When we were young we used to run around the yard shrieking like indians because nothing mattered - it’s the beauty of youth. When we were young we got to live out freedom, we laughed in the face convention. We ate fruit off of the ground under apple trees, and we drank water straight from the stream. We ran barefoot through the woods ignoring the needles and thorns that would tear our feet. Beauty was a sun that was so bright it illuminated the person in front of you and reflected off of their skin. Everything was different...when we were young.
With age comes reality, no longer can you lounge a day away, no longer can you mess up your hair, discard your shoes and jump in the nearest pond with your best friend. No longer do your parents scold you when you come home sopping wet in your clothes. No longer do you get to live for the sake of nothing at all.
We were all friends, when we were young. He and I, her and him...brother and sister to brother and sister. We would romp about hand-in-hand scheming and planning great adventures - Tom and Alice, me and Eli. We caused the most trouble to our parents, Tom and I used to come home and go straight to our rooms in the anticipation of punishment, we figured we would just beat them to it. Parents don’t like it when you do that, they don’t get the opportunity to remind you of what it is that you’ve done wrong and why you should never do it again, they really hate it when you rob them of their responsibility.
Alice and Eli never did that to their parents, they went home and let their parents have their satisfaction before they went to their rooms. It seemed that they never incurred such a harsh punishment as Tom and I, because they actually let their parents punish them.
I remember when we were getting older, Eli and I were laying in the woods staring at the sunshine coming through the leaves above our heads.
“I wish I could stay here forever,” he said to me.
“Why...that’s such a simple question, why?”
“When did you become a philosopher, Eli,” I laughed at him.
“I was reading-”
“You can read,” I joked, cutting him off. He fake punched me in the arm before he smiled and continued.
“I was reading Thoreau, about what he said about going to the woods, it made me want to follow him.”
“What did he say exactly?”
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
“You think you’ll lose yourself as you grow up and go on, don’t you?”
There was a long pause so I turned my head to look at him. He was staring at me with unblinking eyes, it unnerved me, but I couldn’t break the gaze. It was so rare for us to have a moment where we were so open with each other. Regardless of my lack of trust in Eli, he was the one person I trusted most in the world and I was the same to him. It scared me to see his eyes wide open staring into mine. It scared me to know that he was trying to communicate with me through that gaze, and that, although I knew him so well, I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. Finally he opened his mouth, but his eyes remained on me.
“I know I will,” a pause, “and you will too.”
Eli’s words followed me throughout my adulthood. Haunting, taunting, toying with me. I tried to live and grow as though it would never happen, and as I aged those words became more prevalent to me. As I went through college and as I graduated, when I got my first job. I tried to learn what life had to teach me, but learning is hard when you’ve grown up, and sometimes you forget things that were once important to you. Eli’s words, which had been so defining to how I tried to live, were easily replaced with dreams of success, wealth, love - the frivolous things in life.
But, every year we would all get together, Alice and Tom, me and Eli, and we would go outside like we did when were young. We would run around barefoot, and jump into the pond with our clothes on. We would play and we would remember.
“Eli, wait for me,” I yelled, running as fast as my short legs would carry me.
“Just run faster, you can do it!”
“It’s not fair, you’re taller than me! I’m gonna make Tom beat you up if you don’t slow down,” I screamed out between gasps for air.
“Fine,” he slowed down, “slowpoke.”
“I’m not a slowpoke!”
“Don’t be so sensitive!”
“I’m not sensitive,” I yelled.
“Stop yelling at me,” Eli was getting angry now too.
“You deserve it,” I said, upset.
“If you don’t stop yelling I’m gonna run really fast and leave you behind.”
“No, Eli don’t do it,” I yelled, and he took off. “Eli, wait for me! Please wait,” I was crying now as my anger turned to frustration. I ran after him struggling to see through my tears, and tripping over roots and stones.
“You can’t catch me,” He yelled back laughing.
That was the last word I heard him say because right after that I ran headfirst into a branch and knocked myself out. I had a history of head injuries from when I was very young, and having a concussion was a very big deal for me. I don’t remember anything between running into that branch and waking up, although Eli tells me I was mumbling something when he found me. I do remember waking up to screaming.
“Wake up! Wake up! Please wake up and I’ll never leave you again,” Eli was screaming into my face, shaking my shoulders. I could hear him first, and then I opened my eyes and saw him. He was crying and looked more frightened than I had ever seen him look.
“Eli, you need to go get my mom,” I said.
“I can’t, I’m too scared,” he cried.
“Eli, you’re the bravest ten year old I know, please go get my mom,” my encouragement seemed to give him the strength he needed because he nodded and ran off in the direction of my house.
I ended up needing stitches on my forehead, and had to get a CAT scan of my skull because the doctors were afraid I had fractured it.
The scar on my forehead had gotten bigger as I grew up, but the bright white color has faded. I fingered it as Eli recalled the incident. His eyes glancing towards mine, and then moving up to my forehead.
“I think Eli cried more than I did,” I said after he was done, Tom and Alice laughed while Eli punched me in the arm.
“It was a traumatizing experience for a ten year old.”
“If anything I should have been the one crying, not telling you what to do.”
“It’s okay, Eli, she lived,” Tom said with a grin.
“Just barely,” I reminded, although we all knew it wasn’t true.
“Hey,” Eli shrugged, “All that matters is that you’re still here.”
“And in one piece,” Tom added.
Now, we’re all a little old. We have jobs, family, children - we have lives. We don’t get together anymore with the express of purpose of remembering what it was like to be young and free. We don’t need to. We see those years live on all around us, through our children and their friends.Eli once told me that growing up was a curse. That when someone grows up they lose themselves, they lose to the world and its faults, and traps, and vices. But, as we move on in life, and we get nearer to our end, I find that I don’t regret losing myself - if that’s what this is.