I went to the woods

By Ashley Simango

I woke up with a jolt. Mindlessly, I bolted into the street. No knowledge at all.

I didn’t know who I was but l knew there was somewhere I had to be. Mindlessly, still, I raced against time. Then it all happened so fast it almost took my breath. I remembered it all. The blood. The glass. I remember hovering above the lifeless body that was me. What was going on? Maybe this was a movie, maybe, just maybe I had to close my eyes for a while and it would all be a dream.

A thousand seconds later I opened my eyes and realized that I was the dream. My wife had just walked past me without even raising an eyebrow. Without even realizing it, I was tailing her, frantically shouting. Still she walked away. I tried to talk to her and only then did I realize she herself was running. I followed her. After a couple of streets and corners, I stopped and my heart froze. I was looking at my own corpse.

I lay lifeless underneath what used to be my car. All the paramedics were trying to calm my wife down but she had none of it. I was so taken aback by her pain that for a moment l forgot to remind myself I was dead. Even with so many thoughts threatening to knock the last spasms of air out of me, I walked home right beside her, unseen. What was sadder? Watching my own widow or the reason why my wife was now a widow?

We got to the front door and she threw herself on the porch and cried her soul out. I gathered that no one else had yet been told. She sat alone. An hour or two passed and she finally picked herself up and walked into the house. At that moment, I liked to think that the courageous, strong Karen who l had married was back, but I knew that her strength would last only long enough to walk through the door and shut it. She did exactly that.

After a couple more minutes of regaining her stamina, Karen picked up the phone and called my sister. She told her everything in between gasps and sobs. My sister lived two states away and l knew she was not going to make it that same day. I found myself sinking into the couch, trying to embrace my very own widow who could not even see me. I tried. I really tried. Every time, she slipped through me and didn’t seem to feel a single thing.

“Reporting live from the scene. It has been almost 6 hours after the award-winning historian was dismantled in a car accident. Onlookers say his widow left the scene almost 3 hours ago and the hysteria was evident on her face.” I found it interesting to watch. 50 years on earth. 50 goddamn years for people to know me only as a historian? Nothing more? I had a life outside of my job. I had a wife and reputable businesses, but most importantly, I had character. I was human. Not just an “historian.”

Our minds are powerful tools. They are literally the powerhouse of our beings. This I realized when I instinctively stood up to go and open the door for whomever was knocking. I had momentarily forgotten that I’d ceased to exist in this realm a few hours earlier. Gratitude and relief flooded my heart: I thought it’s my sister. But how had she travelled across two states in such a short time? A question that maybe I would ask her after she too joined the afterlife. It turned out to be someone else, my friend John.

John? Wow.

In John I always knew I had not only found a friend but a brother. It gave me so much comfort to realize he was the first person to comfort my wife. I felt a bit at ease. Karen should not have to bear this burden too large alone. In all honesty, if I had the capability to, I would have kissed John on the spot. Unfortunately, I was now a spectator. All I did was watch.

So l watched him hug Karen. I watched Karen walk John to the couch. I watched John wearing my favorite slippers quite comfortably. I watched Karen go to the bathroom, wash her face, and come back looking livelier. It had never really dawned on me all these years that these two shared that level of intimacy. I never realized just how much Karen also loved my best friend, John. Even in my pale state, an eerie shudder engulfed me whole.

Now Karen sank lower into John’s chest and John didn’t move. John was comfortable. In no time at all, the television channel was switched from the news to telenovelas. I brought myself back to the accident, the way my body had slammed hard against the windscreen right after my brakes had “failed.” I wished l could live it out again and die again, but this time, to be phased out of mortality in all senses. All John said was “finally, it is done,” and the last sane thought l had, hovering in my buoyant nature, was borrowed from Henry David Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately and not when I came to die discover that I had not lived.”

25 November, 2022