The Treehouse

The childhood bonds between two boys and how they fare to stand the tests of time. (The chapters are not in order, as of yet.)

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1. Distilled

The morning was still dark; the Sun showed nought but a sign of even thinking about stirring from its slumber, but the persistence of an atramentous body upon the horizon, albeit achromatic, brought life into the pre-dawn. The presence of the shape in itself seemed to act as a propitious seed, embedding brightness, and bringing the relief of knowledge. The intimidation of darkness stems from a fear of the unknown, after all, what could be hiding, lurking, waiting. Steady, mobile beacons of merciless light revealed all in its wake, glances of unnatural grey shooting a few dismal black scrawls in the direction of the piloted entity. Spiders of dread seemed to have a knack for attaching themselves onto spinal columns in such places. Fortunately for the cause of the dull movement, the idle crunch of gravel against a neglected layer of tar seemed to be the only surprise thrown his way. The last time this place had been visited, the road’s seal was fresh, clean, and safe. It was a sign of the times, he thought, and of the times passed. Time gave change, and change brought uncertainty. Uncertainty, in fact, was the reason for his presence here, although his own pretenses suggested otherwise. He must have thought he was here for his own confidence or something, since the rows upon rows of dusty, upturned soil that caused him to flinch increased his heart rate dramatically. What was he nervous for? He was here for the benefit of himself, to talk to something inanimate, something which had not been capable of judgement for many a year, regardless of how talented it was in this field it had been. The silence would have added to the growing sense of anticipation that seemed to stalk him, like one of the darkness’s mythological creatures, if it weren't for the sheer lack in his transport’s quality. A beaten up muffler scraped along loosened stones, the ones that chose to recoil hammering loudly against protesting sheets of rusted metal. To any other driver, concern would have been more than an appropriate reaction, and even the carefree motorist was beginning to fret over the unnatural creaks that infringed on his already malleable and barren thought trains. Ah, how he crumbled under stress. How he had assured himself that he had grown out of exactly what had remained with him into his teenager hood  How he was still so innocently oblivious to his own downfalls, even after all this time. It was pitiful, really. But there was none here to judge him, nor his irascibility. None but himself; that was just how he liked it. The knelling of church bells foretold the arrival of his screeching tires  melding together in a horrid screech that seared through the dreary atmosphere like a startling gunshot. His heart raced must faster now. Six o’clock. That was ample time to complete his deed. He attempted to rectify his feet as he creaked open his vehicle’s ancient aperture, and sank his shoes into somehow sharp blades of grass that prickled under his weight. The lawns must have been recently mowed, but not too recently, as the grass had grown long enough to collect drops of morning dew from the mist. It was amazing how a place could be so well kept  yet so... So dead. The only life, he supposed, would be from people like himself. Perhaps people visited to pay their respects, to leave their best wishes, but not Raymond. Raymond was a man on a mission, and wouldn't have time in his regular day for that pansy shit.Groggy eyes scanned each slab of stone, each name, preserved permanently for the rest of its days for all eyes to see. If his mission wasn't so important, he thought, now rebutting his own internal monologues, he wouldn't have been able to take time out of his busy day just to make the trip out into the roughest cemetery in town. Yep, for sure, that’s how much he had moved on, no doubts about that. With a reassured confidence, he seemed to be able to pick himself up for the last leg of his little journey, strutting about with his usual cocky demeanor  Fuck everyone else, he was better than that, better than her, better than what he used to be. Bigger and better, that was Raymond’s apparent motto. In an inevitable twist of irony, the self righteousness seeped out of his stride, coming to a complete stop as the most familiar name of all rang true with the one straddling his conscience. “Sylvia Martin”, stated the tombstone’s inscription, followed with the numeric sequence “1963-2002” and a bittersweet cliché. Loving wife and mother? Raymond put more care into washing his fucking unmentionables. He resisted the guttural instinct to spit, however, because he had been raised better than that. He knew that any form of disrespect was a form of sacrilege upon his own family name, the same name that she had the gumption to steal from them. Raymond fumed, already becoming distracted and infuriated, by a few fucking words, drawn from his father’s presumably intoxicated slurry tongue. He took a deep breath, one that racked his whole body from nerves, and crouched, like he would if giving a pep talk to his football team. A striking white caught his attention, contrasting so vividly, so dexterously from grungy greys and gunky greens. A lone dandelion in a field of tombs stood sturdily, young and freshly blossomed, as if for the occasion. With much numbness in his thought, he extended his arm and plucked the flower clean from its stalk, laying it on the grave’s earthy mound, and then frowned at the sight. Yet another young life had sacrificed its potential for Sylvia Martin. But that’s what one was supposed to do at graves, was it not? “Mom...” Raymond began, not as steady as he had hoped. His voice was crackling still, being one of the first to leave his lips since his daily dormancy. He dropped a fist to the grass, as if trying to sow strength from the stone. “It’s me... Raymond.” His words were quiet, uncertain. Soon enough, he eased into the flow of speaking. It wasn't as if he could forget, others seemed to love the sound of his voice. He couldn't say the same for his mother either. “Uh. I don’t know how this shit is supposed to work, haha... I never been to one of these before... Never really wanted to, you dig me? You left us in a pretty shitty place, yo... Both, like, financially and mentally. Pretty sure none of us have been the same since. Especially Dad, like, he got his own little addictions now, haha. To be honest, I’m kinda here to see if I can get any help from you, like, more than you gave me in life. Though that shouldn't really be hard, I guess...” Bitterness was easily present on his tongue’s tip, but the cliquey colloquialisms that he utilized to openly when conversing to his peers were nowhere in sight. It was only a ploy, those ever changing little phrases of his, to let him feel “in the know” of the social niche, and hence more assured in his own actions. He felt no need to be cool in front of his mother, though. He was not here to impress her, after all. Well, perhaps a little. “Not that I need your help, I just, think it’d be better for me to kinda get a feel for who got the better end of the stick after all these years, haha...” A flawless recovery by Raymond. “I mean, like, come on. Look at me now. I’m a pretty stable, successful guy, and you’re a body in the ground. Dunno about all that, like, afterlife shit, but hey, you’d probably waste that too if you got the chance...” His accent grew stronger as his intent grew more passionate, more riled, believing in what he was saying even more, and in himself. “But me, like, damn... I got a pretty balanced life... I work most hours of the day, makes for a pretty smoking bod, haha, even though I got no choice about working... That’s your fault... But hey, good experience, right? Experience for when I don’t gotta live in your mistakes... For when I can live a life more successful than you, because, like, I turned out pretty good already... I’m real admired at school and all, got a good thing going with my guitar... And, look, I got invites to spend the holidays away.” Raymond attempted a smile, in vain, proudly shoving the dimmed display of his sturdy Nokia in the face of the tombstone. I ain’t useless at all, none of my friends think so, at least, haha... None of my teachers neither. I’m... I’m a lot better than you said I was, for real.” Raymond snagged a few of his pointy words in his throat, trying not to let his eyes sting too much. “I may not be the brightest little dude at school, and I may have trouble reading or thinking of words as quick... But for real, yo... I got people that care about me, I got my little bro, I got my friends, I got my work mates and all... Much more than I could say about you, and it ain't my fault that my reading’s so shit... Maybe if you’d cared a little more to put down them needles long enough to see you were bleeding us dry, haha...” Raymond paused, taking a sniff to clear his sinuses with the crisp, natural air. He must have hay fever or something, because big boys don’t cry. “Man, fuck you... You treated us like crap, for your own benefits and all... It’s kinda embarrassing being related to you now, like, for real. But, I guess the real reason I’m here is to show you that, like, I didn't really realize it before, but I’m done. Fucking done with you, fucking done feeling sorry for you, or trying to make myself stronger because of you, or believing that I’m worthless because of you. Because I sure as shit am not. May have taken me years to figure out, but I am a good person, and I don’t need any cool guy persona to have to believe that no more...” Raymond’s eyes shone with the hardened, self assured confidence he had so rightfully gained, a coy grin heaving up the adamant, paper-thin line of his lips. He could feel the density that his verbiage sagged upon the atmosphere, much more prominent than any of his previous monologues had been. Perhaps it was for the better, for his own benediction, albeit unhealthy in some prospects, that he had relieved his heavy conscience of the dour gunk that plagued his presence, his perspective, his mentality. What would have been even better for him, he knew, was if he not only understood what he was saying, but connected with them on a personal level. He was basically talking garbage. “So, yeah, this is me, telling you, that you ain’t a part of my life no more...” Words hurt. Words hurt a lot more than he had ever had the audacity to even begin to comprehend. He was even more taken by surprise by the amount of pain he felt from simply saying a few words, from saying words that possibly hurt his mother a lot more than they hurt him. He found himself choking, letters and sounds clogging his mouth as if his tongue was sandpaper, a possessive serpent of sandpaper that had little to no eagerness in letting such equivocations slide. But, words were easily said, even if their meaning wasn't true. Just as quickly as he could realize how astray and lost his words made him feel, and the internal suffering he felt. He didn't mean that. As horrible of a mother as she had been, she was still his mother. There was no changing that. That’s why it was so easy for him to relinquish his tongue’s serpentine grip on those awe-stricken, powerful cogitations, to let his last few contrasting speculations escape without as much as a second thought. His hand twisted, idly stroking the crumbled, parched clumps of earth, his fingertips eventually clutching on to the stalk of the dandelion. “I love you Mum...” Raymond whispered under his breath, his entire body playing the host to ruinous shakes as he knelt by the subterranean tomb. As much as he had tried to prevent their leaking, his stinging corneas swelled and released a few, salty drops. A couple of seeds dropped from the plant’s center  but the ominous death of the wind meant that they only fell over, pathetically, mirroring the mask of confidence he had developed. He coughed a little, as if trying to maintain face. Come on, Raymond. There isn't anybody looking now. You’re covering up for the lingering presence of your deceased tormentor. Seeming to realize the ineptitude and uncharacteristic qualities of his actions, he cleared his throat and rose to his feet with the springing balance of stretched elastic. Such were the ways of youth, bountiful energy, and an endless passage of self discovery. While having made a large first step towards redeeming himself for the unrighteousness that had grown to oppose him, the teenager still had a long way to go before he could consider himself properly stable. The young man attempted another smile, finding himself a lot more success and potency in his result. He looked up to the sky, now much brighter than it had been, the chirping of woodland birds having presaged the coming of day. Ah, how he loved a relevant pathetic fallacy. He tossed his phone over a few times in his hand, before gripping it tightly, shooting a steely, confident gaze as far away from his mother’s buried coffin as he possibly could. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got a long way to drive. Got some friends to visit...”

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