19 Tree Rings in Her Mind’s Jungle
Another year of living and she can feel the vines enfolding around her.
Writhing with urgency, they bounce off the walls of her mind in their haste to expand. Her mother flies out for the celebration, 19 rings around the tree, and brings a cornucopia of gifts. Among assorted treasures, two shirts from her father, neither of which fit. The fabric strains against her chest, latches onto her waist, cascades down her hips. She tries to suppress the frustration, fails, feels the desire to scream drag its fingers against her temples. Does he even know what my body looks like?
Each year, he seems to see her less and less. Once they spoke without words—now, all speech has deserted her. She can’t bridge the growing gap, this jungle that edges nearer every night in her dreams. She can feel the soft exhale of the brush on her cheeks, twists against the pillows to get away, knowing distantly that it won’t hurt her, that it’s getting to be time.
She and her mother go to a museum and she’s struck mute by the painting of a Victorian woman emerging from a tropical forest. I’m looking at myself, she thinks, drinking it in. Except the forest is inside me. Supposedly, the artist wanted to shock his audiences by juxtaposing the elegantly dressed ‘society girl’ with the obscene greenery. She doesn’t find it shocking at all— ironic, if anything, that in his attempt at the improbable, this man managed to reveal that all women have jungles in their minds.
She doesn’t know why the concept of adulthood doesn’t scare her, while this impending womanhood twists her insides.
Another year of living, and the forest has made a home in her mind. In the folds of the wind, her name echoes.