Childhood events can shape your opinions for life ...
If you read my essay for JHU, "The Forest," you will see a certain forest. But that isn't really the Eno River forest. I've admittedly only been there once, and I didn't spend any time there in private. This is the real forest.
There once was a boy who lived in a small one-story house in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Behind him was a luscious forest of white pine, white oak, and red maple that stretched for as far as he could see, all the way out. In every dimension, it was magnificent: the enormous pines must have been at least a hundred feet tall, and for a diminutive fourth-grader, that was certainly enough to constitute a mindblowing experience, looking up the trunks and seeing the spiral of branches above, each rung representing a whole year of life.
But when the boy asked his parents how much of the forest was theirs - indeed all he wanted was that it would last forever - they said only two rows of trees were theirs. Two rows?! The boy was shocked; although he certainly believed that land and trees belonged to nobody but themselves, he could not help but fear those things that were out of his control; in those days he didn't trust anyone else to handle things but himself. Perhaps to simply reassure him, his parents added that the original builders had told them that the forest was conservation land that would never be touched, even though it didn't belong to anyone. The boy was satisfied - promises were meant to be kept, right?
Every day, the boy looked at the forest; during the fall and winter, when there weren't bugs or poisonous plants, he'd venture into the forest. There were three memorable trees: the enormously wide and tall single-trunked pine that was taller than the rest of the pines, a dead pine tree that had lots of cool insects that had made it a hotel of sorts, and his favorite, a symmetric double-trunked tree (if he knew how to climb trees, he probably would have sat in the crevice between the two trunks). When the boy didn't have time to visit, he would draw the pine trees. He knew how to - better than drawing people or cars or roads or you name it.
He knew how the trees grew - when they added their new segments, how they came out with lime green stems with little sap bubbles, how their needles were bundled, how they were shaped - how only the top few young branches that pointed upwards actually expanded as you went down, and the rest were all about the same length, how, after just five or six rungs of branches, there were none more, since those all died, falling into obscurity. More importantly, he knew about the spirits of the trees. Only he could testify to how he could talk to them, sometimes just by placing his hand on their trunk, or maybe just sitting amongst them, or admiring them from afar (so that they looked like those miniature trees from toy railroad sets!). Only he knew how much the trees had an instinctive love and caring. They took care of him, and he took care of them, these actions occurring without either of them ever really doing anything.
In the forest, there were also so many little saplings. The small pine trees looked just like the small spruce trees; the small oak trees looked just like the small maple trees which looked just like the small bean and cucumber plants. And before that, their seeds looked just like the seeds of animals. Everything began small and began the same. And growing up together, they were all family. Trees never betray you. Unlike people.
There is a law in Massachusetts that states that, in order to build a house, you must use an acre of land. This was a conservation effort, since you'd only build the house on a certain plot of land and leave the forest in the rest. It was a wonderful idea.
Like most wonderful ideas, it was fucking bullshit in practice. The damn construction workers marched into the backward and slaughtered the whole damn acre of Justin's allies and they were quite happy about it. Each day they'd get closer and closer, and the boy felt like one day they'd just come into the house and cut him down, too. Those chainsaws kill anything, specially soft flesh.
The horrible noise of the saws slicing into bodies and making the blood spill everywhere. Then plop, down, dead totally dead murdered killed for nothing. For fucking nothing! They weren't being cut to build a boat or a dresser or a violin. No, this is the modern day. You cut the trees down because the land is more valuable without them.
It hurt. It hurt so much that each day, when the boy went to look at the ruins, he first felt this confusing dizziness, and then a wave of something else would come - hatred. He came to hate those construction workers he never saw. And yes, he hated every single one of them. He had no need for sympathizing with them or caring about them because you don't excuse murderers because they do good things someplace else.
Two rows, right?
That was a hope to cling to, that those two rows would be there to stay. But no, it wasn't really just a hope. It was a guarantee. Because if they dared to bring their fucking chainsaws intimately up against the groins of the boy's friends, he'd be there to stop them. He began to fantasize about revenge, about getting back, about ... anger was everything.
The day they made it close .. close close close (the dead trunk was long gone), the boy watched from the blue spruce tree in his side yard. He had been awoken by the metallic screams of the chainsaws, and he watched. He watched and he was crying. Not crying like tearing. Crying like pouring out so much he couldn't see anymore. His tears sympathetically shielded him from the sight of the death of his friends. Cried and cried and cried.
It would feel rather painful to have a chainsaw pass through your heart, but at least it would be over quickly, if the parts of your body fell apart fast enough and you kinda lost consciousness.
Images flew into the boy's mind - of those workers lined up so that he could punch the first one so hard all the others would fall down like dominoes.
And he knew at that moment that he was weak. That he couldn't do anything about it. That the law was against him. The law said that trees belonged to people, not to themselves. The law said that houses needed an acre to a plot. But the law was stupid, and the boy didn't care about it when it was wrong.
And so there was hatred. A burning, flaming hatred that was so powerful that it carried the boy all the way through the next few months of his life, as he coped with his impending move. Soon, the wound became something of a fixture, and the house was built and people moved in, who the boy refused ever to meet. He'd hate them for something they didn't do.
So the pain subsided, but there was a very pleasant message to be learned out of this:
People are fucking liars and they'll say what you want to hear when they're selling you something, then backstab you when it's in their interests to sell to someone else.