In The Weeds – Matt Vest [Fiction]

There is a path that deer have worn among the tall weeds, and you are following it along the side of a stream you cannot quite see except for the occasional glitter through the grass. It sounds like static to you, with a trickle in its midst. Like an untuned TV in a room with an aquarium.

You feel a kind of desperation because you are urgently looking for something like a small lost child, or because you are running away from something terrifying like an African warlord’s rape and torture and butcher men, or perhaps both. But the tension isn’t at a crescendo. You don’t hear the child drowning in the stream so it could be she is just out wandering and wondering at flowers and grasshoppers. You don’t hear the evil men behind you so there’s a chance that they’ve given up pursuit.

Still, you feel terror and desperation and are unsure what to do except keep walking.

Gradually, your path shrinks down. It doesn’t go away. It is still well-worn, but it gets narrower and narrower, and the weeds get denser and denser and you find it difficult pushing through them with your shoulders. You try to walk sideways, but either way, moving forward is becoming hard work. And as you lean into the weeds and push your way through them, the pollen thickens as well and you feel it like an irritating buzz in your nose and throat, and breathing becomes harder and harder until you are gasping. You cannot breathe, and you struggle against the plants to turn around, but you cannot see the path anymore, and you can’t tell which direction you’re facing. It occurs to you on some deep forgotten level that you could just come to the surface of all of this. You could swim up where the air is. Just let go and float up.

And as you do, you feel your body slough easily away and fall below you, and you see it laying in a tangle of reeds and grasses, and you feel a great serenity and calmness because all of your troubles are over. All of your troubles are over because you are over. This you that you pushed through reeds was only a construction. All of its worries and fears were ultimately about this moment. This moment for you. This moment for the child. This moment of drifting up out of the weeds. This moment of peace and surrender and acceptance.

And no longer needing air, you lower yourself down into the reeds and stroke your soft cheeks, and marvel at the intricate miracle of your eyelashes and the quiet wet globes they hide and protect beneath your closed eyelids. The pleasing contours of your lips and the lovely way they rest against your teeth, even now, contorted as they are. The happy spirals of your ears, and the golden fluff upon them. You have never seen yourself this way, and something occurs to you.

What part of you is experiencing all of these things? What is this? You are another thing, aren’t you? A bigger thing. A deeply familiar thing. A wider and grander and boundless thing that has none of the walls you built to trap and nurture that eddy of self you so believed in. You are everything, really. Aren’t you?

And you realize there is another surface to swim to. There is another mystery, and an urgency. A building urgency. You have to pee. And you open your eyes in your dark room and you get out of bed, trying to remember what you dreamed. Something about a path through the weeds. Something about fear that gave way to something wonderful and peaceful and profound. There is a susurrus of rain from outside, like static on a TV in another room. The motion-detecting nightlight in the bathroom comes on, and you make your way to the toilet. You hear the trickling sound as you let go, and an aquarium you had as a teenager comes to mind, and the pleasant sound the water made in your room at night.

By Matt Vest

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