Dead Man's Tree
I love my house. It's quiet there, away from all the nonsense of life, surrounded by trees and peace. My favorite place to be isn't in my house, though. It's by the Pop Pop tree.
Pop Pop’s favorite tree was a Willow. He was an army man, strong, kind, wrapped up in a uniform. How odd for a strong man of war to enjoy the simple beauties of life such as a willow.
We planted the tree after he died. Just a weak little sapling in the front yard. THe top broke off that winter and we thought it would die.
That was 8 years ago. The willow stands taller than ever, drooping over the yard as a limp curtain. I can see the tree from my window. It's a constant, I can look outside and know that the Pop Pop tree will be there, with a soldier standing it the shade of its leaves. The soldier who was strong and kind and wrapped up in a uniform.
My name depends on how you know me.
Phoebe stems from Greek origin, more specifically the word Phoebus. Phoebus, meaning bright or pure, is the title used to describe the Greek God of music and the sun, Apollo. Fitting, seeing as Apollo is my favorite of the Greek Gods. I truly have no idea what drew them to the name. I suppose they just thought it was pretty.
To me, Phoebe feels sort of like suffocation. It’s mispronunciation, misspelling, misleading. It’s countless papers reading Pheobe, Feby, Febe, Phoeby, ridiculous nicknames and jokes that grate against me like sandpaper. I look at the letters and I don’t see myself. I see a joke, a role I have been playing for the past 15 years in a show about my life but I don't want to be this character anymore. She isn’t developing or growing, she is collapsing. She is collapsing, but the show must go on. I see a girl who is lively, bouncy with envied hair and bright eyes.
Phoebe is not delicate. It is a strong name, one for a boxer. No, not a boxer. A name for a queen. Phoebe is a name for someone who rules over all, wearing elegant gowns and a crown big enough to see from space. This queen has defined features, complimented by a blanket of soft ringlets that cascade over her shoulders and down her back. This queen dazzles and demands attention, her eyes brighter than the moon on the clearest night. Her glare is sharper than daggers, and when she walks by everything smells of roses and vanilla. This queen is a gorgeous woman who could kill without hesitation. I am not that queen.
I’m not meant for Phoebe, I’m meant for Finn. Finnegan, stemming from the Irish name Fionn, means white or fair. Finnegan is that same girl, but as a boy. They are that queen with a much more king-like demeanor. Finn is that lively bouncy person with envied hair and bright eyes. They are a character I want to develop. Finn isn’t crashing. Finn’s character arc is just starting. Finn’s creation isn’t Phoebe’s end. Phoebe and Finn are one in the same, I just wish people would realize that.
Scents Blur Out Faces
The most primal of memorization skills. People all have a scent. Everything has a distinct smell. School is dusty and tired, brought to life with whatever is being made in the cafeteria that day. My best friends house smells like comfort and wilderness, smoky chimneys and chalk filled rooms where secrets are kept. She smells the same.
My grandmother’s house smells like flowers and perfume. It has a dusty scent, comforting in a way that makes your head spin.
My mother smells sweet, always a vague hint of whatever has been made that day. The best is when she comes home from the orchard smelling like the kitchen. It’s the orchards smell, baked goods and the breeze, crisp cold still biting at your already red skin. When she doesn’t smell like the orchard, my mother smells warm. She smells like home, like comfort and childhood. It’s a scent you cry to.
I can smell all these scents as I write, but I can’t picture the faces. I remember hair, nose, lips, markings, but scent best of all. I suppose I’m just a bit more primal than most.
Golf Balls and Bouquets
The dead man, Pop Pop, left when I was seven. He got sick a few years before, and I’m ashamed to admit that I was afraid. I was afraid of the man, the soldier, who now sat in the same spot for most of the day. The kind man wrapped up in uniform, now dependant on a machine to breathe. I was scared around him, and I feel so guilty for that.
Mom had to fly out a day or so before it happened. I remember all went to the airport, and when we got home, I threw up. I spent the day with Dad watching cartoons, not thinking about the hurt my family was going through twelve hours away.
The next day, we got home from school. The big black luggage carrier was on the car. I remember running upstairs, no no no. The soldier was gone. I knew something bad had happened, I couldn’t comprehend what. I just knew I should be upset.
Nothing sunk in until I saw him. A few days before, at a party we had for Pop Pop, there had been golfballs in the vases.
Why is that? I remember asking my aunt B.
Pop Pop loved golf, she said.
The day of the funeral, there was a bouquet of lilies and roses and other flowers, I don’t really remember what kinds. I remember these sparkly gold paper letters, spelling out P-O-P P-O-P. I think they let me keep one of the glittery P’s.
It didn’t sink in until I saw him. The kind soldier, wrapped up in uniform, lying lifeless in a wooden case lined with soft fabric. I didn’t touch him. I was afraid to touch him. I was afraid.
I remember the ceremony was nice. I think I sat still most of the time. I remember mom crying. After, the kids were sent to a play room. I stayed still. I started crying, wailing and screaming and gripping my dress. I tried to find stability in anything I could. I hugged my mother and cried for a long time. I was afraid. I was afraid without the kind soldier there.