March 16, 2012

When a tree falls

There is a story I remember from when I was working in Dumaguete.

A man who drove a trycicle for a living died when a century-old acacia tree fell on him. He was driving that day the tree finally gave in to its old body and weak roots. There was another man in the trycicle, a surviving passenger who would live to tell his story. I wasn't able to talk to the man himself.

But out from the police's description and several other witnesses, the man said a cracking sound saved him.
A sound, I imagined, felt as strange as lightning under a roof, made him see the tree and jump out in the nick of time. This happened in a span of milliseconds, of course, but a thing one never forgets, and stretches out into a whole hour or even a whole lifetime, if you think about it, because these are the things that reminded you of life's frailty, because we always forget, despite recurrent warnings.

The tryciclye driver's story has a whole different ending. So this took me to a modest house in the inner part of the city, and to a wife who - and this is a thing that always takes me off-guard in stories of death, still welcomed me in her house. She talked to me in between sobs and an alternation of disbelief and anger.
She told me her husband was splattered. She went on describing which body parts were "...mangled. No, splattered," she corrected herself.

As to who's to blame is a whole different story that would take us to the painfully unreliable exchange of blame, from the city, to the Department of Natural Resources, to the government office right across the tree that fell and killed the trycicle driver. "Splattered," I can hear the wife describe it again.

In the library from where I live now, I borrowed The Little Prince. I am reading it again. In Chapter 26, where The Little Prince dies, is a line describing him falling like a tree.

"He fell as gently as a tree falls. There was not even any sound, because of the sand."

This was in a desert, of course. And The Little Prince said he was going back to his small planet.

The story I had to thread through happened on concrete road, to a man who was driving his trycicle for the last time.

1 comment:

liyo denorte said...

reading it, feels as if i'm reading a PDI entry, the same feeling when i savor newspapers before.

the 1st story btw, is sad and wonderful, the 2nd is painful and painful, and for the little prince (with the bygone memories) its painful and beautiful.