Posted by: shelliejelly | October 29, 2008

Trails

Staring at a tree out in the front of my building, I see the lines of the bark running upwards, reaching toward the sky. Jagged and uneven, they detail experience and growth, sometimes intertwined with sister trails running parallel, other times solitary in their journey.

It was a cold Sunday when I took this photograph. O. had taken Sabine to the playground, and I was free to wander and let my mind relax, stretch my creative muscles, exhale a week’s worth of toddler frustration. Looking at the bark, I think of my own life, where I’ve been and where I am now.

I’ve had the thought before that for every choice I’ve made in my life, there is another me, perhaps an infinite number, who make other choices and lead other lives. This thought isn’t uncommon; I’ve had conversations with people who have wondered the same thing.

Perhaps this inclination is stronger when you’ve lost someone you love. The night K. was killed, I had been sick, and so instead of sitting with him at the bar where he was working, keeping him company and then driving him home, I left to get some sleep. He called later, telling me he loved me, that he was going to go spend the night at his parents’ house. The only thing I said, beyond telling him how much I loved him, was I didn’t want him walking home.

Though he did walk home, the walk that would end up with me on the receiving end of a still surreal phone call, I wonder if somewhere another me sat gladly through K.’s shift at the bar, leaning in close, stealing kisses in the dim light. For a long time after K. died, I would replay the night in my head. How we’d gone out to dinner, had a beer, then walked out of the restaurant without paying the bill. Halfway down the street, K. turned to ask me “Did you pay the bill?” When I said no he started to jog back toward the pub, back to both pay and apologize.

During those first relentless months, I thought over and over how my life would be different if I hadn’t gotten sick, or if I’d just stayed. Then, slowly, these constant what-ifs give way to a more philosophical perspective where time, like a prism, divides and refracts, becoming the home to different mortal experiences. Places where the reality isn’t nearly so grim, the path not nearly so overgrown with grief.

I don’t regret where I am. I have a little girl my heart swoons after who makes this life, this path absolutely perfect. But sometimes I’d like to get a glimpse, a peek at the other side.

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