They just pretend to die. All of them. The truth is, and it is supposed to be a secret, they don’t die. We all will never die. They just make up the horrifying story about death so we all can be good to each other because sometimes we have to be threatened to be good to other people, animals and earth. Strange. If only we all could be nice to each other without any reason, they wouldn’t have to lie to us about people dying and going to heaven or things like that. Eventually, each and every one of us will have to hide in a place nobody knows, just like my grandfather, to continue living our immortal lives while laughing behind people whom we leave behind, believing that we’re dead and rotten five feet under.
“That’s cruel! You let us all suffer here thinking that we’ve lost people we love, while actually you are there playing chess and watching football!!!”
My grandfather tried to give me a clue about this. Of course he couldn’t tell me the truth. They are not allowed to tell us here because it would ruin the whole plan. He just came into my dream once. We were playing hide and seek and he said:
“Aliyah, don’t tell anyone I’m hiding here.” He said, then continued hiding and I saw him chatting and giggling inaudibly with the tree he was hiding behind. I couldn’t see which part of the tree resembled a mouth and produced language that my grandfather understood.
I woke up the next morning and told my mother that my grandfather was alive and hiding in a place where a tree could talk. She told me to shut up, finish my breakfast and brought up the sensitive subject.
“I called Sabrina just now.”
“Why did you call my friend? Don’t you have your own?” I know she did that to investigate me. My grandfather used to like my sense of humor which my mother never found funny. It was even rather rude and insulting for her.
“You didn’t go to the French class with her yesterday because she wasn’t feeling well.” She crossed her arms on the table and gave me that stare. The intention was not to find out what was going on with me, it was to show me that she found out my lie and made her score more points ahead of me.
“Unless I feel that it is important, I’d rather go to Carmen to learn some new steps.” How could I be so rude to my mother? It wasn’t because of the fake afterlife secret my grandfather told me, because I had set a distance between me and my mother long before that.
How many times have you heard your parents say that you should make your own bed? Maybe it is important for them, but what does it do to you? I make my own bed, because I hate messy room. It makes me dizzy. So, I see the point of doing that. I see the point of seeing Carmen because I love dancing and she is a good dancer and coming to her class makes me feel good. I don’t see the point of learning French. I don’t like French guys and Flamenco is from Spain.
“Why can’t I just learn Spanish?”
“You don’t need to understand anything Carmen says. You just have to follow her steps.”
“Hahaha. I like that one!” I meant, that was witty, right? I knew that my mother was actually a fun person if she hadn’t been too preoccupied with her work and never-ending effort to suppress her depression after my father left us three years ago. We were not good friends since then. Deep down I always blamed her for letting my father go. I blamed her because I knew that she blamed me.
“Give you mother a break, Aliyah. She’s tired and you’re not making the relationship between you too any better. I wouldn’t let that happen to my relationship with my mother.” Sabrina started with her words of wisdom while slurping her hot chicken soup. It looked so delicious but I didn’t eat from an ill person’s bowl or spoon even if the person was my good friend.
“I’m sorry but I’m not taking advice from someone who can’t keep a secret.” I wasn’t usually upset with anything, but I’m on the edge of screaming off my mother’s face and running away to where my grandfather hid because she wouldn’t leave me alone and I had had enough. I grabbed my tote bag and Sabrina grabbed it back to her bed.
“Because I don’t want you to lie to your mother to be able to do things you want. There’s a more civilized way to achieve a goal, girl. And you know so well what it is.”
I lifted my eyebrows.
“And I’m not talking about running away.” She was quick.
Why should I run away anyway? There was a huge orange tree on our backyard which you could see from the kitchen window. My father made a swing on one of the strongest branches and I would play there and they would watch me from the window. I never came near the tree or the swing again. But, suddenly I remembered about the dream and I thought perhaps, just perhaps, my grandfather was hiding behind THAT tree.
It must be amazing to have a tree that talks. Could it be those leaves rub against each other and make some English-sounding voices? God forbids French! Unless it could teach me better than my teacher. Or, it could be the cracks on the wood that produced the sound. But, then I thought that it wasn’t mouth that made someone talk. And it wasn’t ear that made someone hear. My hypothesis came down to two. The tree spoke to my grandfather with telepathy. The tree had a heart that connected to his heart so they could feel each other. It then occurred to me that there was number three: a tree didn’t talk.
“Of course it does!”
My eyes popped out. I said, alright. I don’t mean to offend you, but if you just stood there and didn’t say anything how would I have known?
That was my first encounter with the talking tree. I tried to convince myself that this was real. If I had been 3 years old, then this could be my imaginary friend. But I was 13, and I knew what was real and what was not. My mind arose and slipped in a word ‘schizophrenic’ with a big question mark ‘?’ but it slipped away so fast.
The Orange Tree had a soothing voice. It sounded almost like my grandfather but younger. I thanked it for letting me swing on its branch when I was small. Too bad it didn’t want to tell me where my grandfather hid. But, I knew it was him who sent it to me.
I spent more time behind the tree where no one could see. My mother would call me for dinner, and when I wasn’t hungry, I climbed up the tree instead and hid there. It was a bliss to have a long chat with the tree. It was so wise and funny. It understood all languages in the world and it promised to help me with my French.
“You would astonish your mother!”
But, I didn’t care about astonishing anybody. I wanted to be good at French because I wanted to be like the tree. To understand many things.
The tree didn’t talk so much when the time came for me to complain about my mother. I told it that she hated me because she and my father started to have big fights all the time after I had been born. He blamed her for delivering a dyslexic baby. Vice versa. They blamed each other for everytime I couldn’t write the word ‘breakfast’, read a children’s book, solve simple math.
“And your grandfather taught you everything.”
Sometimes I wished both of my parents go and my grandfather stay.
And, suddenly the wind blew and the tree branch swayed and smacked me down hard on the ground. I let out a good scream one second after I heard a bone was broken. I couldn’t see anything not because it was dark outside at 2 o’clock in the morning, but because my head hit a tree root and I almost fainted. I felt my mother’s hands carry me inside and the wind leveraged the tree’s words.
“I won’t let you near my branches before you…”
The tree was angry with me (or was it grandfather?) and as a result I had a cast on my left leg. Not only could I climb it up, I couldn’t come to Carmen’s class either. The good thing was, my mother had to take a week off from her office to stay with me at home. She gave me a bigger space to speak and therefore I had a bigger space to listen as well. As I said before, she was actually a fun person when she was not too preoccupied with her work and personal problem. She never thought I would ask her to teach me French. And of course she yapped more than she taught. But, the tree told me to do something to win it back. My mother wasn’t perfect. Neither was I. I told her I was sorry. And for the first time since my father left, I forgave my mother.