This time the theme is about something that is every weeping philosopher's favorite: the ingratitude of mankind. I'm not a misanthropist so don't try to psychoanalyze me based on this fable. It's nothing empirical though. I watched something like it when I was a kid- where a woman becomes a tree. The lacy additions are my own.
I could feel the sun scorching me with its rays. My throat felt dry and my vision was blurred. All I could see around me was a vast arid land - endless, and thirsty just like I was. The parched soil gave up vapors from its cracks as if the most secret tears of the Earth were evaporating in the heat from her bleeding heart. I was feeling delusional- I had lost track of time and the purpose of the errand I was running. All I knew was that I was walking alone and would die of thirst or from a sunstroke if I stopped to rest. Dying. It seemed to have a promise in it. Maybe only then I could rest. And then, almost like a mirage, I saw a tree at a distance. I walked as fast as my weary legs could carry me, and even before I could admire the grandeur of its beauty and magnificence of its branches, I fell in its shadow and fast asleep.
I woke up with thirst, and I wondered if I could find a drop of water somewhere. I tried jerking my water bottle upside down, not one drop was left from what I had when I started my journey. And I was lost. To divert my attention, I looked at the bough. It had white flowers but no leaves. But the blossoms were so dense that they gave better shade than even broad leaves could. I had never seen a tree like that. The petals were pearly white and the branches or the huge trunk was not brown or green or any other color typical or characteristic of any forest. It had a golden hue and it glowed in the sun. Not brightly but soothingly. Now, I realized why I had fallen asleep so soon- the flowers had an intoxicating fragrance, which I suspected was sleep-inducing.
I looked admiringly at the tree that guarded me from the cruel sun, when I heard a maiden's voice : You must be thirsty? Come, drink the sap from my stems. And eat my flowers. You have a knife, don't you?
I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming, but it seemed all right. The tree was talking to me. Hypnotized, I did as she bid me to and I sat like a kid in her lap, my mind void of all thoughts, only wondering about my current companion. And like she were reading my thoughts, she began: I was a young girl once.
(to be continued)
4/25/08 , 6:32 PM
I lived with my father on the outskirts of a nearby village, who worked as a water bearer, quenching the thirst of wayfarers like you. Once, my father fell terribly ill and I worked for him to make a living.
One afternoon, a group of travelers passing by the village came to buy water from me. There were three of them - all strangers to this land. They drank their full and rested for a while. Then they spoke among themselves in a strange tongue and asked me if I'd come over to the wilderness where one of their companions was lying thirsty. He was too tired to walk and they had left him under a tree to rest. I said that it was getting late and it might be a better idea to fetch the villagers for help to carry him to the village for the night, where they could all find their lodging and food if they wanted. One of the men, who was the only one who spoke to me in my language, said that they feared that their friend wouldn't survive if they spent too much time gathering people. And then he offered to pay me triple the amount that was due to me.
I gave it a quick thought and agreed to their suggestion. I needed the money for poor papa, and to give water to a dying man was a noble task. "Nobler if I can save his life." Thinking so, I grabbed a big leather pouch to carry water and bade my father goodbye, but I thought he was in a sleeping drought 'cause he didn't respond.
Then, I followed the three strange men while it was nearing dusk. I told them that we would have to return before it was night or else we wouldn't be able to find our way back if it was too far away. But they kept advancing idly and without any apparent direction.
I felt scared that I might not be able to save their friend and they wouldn't pay me as they had promised to. After a while, they stopped by a boulder and said that we were there. I looked around and said, "But I don't see a tree anywhere". They looked at me and laughed and said that they wouldn't need one. There was a vulgar threat in their laughter but I couldn't identify the source of their amusement. Maybe they sensed my fear. Maybe that gave them a distorted sense of power.
They tore at my clothes, clawed me with their nails, bit me with their hungry teeth and treated me like no man would have treated an animal bred for slaughter. And when they were done, they sat there smoking, beside my listless bleeding body, like they had hunted a game and made a kill. Only, they didn't carry me back home for glory. They left me there to die.
In the night, it got very cold and I could feel the remaining of my senses getting numb. I looked dizzily at the sky lit with stars, which was getting fainter with my loss of clear vision. I thought of my old ailing father waiting for me to go back. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine that it was all a bad dream. But the pain in my body was real. I knew I was dying.
I don't know when I woke up. After days or years or simply in a few hours. I saw a mutilated body of a girl in rags getting discovered by a caravan and being carried to the village. It could have been me or someone else who had shared the same fate. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. I realized that I wasn't a human anymore. Near the boulder that they had left me by, I had grown into a tree with white flowers.
Saying so, she stopped for a while. And I thought that I heard her sigh. But I didn't know what to ask, because I seemed to have serious concerns about my own sanity. A talking tree with a fantastic tale - what were my chances of recovery? I thought that if I ever got out of this, I would come back to this place to see if it was for real.
Again, she read my mind and said, There will be a group of gypsies passing by at dusk today. Join them and they will take you to the village. But you won't see me if you came back again.
Now that was scary! I wanted to ask her the reason why. She intimated: Several days ago, a child had lost his way while playing with his mates and I provided him shelter for the night. He went back home with the flowers I had given him and his father asked him where he had found those exotic flowers. When he described me, his father thought it would be more profitable to sell my exquisite golden wood than my stupid flowers. So, tomorrow at the break of the dawn, he'll come with an axe to cut me down and take my wood away. Of course, the poor kid knows nothing of it. He's too naive to think of profits in worldly terms. He only sees beauty. Not the business in it.
Suddenly, I realized that I had never uttered a word and she had been replying to the queries that rose in my mind. Now, I thought to myself if I could do something to save her. She swayed her branches, almost like a shrug and then said that it didn't not matter to her anymore. In a life where she didn't know the real intentions of men, and in a life where she could read thoughts- nothing had changed. People could destroy for pleasure or profit. She didn't want to continue living as a tree. She wanted to die so that she could see if there was another plane of existence where her perceptions would change.
I said nothing in reply to this and closed my eyes beneath her benign bough.