The purple tree at the end of the road

The bright lights were almost too much for Joan to handle. She almost closed her eyes before remembering that she shouldn’t. She remembered thinking to herself, this is the finish line then, this is where it all ends…

When she woke up, she felt strangely at peace. It was an unsettling feeling, for she had never known such peace, ever. She opened her eyes to what looked like a park. She was lying on what seemed to be grass which was rapidly turning white. She looked around, it was snowing. That threw her a bit, she could’ve sworn it was July. Funnily enough, she wasn’t cold at all, nor was she getting wet even though she were standing in the snow in what passed as summer clothes. She realised that she was standing halfway up a hillock. She looked up to see nothing but darkness on the path leading up. A little way down from where she was, she spotted a strange tree that emitted a purple glow. She wondered briefly, how she could tell that it was purple, for other than the ghostly white snow, all was dark.

She hesitated for a minute or two, then decided to make her way down to the tree. As she walked downhill, she became aware of the changing light. It became brighter, but not piercingly so. Bit by bit, her surroundings became clearer. It wasn’t night anymore. Nor was it snowing anymore. She was walking on a grassy path. There were tiny yellow and red flowers under her feet, peeking their heads up shyly, as if to say hello. There was a light, pleasant, breeze that reminded her of the late springs of her childhood. She walked until there was no path to walk on. She was at the edge of a pond with clear, glassy green water. She could see life underneath. There were plants in a variety of colours that looked as if they were lit within. There were schools of fish and other life forms, some swimming placidly by, others resting among the plants. She looked toward the tree again. She didn’t know why, but she felt that it is her destination, somehow, it was very important that she get there.

As she kept looking at the tree, the water that was lapping at her feet swept away to both sides it. There was a path of completely dry sand leading up to the tree. She hesitated for a moment, all of it seemed too easy, too good to be true. She made up her mind to take a chance and stepped on to the white sand. She walked right to the base of the tree. She looked up to the branches, there seemed to be no end to them. She couldn’t see where the tree ended and the sky began. She didn’t know what to do now. She looked up again, to see her mother smiling down at her. At her shoulder were everyone she had thought she’d never see ever again, all smiling down at her. She was at a total loss for words. She smiled through her tears as her mother took her in her arms and said, “Dearest, you’re home again”.

My first best friend

He had jet black hair and wide dark brown eyes. His skin was pale and silky smooth, his jaw tapered to a discernible pointed chin. He once told me that he wished he had dark tanned skin like mine. I was surprised. I had always wanted to look like him.

He was a boy I went to elementary school with. He was kind and sweet. We used to play together in the little playground under the building where we both lived. I used to hang from monkey bars because someone had once told me that that would make me grow tall. He always used to stand under, ready to catch me if I fell.

We went to school together, did homework together, played and read together. Our mothers used to joke that they’d have to literally pry us apart with a crowbar if we spent any more time together. I think he was my first best friend.

He always had a smile for me. Even the last time I visited him in the hospital, when his insides were Churned and ruined by cancer and chemotherapy, even when his eyelids were droopy from pain and fatigue, there was a smile on his face. When I cried, he held my hand. When I was leaving, he gave me a charm bracelet off his wrist. When I asked what that was for, he said, “so you’ll remember me when I’m not there”.

His funeral was a low-key affair. His parents looked sad and worn out. His mother hugged me close and kissed my hair when I went up to pay my respects. I wanted him to have something to remember me by as well. I had brought a book we had read together. As I left it by his side, I looked into his face. He looked like he had before, before the illness that took him. He looked happy and peaceful.

I still miss him.