…Pitiful symphonies defined each and every liberation. The frequency of dejected, lonely souls haunted Reuben Remus as he tried to sleep, and yet Terra remained cutoff from him. Within the vacuum of those lonely nights Reuben Remus found despair. He cut holes in his own heart, condemning himself in a show of repentance; shedding away former joys he sought to pay for each soul he had forsaken. There was Józef Korzeniowski, a rickety old soul who had sculpted the terrarium growing in his home. When Reuben found him he had small vines growing over his back and shoulders, and he had forgotten how to speak. He growled when Reuben entered his home, and bit at Reuben’s forearm with a toothless weapon as he tried to show him into the sunlight. There were the twins Otylia and Teresa Pawlowski who had been separated from one another when a giant, dipping pine tree broke through the center of their house. Its low-hanging trunk divided them with an obstacle their old bones could not traverse. Their muscles were too weak to shout to one another, so their house was filled with crumbled up letters that they catapulted to each other. Their sea of crumpled emotions was their final connection, so when they ran out of paper to write on they began peeling the wallpaper to use as stationary; and when they ran out of wallpaper they were forced to turn inward and began writing on the walls to themselves. Their sad lives were inked on the walls of their home and carved into the trunk of the massive pine tree that separated them. Two stories, two lives lost: a tragedy Reuben Remus was responsible for. He spent his nights reading their letters, no matter how badly they hurt…
…He lost sleep thinking about Zbigniew Majewski who remained trapped on the earth while half of his home, including his beloved wife, were lifted skyward. She, too, soared past the sun like any angel would, freeing herself right before Zbigniew’s eyes. Reuben found him dressed in his wife’s clothes, pretending to eat dinner with her at the kitchen table. In his delirium he addressed Reuben as if he was himself, telling him how sorry she was that she left him behind. There were many nameless discoveries, as well. Like the man who served as nutrition for his dachshund, or the bodies that had fertilized the Kabacki Forest. Reuben Remus would excavate their bones from the mouths of sharp vines and pick segments of their ribs from the soggy clutches of heavy mold, gathering just enough of what remained to give them a burial…
…Who could argue that Terra is not a carnal lover?
Each day brought new bodies. A soul to be rescued comes at a price, and whichever god claimed the souls trapped in the Kabacki Forest charged one life for another, so each liberation was charged with a corresponding free fall. From heaven to hell, so the story goes. And what of the price of jubilation? Just know that Reuben Remus showed with new wrinkles about his eyes, that his fingers were too gnawed and calloused to play the violin, that he no longer smiled, or sang aloud, that he was the grave-robber. He replaced the true language of heaven earth with that of the contemporary and prayed to a god that was not his own without a true emotion teeming in his mind. Those were the dark days when the world tested Reuben Remus….
…Otylia Pawlowski broke the silence, closing in on Reuben one night as he lay in a hammock tied to the stars. “Why don’t you sing for us anymore?” He picked his head up and looked down at Otylia Pawlowski, but could only see the dejected words she had etched over her home. She stood barely taller than the grass, just high enough to peek over the base of the hammock. She placed her fragile hand in his. “We are not strangers, Reuben Remus. I’ve listened to her sing your name for years and years.” She smiled at him. “Will you walk with me? It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed a little piece of the moon.” Otylia Pawlowski took Reuben’s hand and guided him away from his troubles. They listened to the crickets chirping and the forest growing, staying quiet until Otylia Pawlowski spoke again, “This place has never been beautiful to me, but now I’m not afraid to take the time to listen.”
Reuben took her words in, but the question that begged at the forefront of his mind was all he had to share. “How did you know my name?”
With a smile and a gentle tightening of her hand, Otylia answered. “I know much more than your name, Reuben… but if it is your curiosity that needs satisfying then who am I to deny you? Your music rose from my fireplace one night, and with it came your name and so much more. Night and day I heard her singing your name as you played your violin for her. It was all I had to look forward to… the songs of two children in love.”
Reuben stopped walking and stood in front of Otylia, kneeling down on one knee so she could see the sincerity in him. “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to you.”
…“Read, Reuben. Discover your own meaning to this strangeness.” Otylia Palowski and Reuben Remus rested on the trunk of a bending pine tree and stared up at the broken pieces of the moon that were shining between the branches of the colossal pine trees . She rested her head on his chest and listened to the beating of his heart as if it were rising from her fireplace. “These woods are many things,” she started, through a nostalgic drawl, “romantic, harsh, silent, distant, unnatural, exotic, and filled with emotions I will never understand. People are not so different, Reuben. I have been sad for some time, but with sadness there is the prospect of joy… Don’t ever forget that.”
Reuben carried Otylia Pawlowski back to the one-story brick house late into the night. She sang for him. Her voice was gentle and kind, provoking an even more gentle thought to blossom within Reuben’s deflated conscience: Otylia Pawlowski had been renewed. He laid her down beside Teresa Pawlowski, and as he said goodnight he was infected by the warmth of their reunited bodies; absorbed by miracles of renewal and the synergy of reunification Reuben Remus took to an unshakable idea, one that had him walking past broken pieces of the moon to Otylia and Teresea Pawlowski’s old home. He pushed past new vines that had grown over the open doorway and entered their former prison. The moonlight slid through a hole in the roof like a seeing glass, translating the passions that were carved into the spiraling pine tree that had snaked its way through the center of their home. The wave of emotions brought to life through the inspiration of words and images twisted with the furrows, spinning round and round from Otylia’s side of the home to Teresa’s side and back; round and round, the yin and yang of two minds flowing in perfect unison told of a love story between a goddess and a young Jewish boy. This was their version of Reuben Remus’s mission to speak the universal language, and how a bored, lonely goddess spoke back. The sequence was filled with an admiration for new love blooming into the world; with the nostalgia of two memories that yearned for the past; with envy provoked by their loneliness; with hatred towards the selfish lovers that toyed with their fate; and with questions of god and the feminine version of the holy trinity that rose from their fireplace. Reuben Remus, a selfless man who spent his youth loving, and who communicated with the world through the passion of his music, stared down the dark-side of his humanity, reading into his faults, seeing parts of his ego that he had failed to recognize. He read the Pawlowski version of his life under shattered pieces of the moon; from front to back, and back to front, and once as braille. He took away five different meanings, never criticizing them, never looking back, not even when he faced death at the hands of a children’s game decades later…