The Jacaranda Whispers

I never liked the name Neville, in fact, I hated it. Hearing it scratch out of Mama's voice from the kitchen always made me cringe. I despised the way it tested and tormented and taunted me as a toddler. The kids around the neighborhood used to do the same. It was either "Naval" or "Nashville" or something stupid. It's like the cross between "never" and "devil", only it wasn't supposed to be like that. It was supposed to be honorable and charming, but it was Neville.

I chose to call myself Seth because it was a 'beautiful' name and because Jack called me that. Actually, he thought it was beautiful; I didn't know what to think about it. He thought for me, on occasion, and I thought of him as thoughtful and wise. He hadn't even been on the earth a whole eighteen years when we first met, but he looked like an old-fashioned king with silly, brick-red curls weeping over his eyes like a crown. In spring, his oily, auburn-stained eyes tinted to hazel and when the purple Jacarandas reflected and mixed in his pupils, you got the most beautiful color in the whole wide world. Sometimes, when he would smile, they'd light up to match the brilliant flames in his hair. His hair often reminded me of a bleeding sunset in the heart of the city on any given day in autumn. It was like the devil's mayhem was dancing above his light-freckled face; like a comet of steam and lava bubbled up fresh from the hot underwater world and molded itself onto his head; or like bouncy, chunks of Mama's spicy spaghetti. I love spaghetti, especially in autumn with Jack. That's the best time for Italian food.

That's when we first came across each other's path--the autumn of my second grade. The slippery sweet of tomato sauce was still fresh in my mouth and on my face when I stepped out onto the porch that day. I was put in a mesmerized state by the crystalline chimes across the street, twinkling rainbow lights and clashing melodic chords. The whole time I reached closer and closer towards those chimes, that became the only thing I could see, and the only thing I heard. I never even noticed the car rushing at me until Jack clenched onto my arm and flung me away. I was more concerned with the sounds the crystal spectrums emitted, than the fact that I put myself in danger and could have died. I almost didn't care. Not at the time, anyway. It was the pieces of glow that would continue to ring and blemish my memory as Jack carried me back to my worn-away home. I don't remember how he knew where I lived or what happened after that; I just remember finding that those chimes were set off only when he was around.

"...It was like the devil's mayhem was dancing above his light-freckled face..."

I remember Jack was strange. He liked spaghetti, perhaps more than I did at the time, and he whispered a lot. Usually a small tune that even from across the room, could always find its way back into my head. Sometimes he'd mutter words from a story he was reading to help me sleep and sometimes he would nibble on my ear, tickling me generously all over. He strummed poetry from his voice and it was sweet and healing. He loved to whisper and I liked whispering back, because he used to tell me things--quiet things that no one knew of him; or of life or love, or the mind and even of me. He whispered anything he could, really and at such a vulnerable age, I'd sit there and give in to every word.

His words, in turn, would dance around inside me. They would sing soupy goldenness like the morning light saturated in the opal-laced, living room drapes. I was sitting under those drapes on that forgotten, brown couch the day Jack came by for the last time. Little Jessa was lost in dream in the next room and Mama had just pulled away in that new car she bought the same day. I think she was in search of love or something like that. Then the chimes outside swirled a melody in the wind similar to something Jack would soon serenade. It was my notion then that he was there. I was right.

His hard stance and long, proud smile engulfed the gateway to the yard. I could hear him singing one of his spur-of-the-moment tunes before he really even started a hum, but when he sang this day, it was something kind of dark. I chose not to pay attention to that. Instead, I ran and met him at the porch. The day was wet like after the rain; like after Noah's flood; like angels had just cried as the sun blazed over us.

I gave him a hug so huge, he was left cold from it. I got a little damped too, so we rushed back inside, where big plates of noodles, draped with red sauce relished on the ragged couch, invited us. We stayed there all day, it seemed. Shadows from the Jacaranda trees passed through the windows and across the room while Jack whispered several tales that made me giggle out loud.

Then he stopped it and everything in the room was dead. He stared at me and I smiled back; once he reached for my hand to hold gently.

"Seth... you're a beautiful boy..." he told me, kissing my cheek and chin. I was confused then, and so I said to him, with his cutting lips on my neck,

"I don't understand, Jack... Jack?" He forced himself onto my chest--hard.

"I'll understand for you," he whispered. I glimpsed a tiny flicker of light through the Jacarandas, who gathered around the window to spectate us. Their violently violet blossoms falling into small whispers of each other at every gasp I would plead. My face, like the wet day, mourned hot and long trying to push his lanky, stiff body away, but it was too hard. That would only anticipate his urgency to my neck again.

"Seth..." he murmured. I didn't answer. "...beautiful Seth," he muttered again and again. "I love you... I want you to know that OK, Seth?...Seth..."

"Neville..." I didn't know what else to say and he wouldn't answer. Instead, his hands became creepy, pink spiders on my tiny thighs eating away at my flesh. He consumed them quickly and moved on--to what? I don't know. All the hurt left in me, pushed him away, but only for a moment. He clenched my arm and tossed me off the brown plush, and I hit my head on the floor. I saw blackness, but all my other senses remained. Especially my taste. He was menacing poison in my mouth.

I could feel the trees' shadows swing back and forth across our bodies and sensed that it would soon be over after he lunged at my backside and hurt me there. Then the chimes expressed, abruptly, my pain all over.

"It's OK..." he whispered. "...this is OK". Suddenly, I didn't like his whispers any more. They were harsh to my hearing and echoed like daggers in the drum of my ear and then it festered there. Soon after, some of the dark was blurred away and I gained only enough of my vision, to see him rush to the door, like a bolt, and then I went black again.

When I came to, from Jessa's fatal wails, there was pain in my stomach, my head, all of my back and between my thighs. She thought I was dead, I bet, and it didn't help me that she could see all of my bruises. All of them. So she was taken to the kitchen quick, for something to eat, after I dressed.

You can see the Jacarandas from each window in each room of the house, even the kitchen. So it was hard to hide from the blossoms waving, teasing at me in the wind. I'd never get away from them or that forgotten old couch or the memory of that day.

To this day, I stay as far from that brown couch as I can. It takes me closer and closer to that time. I find that I'm almost always there any way, and the trees and the leaves and the blossoms. They're there too. Talking about me; about the day; about those singes, those stains on my body. It hurts me to see those trees day after day because they know. They witnessed, but shadowed me from safety and the rest of the world. So I guess I blame the Jacarandas more than I do Jack. Actually I'm not sure. I can't eat spaghetti anymore though, and I'll never ever whisper again; I know this much.

Michael Velez

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