LXVII | Soul

Even without its leaves
and its red fruit clusters,

I know right away

it’s a rowan tree.

What other tree could it be?


It looks like the one
at the back of the school.

There’s that nook
where Rowan always sits.

It looks
exactly the same.

Rowan pulls me
past the metal barrier.

We walk up to the tree.

It’s much farther
than it looks.
We walk for a long time.

The tree grows bigger
as we approach it.

Rowan touches
the tree trunk.

The bark
in her hand,


a space


She looks at me
with that expressionless expression.

Her fingernails
dig into my skin.

Tears fall from her eyes too.

‘I’m sorry.’

Hair shields her face as she speaks.
‘I’m sorry, Clyde. I’m sorry.’

Is she apologising
for disappearing?

I pull her head up,
wipe her tears
with my fingers.

The tips of her ears
turn red.

She turns away,
drags me into the rowan tree.

The hollow space
like a cave
is woven with white branches
that glow.

The trunk of this tree
is a network of branches growing together

rather than
one block of solid trunk.

We sit
facing each other.

I watch Rowan’s
coal-black eyes

and she watches me.


She gives me a book
that I didn’t see her carrying around.
I don’t take it

so she sets it in my lap.

Without looking

I know what it is.

Me: I don’t want it.
She: Take it
Me: I don’t agree with the things it says.
She: You’ve never read it.

I’ve heard
enough about it.

I’ve seen
excerpts of it.

I’ve read
commentary on it.

‘Freedom. Choice. Love.
‘What about those things?’

‘Have you,
‘in your world, truly experienced
‘any of that?’

Yes, I’m about to say.

I dated whomever I wanted.
I went wherever I wanted.
I did anything I wanted to.

Her asking that

made me pause

to think

if that was actually be

Restrained to I.

The I
who doesn’t know who I am.

Beyond I,
whoever I is,

I have no recognition;

I sees the world
from I‘s perspective,

I sees other perspectives
from I‘s perspective.

Beyond I,

the rest of the world
made no sense

and I doesn’t care.

(No big picture. No intricate order. No morality.)

I remember the man from IMH,
Kumar’s parents on the motorcycle,
my parents smiling.

The young man at the picnic
who swung the little girl
round and round and round.

Rowan’s coal-black eyes
leaking blood.

‘No,’ I whisper at last.

I’m not sure why
I feel breathless from thinking.

‘But I don’t think
‘I can trust that you or this book
‘are right about it either.’

She smiles sadly.

Then she nods.

‘I’m glad that you’re finally thinking.’

She stands up.

‘You’re right, I might not be right.
‘But contents of this book
‘are definitely
‘absolute truth.’

I touch the black
of the book.

It’s leather.

The title embossed in gold.

‘I didn’t write it. No one person
‘could have written this.
‘It’s wisdom and history
‘compiled and verified by men
‘from every generation since the beginning.’

‘There might be mistakes,’ I say.

‘Humanity has never collectively
‘agreed on anything.’


Am I supposed to respond?

‘Yeah,’ I say, ‘We haven’t.’

‘We’ll never find the truth on our own.’

I put the book down
on the ground of the hollow.

‘So basically,
‘wisdom and truth
‘is too chim for us?’

Her cheeks are flushed
in the white light.

Her eyes gleam proudly.

‘The truth–’

‘–if it exists,’ I insert.

‘–that exists,
‘has to be more complex
‘to encompass us.’

She waits for me
to interrupt again.

But what she says is logical,

so we’re both silent

‘You and I will change
‘as we learn the truth.’

Rowan starts to leave.
I grab her hand.

‘Where are you going?’

She tries to break my grip
but I hold her tight.

Pull her into me.

Obviously, I’m supposed to stay
and she’s leaving me here.

‘Stay here until the rowan tree blooms.
‘Nya-Nya is waiting for me.’

I stand up.

‘I’ll go with you.’

Her coal-black eyes
burn holes in mine.

‘You don’t understand anything yet.
‘You can’t follow me.’

I can feel all the bones
of her wrist now.

I don’t want to let go.

‘Don’t worry.’

The coal-fire
burns even brighter.

‘Once the rowan tree blooms,
‘we’ll be together again.’




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