Revelation in a Tunnel of FlowersSubmitted by Tom Sorrell at 2013-07-29 04:45:33 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 3 ratings (4 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Halfway between Hiroshima and Nagasaki lies a bastion of serenity known as Kawachi Fuji Gardens. It’s spring. Ancient trees surround spectacular fields of flowers, while blue and red songbirds, orange butterflies and green caterpillars mingle with human intruders. The sound of children’s laughter in the cool Japanese air drowns out the squishing sound their shoes make as they fly across the grass, tiny feet crushing smaller insects and any other creature in their way.
The kids are running, now, faster and faster, towards a pastel vortex of wisteria flowers spiraling clockwise over a wrought-iron archway, which runs for five hundred curving feet through the middle of the garden. The parents, two tired, but happy looking Americans in their late-twenties, trail behind keeping a watchful eye on their son and daughter and talking about how peaceful life seems when surrounded by so much nature.
They see an elegant couple about their age walking towards the tunnel. The couple is holding hands, but their fingers are not clasped tightly and it seems forced. They walk with flawless posture. Their skin is tanned, deeply, and seems to glow. They seem to be successful people.
The motherly woman looks at her counterpart, wearing a lavender dress with her long, brown hair pulled up in a tight bun. “She looks like Angelina, if she didn’t have any boobs,” the woman says with a “tsk,” before muttering something like “Skinny bitch.”
The man nods and looks at the other man, in a button down and khakis. He frowns, then turns to his wife. “Who was that guy in that movie about the guy who can’t remember anything? It’s the one with Trinity and Cypher and Ned Ryerson.”
“Do you mean Memento?” she asks.
“Maybe,” he replies. “He stays in a hotel and the movie goes backwards.”
“It’s Memento,” she says, convinced.
"Right. What the name of the guy who plays the main character?"
“Pearce something or other,” she replies. "Brosnan, maybe?"
He shakes his head. "No, that's not it. Damn it, what is that guy's name? He was in The Count of Monte Cristo, too, opposite Jim Cajesus."
"Pearce Caveizel? Is that his name?"
"I have no idea," his wife sighs.
The man shrugs and nods at his counterpart. “Whatever. That’s who that guy over there looks like.“
His wife looks, laughs and nods affirmation, then notices the frown forming on her husband's face. She turns and sees their children tearing across the meadow like little Tasmanian devils on a collision course with tragedy. They're headed straight for the other couple, not a care in the world. The other couple has no idea. They’re looking up at the trees. Up at the birds. Up at marshmallow clouds set against a cobalt sky. Anywhere but down.
The parents, of course, can see the destruction before it happens, as if they have some kind of Parent/Jedi radar/clairvoyance. Knees will be buckled. Noses will be broken. There will definitely be carnage. Tomorrow's headlines will scream from the pages, “Angelic Children Trampled by Pseudo-Celebrity Devil-Worshipers! Green Garden Painted Red with Blood of Innocents!"
In the same fraction of a second, both parents yell for their kids to stop. Their children heel and pull to a halt as Superskinny Angelina Noboobs and the man who looks like The Guy from Memento walk past them into the tunnel, without a clue how close they came to possible prison time. Almost Angelina looks down at the little ones and frowns.
“I hate kids,” she says with a sneer as the sky disappears, replaced by a swirling blanket of purple wisteria. “Little snot-nosed, shit-fingered, ass-pickers who destroy everything they touch. They're awful. If we ever have one, we're boarding it.”
“Jesus Christ, Mary,” the guy says, with a concerned look on his chiseled, unshaven face. “You sound like you're talking about a dog, you monster.”
He's not joking. He really means this. Had his wife been able to see his eyes, she’d have noted the seriousness about them that came with that statement, but he’s wearing sunglasses, so she assumes he’s being facetious and laughs. He frowns, takes off his glasses and slides them into the pocket of his button-down, oxford cloth shirt.
“Your shirt matches the flowers, John!” she yelps with an inappropriate level of delight.
John looks up and nods, again. “Yeah, great. And look, you're wearing purple, too."
"No," she says. "I'm wearing lavender. There’s a huge difference."
John sighs and looks around. "It’s like I tripped and fell into Barney the Dinosaur’s giant purple asshole," he mutters.
His wife shoots him a dirty look. “You’re wretched,” she says, in a shrill whisper, before moving deeper into the tunnel. After exactly 38 seconds of staring at all the pretty flowers she forgets she’s angry and sidles up next to him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“It’s a tunnel of love, darling” she says with a sigh.
He rolls his eyes and shrugs her head off his shoulder, then looks around at all the purple around him while his wife takes out her cell phone and pushes record. She points the camera everywhere, narrating like John Madden. “To my left is blah-blah-blah. To my right is … “ and so on. If she had the means she’d be circling groups of flowers and showing them to him. Instead she says, “Omigod, look over there, honey. There’s rings of pink and yellow in the purple!”
Mary puts her phone away while looking up at the two new colors. She holds out her arms and smiles, hugely, then somehow her smile grows wider. “It’s so pretty!” she squeals in ecstasy. “I want to live in this tunnel! It’s paradise.”
“It’s a tunnel of pea pods growing in a circle around a wrought-iron supporting archway,” John mumbles, bored, but if she hears him she ignores it, completely caught up in the world of colorful flowers spiraling around her head.
They walk in silence for a while, ignoring each other’s presence, and eventually pass an elderly couple walking arm-in-arm, headed back towards the entrance and staring at only each other within the chaos of color around them. It makes John and Mary uncomfortable, seeing two people so happy. She notices his look of ennui and sighs.
“You’re not talking,” she says.
“So?” he replies.
“I don’t like it when you don’t talk. I feel like something’s wrong.”
“You don’t like it when I talk, though.”
"I do so.”
“No you don’t. You like it when I say short sentences. Whenever I try to talk you interrupt me when –“
“I do not! That reminds me! Did I tell you what happened with Audrey the day before our flight left?”
“Yes, and that is exactly what I mean. Whenever I say more than a few words you interrupt me and tell a rambling, incoherent story about how Lizzy pays 30 dollars less when she goes to the spa than Audrey does and blah-blah-blah, as if somehow it ties in to what I was saying.”
“It does not! You never listen to me and I think it’s because you don’t like it when I talk.”
“Oh shut up,” Mary says. “Just shut up, John. You’re being an asshole.”
They continue on for a few feet as brilliant shades of red, green yellow and purple fill the space above their head. The rest of the atmosphere is weighed down by a thick, palpable tension that John finally cuts through.
“Why are we still together?" he asks.
“What?” Mary replies, feigning ignorance, while looking up at the swirling color above.
“We hate each other.”
“No we don’t. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Yes we do. At least I do.”
Mary’s eyes widen. She looks her husband in the eye. “You hate me?”
He nods and her eyes immediately flicker with intense rage. “Well fuck you, asshole,” she spits through gritted teeth. “You can go to hell and burn in the fire.”
“How can you say you don’t hate me?” John asks, fighting back a wry grin.
“Because I don’t!” she shrieks.
"Just admit it. You hate me.”
“You're the goddamned devil," he says, calmly, “and you make me miserable."
“You make yourself miserable. You’re the one who can’t appreciate nature as beautiful as this. You’re the one who doesn’t want to hear my stories. You’re the one who wanted to go to see some stupid temple when I wanted to come here to show you what zen really is, and now that we’re here you mope around like a child. It’s not my fault you’re here! You chose to come with me. This was all your choice. Deal with it.”
John pauses for a moment, and nods. “You’re right,” he says, as he takes the keys to the hotel room and rental car and hands them to her. “Have a nice life, Satan.”
“Where the hell are you going?” Mary yelled at John's back, but he didn’t reply. He just kept walking, out of the tunnel, out of her life and into the wild. That was the last she saw of him, but many years later, when she visited Osaka with her new husband, she heard rumors of a white man who'd become a vital member of the Buddhist temple north of the city. It was said he was a man whose journey had begun from a wondrous garden located between two monuments to destruction.
When Mary went back to the garden to visit a vital piece of her history, the season of bloom was over. The colors were gone. All that remained of the tunnel was the wrought-iron passageway, wrapped clockwise with gnarly vines that reached out like the cold, pale fingers of an ancient witch.
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