The Old Acacia Tree
He swung from the old acacia tree like a broken pendulum. Back and forth, back and forth in a sickening rhythm, a sight both repulsive and yet entrancing. There was a rope around his neck, frayed but not broken, thin but not weak. His eyes were open. Oh god, those eyes. It was not so much what they looked like but what they didn't.
His face was old, not old like the elderly in a nursing home, old like the women in those saving water commercials on television, the ones from someplace in Africa burdened down by the load that they carry with such repetition that it is not an action but an instinct to their survival.
In actuality, he couldn't be more than 16. Not quite an adult but more than a teenager. His face did not look 16 and that was what those eyes burn into my own as if they were the beam of a flashlight in a darkened camping ground.
They were the eyes of a child.
Just a frightened child, a child all alone swinging from the old acacia tree. Eyes that say, I have done something terribly wrong and nothing I will do can fix this.
His arms hung limply sticking awkwardly out of clothes that looked expensive almost unreasonably so. A yellow jacket sticking out at the waist like a skirt and jeans with cuts across the knees too perfectly to be by accident.
Dark makeup outlined his high cheekbones and his slanted mouth that revealed a few teeth that were perfectly straight thanks to genetics or braces.
I watched the hanging boy from behind the peeling walls of the shed that my father believed could be returned to its former glory with just a little bit of paint. He was wrong of course but I was not focussing on the shed.
I watched him until the sun slunk behind the farmer's hills.
The boy blinked. He drew a pocket knife out of the place where one would store an item of that description and hacked at the rope around his neck until its frayed coils unravelled. He dropped to the ground, dusting off his yellow jacket. His expression did not change but he sighed a little into the still air, a breath that spoke of disappointment and a little of an emotion that I could not place. I thought I heard him mutter something that sounded like "I chose wrong."
He unstuck a note from one of the thinner acacia branches and stuffed it into his pocket.
I watched him saunter down the hill where the sun had just set, without so much as a scratch on his neck.
I shuffled towards the acacia tree and picked up the rope, abandoned on the ground. That's when I noticed it, carved into the tree's aching side. Three words.
THE WISHING TREE