Roana sits on the hard, dirty ground, her white dress getting assaulted by mud. The air smells like grime and fish, a smell that has entered her nose every day. She doesn’t even know why she comes to this dump every day. Maybe it’s to take her mind off of the past. Maybe it’s because of what happened one year ago. That moment definitely tied deep roots to this place.
She sighed, looking at the sky. Its bright blue, creamy clouds swimming through the sky, the sun boasting off its power. She returns her eyes to the murky water, trying to clear her mind. That proved to be difficult.
The murky water licked the tips of her toes. It tried to bring her closer, whispering.
Come. We won’t hurt you. We won’t hurt you like we hurt him.
She shook her head, memories trying to break through the wall of her mind. She stood, seeing her reflection in the water. Brown hair, silver eyes, worried expression. All normal. Roana looked into the trees, the same place where she fled after what happened. The thought didn’t lighten her spirits.
She walked along the river, staring into its brown water. This river was desperately polluted. No one has seen a single fish swimming in it. The only animal Roana ever saw in it was a snake. It coiled and hissed, making its final move before slithering away, leaving her screaming, crying, cursing, and heartbroken.
That snake had changed her life, and it was in this very river.
Why, oh why did she come here? She could just leave the past behind, trying to make a new future. But, abandoning the past wasn’t as easy as it sounds. You always dwell on it, memories creeping up on you when you least expect it, crashing upon you before retreating, making sure it comes back.
A while ago, she realized that embracing the past, the pain, made things easier. It helped you cope with the memories, so they don’t take you by surprise. You’re always on guard. It’s helpful, but it doesn’t fully heal her heart.
When she reached the shade of a willow tree, she sat, the murky water still reaching her toes. She carefully put down her wall, commanding the past to come in slow, steady waves. She let them crash softly on her, gently enough so it didn’t overwhelm her. It sloshed gently, bring the pain slowly and in small doses. Her breath stayed the same as the images flashed through her mind.
Robert laughing at her while he stepped into the river, daring her to come.
Roana stubbornly staying on the shore, her eyes glistening with secret amusement.
Robert’s expression turning from joy to pain as he stumbled on the shore, a snake sinking its fang into his delicate skin.
Roana’s screams as she backed into the trees, too scared to come forward.
Robert laying on the smooth rocks, the water slowly turning red.
His face becoming pale until he moved no more.
The snake slithering away and disappearing into the water.
Roana’s sobs of terror and disbelief, running away from her dead husband, trying to find the police.
She didn’t notice he was dead.
The images stopped, the wall re-constructing itself. Roana was surprised to find her face completely dry. Perhaps keeping the past in the present instead of hiding from it made her stronger.
She stood once more, walking to the place where everything happened. The rocks cut into her bare skin, but she didn’t mind. She never felt pain after what happened to Robert. Maybe the knowledge that he died painfully made her not want to complain. After all, pain was an everyday occurrence.
It doesn’t have to be physical, but mental too. Every day, she remembers what happened, but tried to control her feelings. She reins them in, embracing them to make her feel better.
A year ago, the idea of embracing her pain might have sounded ridiculous and hard, but it’s easy and simple. Simply feel your pain, beckoning it to come forward. Grasp it, let it touch you. Don’t try to reel away, but don’t let it crash into you with force. Control yet use it. It helps.
She reached the spot where her world turned upside down, the place that proved she had no bravery. Maybe that’s why the memory stung. It’s wasn’t just his death, but the knowledge that she kind of let it happen. She didn’t try to help, instead melting into the trees and watching the scene unfold while she cracked. She looked at the stones, water, trees. Nothing changed, almost as if nothing happened.
Maybe there wasn’t physical evidence of the horror, but there was something to prove it happened.
It lived in her heart. It made the house feel empty and cold. It made the air not tinge with laughter and love.
She sat, watching the wind rustling the leaves and the sun slowly retreat, being taken over by the night. She watched the birds fly, the clouds run lazily across the sky. She watched and observed things many people would overlook.
A gift she possessed after Robert’s death.
She spent her time analyzing and examining things closely, trying to absorb every detail. She looked at people’s faces at the mall, trying to find which people were hurting and trying to help them. Once, she got an old lady a snack, trying to erase the devastated look on her face. She spends as much time as she can helping others, making sure nobody is sad. She didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s pain again. She couldn’t bear it.
The sky was newly painted in pastel reds, oranges, and pinks. The clouds were purple. Little hints of stars shone above the blanket of the sky. She stood, walking into the forest, her feet crunching leaves and small twigs. The air buzzed with energy as mosquitoes woke up.
She walked further and further from the past, making sure she revisits it the next day.