Monday, October 8, 2012

The Apathetics

Celia was six years old the day she stopped liking people.  

She and her best friend Annie had trailed a little too far into the unfenced depths beyond Annie’s backyard when they stumbled upon the most perfect tree.

“Let’s climb it!” Celia pumped enthusiastically.  Annie reciprocated with an eager “Me first!” scrambling up the trunk before Celia could object.  

But when Annie reached about four feet from the ground, her foot slipped from the branch.  Celia watched in horror as her friend fell.  

Luckily it wasn’t the biggest fall in the world.  Annie waved her arms wildly on her way down, grasping onto chunks of tiny branches and fistfuls of leaves, slowing her cascade to the ground below.  But she still hit the rough hard-packed dirt with an impressive thud.     

“Owwwwwwwww!”  Annie yowled, clinging tightly to her bare left thigh right below her jean short cut-offs.  The skin on her thigh was already puckering with a splendid scrape; vibrant red in the center, bluish along the edges.  Blood oozed from the skinned crevices of her raw flesh like thick lava worming its way from a sleepy volcano.

Celia, heart pounding, ran frantically to her friend.  At their fresh age, injuries of this magnitude were rare.  Annie might as well have lost a limb for the panic that Celia felt pulsing through her veins.

“Annie!   Oh my gosh, Annie!  Are you okay?”  Celia reached down to help her.

“Oh Celia, it hurts soooo bad!”  Annie answered in a high-pitched voice, her body writhing.  Her eyes darted fretfully to Celia’s as she reached forward to accept her help.

But when their fingers touched, something unusual flickered across Annie’s pupils.  A look that Celia had never seen before on her friend...yet one that she recognized.  A look of uncertainty, followed by the briefest glimmer of guilt. 

Celia gasped in pain. 

What?  No…!   

She ripped her hand from Annie’s and doubled-over to grab her thigh.  Although it wasn’t puckered with red and blue, pain surged through her leg.  She could feel the raw skin, the little pieces of tree bark embedded within her flesh, the bruise swelling beneath the surface of her skin.  Logically she knew that none of these things were actually there—this was Annie’s injury, not hers.  But she could feel all of it.  Tears sprung to her eyes as she glared over at her best friend.

“Annie, how could you?!”  Hurt and fear laced her voice.  

“I’m sorry,” Annie pleaded.  “I never meant to…I’m sorry.  I just couldn’t take the pain.  I won’t do it again.  Please, Cee Cee, you would’ve done the same thing.  I just couldn’t take it….”

And that was the day Celia stopped liking people.  Because she lived in a world where people could give away their pain.  And in a world where people broke their promises.