There is much truth in the African proverb, “The ax forgets. The tree remembers.”
The ax forgot, if he ever acknowledged, the impact of his hands upon my prepubescent body, probing forbidden places; private, sacred places that fathers should never touch on their daughters. Not in that way. Not with lust dripping from his penis. Lust that caused his voice to tremble, his breath to be short and quick, his hands to move with cold deliberation, his eyes to watch greedily. The ax forgot, if he ever recognized, what it did to that daughter when he forced his hard, swollen penis inside of her as the pain split her apart. When he came on her, covering her with his sticky goo. When he came in her mouth, shooting his seed down her throat, causing her to gag. The ax forgot, if he ever considered her at all, how it destroyed her when he made her strip and dance before him or forced her into the shower with him. The ax forgot how it hurt when he hit her. When he knocked her across the room or to the floor. His memory only lasted as long as the marks, if that long. The ax forgets. But the tree remembers. To this day, she remembers. I remember.
The ax forgot the pain of her slaps on her daughter’s face and the humiliation of her angry, cutting, degrading words. The fear of being dragged by the hair as that mother raged and ranted. The ax forgot how cutting her words of rejection and disappointment were to the ears of her eager child; the child who longed to please her, who wanted to be accepted and held and wanted. The ax forgot what it meant when she averted her eyes, refusing to see, as that same timid child was being sexually used by her husband. When the daughter looked to her for help, but found only denial, demands and dismissal. The ax forgot. But the tree remembers. To this day, she remembers. Yes, I remember.
The tree is forever altered. Laid to waste. Barely able, if able at all, to remain standing. The tree no longer flourishes. No longer lives. All of its energy and lifeblood is spent attempting to heal the ghastly, horrific wounds that resulted from the ax as it hacked deep into her soul. The tree longs to forget. Longs to overcome. Longs to be whole again. But the wounds of the ax have done the unspeakable. Those injuries are unbearable, horrifying and atrocious. The ax has forgotten. The ax moves on. The tree cannot forget. Because the tree is not what it was before and it will never be what it would have been had it not been so dreadfully wounded by the vile ax.
The ax will go on to wound again and again in many abominable and staggering ways. Over time, the scars in the bark of the tree are so many, the tree is deformed, stunted, disgusting. The tree cannot forget because the tree cannot escape the effects of the ghastly blows.
The tree tries to survive. Gone are the dreams of thriving. Of providing shade for the birds and shelter for the squirrels. The broken, wretched tree is ruined. Injured beyond repair. The ax forgets. But the tree, the tree cannot forget no matter how hard she tries. She lives with the brokenness. She carries the stink of her defilement. She cannot leave it behind her because it is woven into every cell and memory.
So profound. The ax doesn’t have to live with the damage it created. Its steps, are not hindered by the crippling blows it meted out. All that came before. It’s over. In the past. But the tree cannot escape the damage. It cannot leave the destruction in the shadows of yesterday. It has been shattered and dismembered. It will never be what it was meant to be. The ax doesn’t understand why the tree won’t “get over it.” Why it doesn’t simply go on. But the tree doesn’t know how. It doesn’t have that kind of magic in its limbs.
The ax forgets. The tree remembers. It longs to forget. But it can’t. It remembers everything. In pieces and fragments, like watching a movie, with memories fading in and out of the darkness, but it remembers.
Oh, how the tree wishes it could forget.