Ears plugged with the sound of cicadas and crickets mingling in the faded light of dawn. The moist air presses against my skin, fills my nose with a damp smell like the lawn after it rains. Tall trees tower overhead and shade the walking path without making it any cooler. The heat is oppressive and tells me to turn back, but I can’t; I refuse.
Three years ago I walked this same path, in the winter, when the air was crisp and the trees were barren. At the time, I hated it too, the snow crawling into my boots, freezing my toes, the wind picking up and knocking my breath back into my lungs. But humans miss what they don’t have, and I would give anything for a bit of snow to cool my aching toes as I step on another root, my weight baring down on the very arch of my foot.
I walked this path every day up until I went to college. I was the one who wore the path that cut through the underbrush and weaved around the mossy trees. I’d been walking this path for a decade, and I watched the dirt peak out beneath the grass that my hiking boots kicked out of the ground. I splashed in the mud when it rained and kicked up the dust during drought.
This path was my own, and it led me to my home away from hell. I discovered it when I ran away from home, seven years old, more afraid of my mother’s hand than I was of poison ivy or coyotes. I ran into the woods behind my house, ran until I couldn’t hear her screams and curses, ran until my legs and lungs burned, my arms were scratched up, my face finally dried of tears.
I ran until I reached my heaven.
The forest opened up to what was, in the eyes of a small child a large lake with a towering waterfall. The gentle lull of the water calmed my gasping sobs, and drowned out the words echoing in my head. I knelt on the shore, pebbles sticking to my knees, coarse sand covering my legs. I dipped my hands in the cloudy water and washed the droplets of blood from the gashes on my arms. The cold water on my skin was the first hug I had ever felt in my life.
I returned there everyday, and as I grew older, I realized it wasn’t a lake. It was more like a small pond. But it was always heaven to me. My home, this place in the forest where no one could touch me, where I couldn’t hear the screams or the chaos, was my favorite place in the world. But I could never tell anyone about it, in case they tried to take it away from me.
The memory replayed in pieces in my mind as I continued zigzagging through the trees, following the path I had carved in my desperate attempt to be happy. I had left it to study Psychology, to be even farther away from the people who had raised me in pain and anger. I wanted to learn how to help others who were going through the same thing, to share bits of my heaven with them, even if it was only through memory and advice. My heart ached to return, and after three years, I decided I couldn’t bare it any longer.
I stepped out of the forest, ready to hear the bubbling waterfall welcome me home. A lot can change in three years. The pond was dry, smooth pebbles left on the ground.
Note: Daily Drabbles are a personal project that involves writing at least 500 words a day. On this blog, I may only post the occasional drabble that I feel particularly proud of, who knows.