I just returned from a week that was, as a whole, one of the happiest of my life. As a trip from the most powerful, wealthy, and privileged country in the Western Hemisphere to one of the poorest, this was not an expected outcome. But through six days of work and recreation in the Dominican Republic, and complete cultural immersion into a world I could previously only abstractly comprehend, my understanding of happiness was reshaped, and my capacity for it expanded.
My job is memory. Or the artificial capturing of it. Humans can only envy my capacity, as their memories inevitably slip away, and they are forced to return to me, time and time again. So I should feel fulfilled. I do what they cannot.
I can remember with pristine detail the two little girls on the couch with their father. One tucked under his heavy arm, the other slouched over with a tiny black and white puppy curled in her lap like a baby. The book he was reading lays abandoned by his side speckled in the mid-day light shining in the large window. The father and girl in his arms are deep in sleep, their heads both tilted to the same side with the same blond hair. But the girl with the puppy has pulled one side of her soft cheek upward in a knowing smirk, her eyes closed, but aware. I can tell she heard my shutter snap shut to steal this image of somnolent serenity.
We take our education for granted. It’s easy to forget, but what we now consider a necessary evil was once considered a privilege. So why is there so much aversion to it? My school is filled with people who would rather not be there and who view it as a waste of time. They don’t realize that while it has its flaws, our little high school could be worse. It offers rigorous courses, manages to sustain a number of clubs and teams, and, as far as high school goes, has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Most of the teachers are dedicated to the success of their students, and are engaged in the classroom.
Hey, They cut down our tree. I don’t know if you even remember it, but I thought you should know. It was a safety hazard I guess.
Funny, isn’t it? When we were kids, no place was safer. Its branches were our sanctuary. Tough yet forgiving, they supported our inspired assent into the sky, and when it rained their budding leaves would shelter our rapid retreat to its knotted roots.
Our roots. They are all that remains. And I cling to that raw, severed stump of memories.
I guess that’s why I called. To say I miss you. And our tree. It’s darker here without its shade.
Your foot comes down with a crack on cold brittle ice breaking the thin top layer and releasing frigid water that leaks up from the dark abyss below.
You watch as it spreads slowly and deliberately over the scarred and snow dusted surface darkening the opaque white with its cold wet touch.
You realize with a shiver not prompted by the temperature that you stand in the jaws of a sleeping monster that waits for the weather to weaken its trap and for you to come crashing down into its liquid maw.
The water is dark cold and uninhabited save for the paralyzed frog frozen on its floor.
The numb creature sleeps on thick gelatinous mud while ice crystallizes on its heart and its slow breath sends tiny trembling bubbles up through the inky blackness where they emerge beneath your feet.