. My minor grin turned itself into a tooth-full beam once my eyes reopened. A single tear found its way slipping down my cheek. And then another, and another, until my own weeping cleared the splotches of dirt encrusted on my skin. I chuckled softly, sank to my knees, and let my tears run free, soaking the ground beneath me. I continued till’ my eyes failed to produce more tears. All these years, I confined and compacted my brain to fit inside a box much too small for its immensity. Forcing myself to close the lid has caused me such agony. Today, in solitude, I am limitless.
As I continued my walk I came to a clearing. It extended beyond eyes reach. I took the yellow obscurity from my pocket and held it level with my vision. Millions more of what rested in my fingers found itself in front of me. The once withered yellow color was now illuminated in vitality. It presented itself in a strong manner, no longer bending over. At this moment, I felt ready to return home, strong enough to hold my structure.
Nightfall was approaching as I reached the wall. Before crossing I gathered a small sum of the rich soil and placed it in the pocket of my bag. I walked home in the dark, gazing at the stars along the way, curious about their meaning to my existence. Upon entering my home, I unzipped my bag, gathering the mass of soil I collected. I dug a small hole in the open, outside our front door. Carefully, I placed the lively, yellow obscurity in the small pit, surrounding it in the soil. Stepping back I admired the creation. It looked misplaced, alone, encompassed by nothing of its sorts. It truly was beautiful.
Before returning inside, I gazed deep into the life planted before me. The intrinsic calmness it gave me was inexplicable. I reflected upon my experience. The more time I spent in the beyond the closer I felt to the power. There is something greater, something beyond myself that lives within my walls. The grandest of feelings will not be found by distracting myself with the expectations of others. They will be found by taking the time to understand the very soul I carry with me. To dismiss my light is to dismiss my purpose. I’ve spent so much time appealing to others I forgot to look within. I avoided my desire to acknowledge the obscurities of my existence and fell victim to living without understanding. Today I seek to wonder and seek to create my own existence.