The world changes and moves on. It forgets things, as we all do when times passes. And what we forget, ceases to exist any longer.
Tress are cut down to make room for new buildings, big faceless blocks that stand empty, to hold temporary businesses that leave as soon as they come in. Trees as old as hundreds of years, just cut down without a single thought. No respect for the life that had started from a tiny seed, grown until it touched the sky, but is now a bare stump that will soon be ground down to erase its existence. Who else had seen that tree when it was just a sapling? None now are alive to remember. And years will pass and others will forget it was even there.
Does our existence even matter? Who will be around to remember us when we too, are gone?
Eleanor didn't like to think about these things. Such deep thoughts disturbed her and awakened fears that were better left buried and forgotten.
It was the Age of Fear. No one was safe. It was a dangerous world and Eleanor was caught struggling to survive. These thoughts plagued her even in her dreams where she dreamt that her teeth were falling out. One time she dreamt that her flesh was falling off of her, leaving only bone. These childhood nightmares chased her as an adult and she never grew out of them.
She drove past the dry cleaners where the workmen had finished cutting down three of the ancient elm trees that had once towered above East street. Now all that was left were bare stumps, bigger than the three men across, and covered with the rings that showed the elms' ancient heritage no longer remembered.
The storm came the night after, sending a torrent of rain to flood the downtown area and knocking power lines out for several miles. Winds had reached over sixty-miles-per-hour and uprooted some of the younger and weaker trees that couldn't withstand the sudden wind blast and sodden ground.
The magazines she saw in the salon showed ageless faces that didn't seem to exist in real life. Flawless smiles with vacant eyes beamed vacuously from the front pages of Vogue, Cosmo and Vanity Fair.
Eleanor looked into the mirror in front of her, waiting for her stylist to finish on an old woman who sat in the chair with curlers in her hair.
Eleanor was ten when she went into the convalescent hospital to visit her grandmother's cousin. The smell was the worst of all and she had to cover her mouth when she went in. She was told not to do this because it was rude, but the smell was so bad. Stale urine, creamed corn and an old mustiness that would never leave you because it followed the decaying bodies stuck in wheelchairs, and beds.
With dread Eleanor walked into the room where the ninety-year-old woman lie on her back staring at the blank TV screen. The woman was over two-hundred pounds and couldn't turn herself or sit-up without mechanical means.
"Who are you?" The old woman asked.
Eleanor's grandmother explained who she was and the older woman nodded.
She turned to Eleanor, her glazed-over eyes watching without much interest and asked, "How's school?" Eleanor answered this repeated question as best as she could each time.
Eleanor later asked to go outside and she walked quickly by herself to the car. In one of the rooms she could hear someone sobbing and an old man screaming, "Get me out of here!"
She never went back with her grandmother to that convalescent hospital again.
Eleanor watched the old woman with all of her wrinkles and sagging features, she then looked back into the mirror, noticing her own thin brown hair straggling down her pale face. Her eyes looked back, from within tired eye sockets and her mouth was set in a drawn line. She wasn't near as old as the woman in the chair yet she felt hideously tired and ugly compared to the women's faces in the magazines. The old woman hobbled with her back bent, on her way to the hairdryer chair and Eleanor's stylist turned to her. "Okay, you're next."
Yes, Eleanor thought, it's only a matter of time now.
Time passed too quickly and moments were gone within a blink of an eye.
High school, once an unescapable drudge, became a blur of memories living only in the decade now lost to the past.
Eleanor flipped through her yearbook, noticing how many of her former friends were now married with children, or in the military. She read the description under her own picture, the face of a care-free seventeen-year-old and later valedictorian. "Actress or Writer", it said under what she wanted to be. Her valedictorian speech was all about how important it was for people to change the world around them.
She didn't believe that now.
She hadn't gone to a university like she had originally planned. Like most of her friends who graduated, she had gone to a junior college in hopes of transferring to the local state college. By the time she had finished junior college and found out what she wanted to do, it was eight years later, and she never found a full-time job.
Even though she was almost thirty now, her life was far from complete. She was single, not married and didn't even have a boyfriend. She had no job and the only openings were for low-paying part-time jobs that couldn't pay the rent. She was still a dependent, living off of money that wasn't hers. Eleanor felt useless and a burden to her family.
She was constantly told she should do something with her life, with all her talent, she should be doing other things. But the truth was, there just wasn't any opportunity for her to do anything. She loved to write, but not even the local paper was hiring writers-not even part-time. Her last job, as an on-call substitute reporter with the radio station, hadn't bothered to call her in over a year. After a brief stint as a hostess in a restaurant with a very paranoid boss, she quit and now had no income.
It was too hard to grow-up, no one had told her how hard it would be, no one had prepared her for the real world. Now she was an adult with no prospects and no hope for the future. Eleanor feared what lay ahead of her in life and didn't want to face the oncoming years that seemed like an unscalable wall, obstructing the path before her.
She walked the streets.
It was raining, dark and cold with no one else in sight.
Her feet shuffled along the grimy sidewalk.
She stooped over in pain because her back hurt as if with arthritis and when she tried to straighten it, needles stabbed themselves into the very nerves under her flesh.
With cold, frozen hands she held bags, plastic bags filled with all of her belongings.
Eleanor didn't remember how she got here, only that she was alone.
Someone came around the corner, huddled in their own hooded jacket and she tried to talk to them but the words that came out sounded strange to her, like some foreign language.
The man walked by her without a word. It was as if he was trying to ignore her presence and get away from her as quickly as possible.
She couldn't understand why this was happening.
Suddenly she lost hold of her bag and a harsh wind blew up to send the bag scuttling across the street.
Eleanor shouted out, her voice a harsh gasp with no words and she scrambled, trying to make her sore, frozen body hurry, as she ran into the street.
She almost had the bag in her hand as a truck came in sight.
It was too late and Eleanor had no chance to move.
The truck hit her and sent her body flying into the darkness.
She moaned and opened her eyes.
Eleanor looked at the clock beside her bed and saw it was 3:03 a.m.
The wind howled outside and a tree scraped the bedroom window.
She closed her eyes, trying to get back to sleep again.