Strewn

Chris had brought her to the field that they used to lay in for hours during their first summer together. They returned for one day every year, almost religiously. Miles of dried grass danced with the cool breeze and welcomed the couple upon their return. Chris grew younger with each step as if he was wading through time.

Nineteen ninety-seven: Maya wore a semi-transparent mesh top that moved around her body, like an apparition, as she picked cranberries from the borders of the field. Chris would always head straight to the field’s centre point, an old oak tree, whereas Maya would slowly meander before circling inwards. As soon as he reached the great tree’s shade he would drop their picnic supplies, his guitar and her books; then he would race back to her to playfully throw her over his shoulder and run through the long grass.

Chris now smiled to himself as the memories washed over him. He noticed a cluster of bushes on the border of the field and wandered towards them. He spread apart the branches, yet no cranberries could be seen. Had they already been picked by another couple? Were there intruders in their field? Perhaps the cranberries belonged to his memories and no longer had a place in the present. Chris even considered whether this bush had ever bore fruit at all. No, this was fruit for another life and another time where Maya could enjoy them with him. He began to head towards the great oak tree. The oak stood tall and its branches bled into the hanging blue. It was a solitary figure in a vast open space; Chris admired the way it had survived alone for so many years. The old oak reached out into the empty air around it and trembled with a quiet dignity. Maya had often told Chris that this tree was so far away from every other tree because, as a seed, it had been on the greatest journey. Chris would always respond with a look of bemusement before Maya explained that: “Extreme solitude is but a small price to pay for an unforgettable journey”. Chris’ feet touched the shade and he placed a small box onto the floor. He sat next to Maya and looked out into the horizon.

“Have you ever heard of the singing tree?” Maya’s voice burst through time as this old conversation painted a previous visit to the field. It was six years ago and they had not picked the best day to venture to their field. The wind was brutal and Chris spent twenty minutes clearing away the thin cardboard picnic plates which had been strewn into the cranberry bushes.

“What is a ‘singing tree’?” Chris’ face scrunched as he tried to picture some sort of cartoon foliage belting out baritone notes.

“No, not a singing tree, the ‘singing tree’,” Maya hopped onto her feet and faced the lonely oak, “it’s like this tree, but made completely of steel.”

“So it’s a sculpture? So how does it, well, sing?” Chris was still no closer to understanding her. He shifted to lay upon his stomach and propped his chin up with his hands to watch her explain further.

“It is a tree of metal pipes. The wind sings through these pipes and the tree sings for Burnley. People say it sounds like souls swimming on the wind. I want to see it. Can we see it one day?” Her arm made a wide swipe to keep her hair from out of her face. Her smile appeared and Chris returned his own. Then, a mighty gust threw her hair about, covering her face again, and the smile was gone.

“Of course, but you do know that means we have to go to Burnley?” He let out a small chuckle at his own joke. Maya returned to his side and they both listened to the great oak cry into the wind. They sat there listening until Maya’s toes had grown too cold and they had to go home.

Sandals on a day like that. Maya always dressed for summer as if she could not let go of the memories it had gifted to her. The present drew the curtains on Chris’ memory. The shade moved with the sun until midday had chased all the shade away from the field. Chris’ hand sat upon the small box beside him. He took the box in both hands and raised to his feet. The couple stood together for while as Chris relived his great journey with Maya. The lid of the box opened with a puff of dusty greys. He breathed in deep and poured Maya into the wind. She made an elegant cloud. The wind picked her up and swept her parts to the borders of the field.

Chris stood tall next to the great oak and, as the wind blew, his hair seemed to bleed into the sky. He stared forever into the empty air that surrounded him. Hours past as he remained rooted at the centre point of the field watching the movies of his past explode into view and then disappear. Maya was just an illusion to him now. The day grew tired and the sun hung low to paint the sky in a pink-gold glow. Chris and the great oak became two silhouettes which appeared to be etched into the horizon. They stood against the pink-gold sky, lost and alone after the greatest journey.

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