The Bodhi Tree
By: Mariam Abazeri
She woke up at the same time as always, 7 am, and began her routine like every other day; morning run, shower, get dressed, make coffee, read the paper, eat breakfast, go to work. The problem arose that day after she had finished eating her breakfast. She had nowhere to go.
A few days earlier—Friday— her boss had called her into her office.
“We’re making some changes around the department and we’ve had to cut a lot of positions in order to keep the company afloat. I’m sorry Lisette, I hope you understand, but unfortunately, we won’t be needing your services any longer. Please don’t take this personally, I know you’ve been working here for a long time and I know it doesn’t seem fair but we just can’t afford….”
She didn’t care to listen to the rest of her boss’s monologue. It was a sunny day and she could see two small birds hopping from one branch to the next, one eagerly pursing the other– it was springtime.
“Lisette, I’m sorry. HR will take care of the paperwork for you so don’t worry about that. Is there anything you would like to discuss?
Really? Worry about the paperwork? Yea, I have a lot to discuss. You bastards suck the souls out of your employees and make us feel as if we’re no better than trash and I’m supposed to “understand” and be grateful I don’t have to worry about the paperwork? You pieces of shit, you and this dump can all rot in hell.
“No…I’m going to leave now.” Her boss stood up with her and gave her a weak smile.
“You’re brilliant Lisette, I’m sure you won’t have any problems finding another job. I would be more than happy to write you a letter of recommendation.”
Go fuck yourselves, she thought and with that, Lisette cleared her desk, unplugged her computer, and left the office.
That was Friday afternoon.
She hadn’t told anyone she had been fired— “laid-off”—as the official letter put it. She had met up some friends during the weekend for a drink and had even seen a play Sunday night, trying to push this detail out of her mind for as long as possible.
But here it was now, staring at her in the face as she sat at the table observing the rings of coffee her mug had left behind.
She didn’t panic. She wasn’t too worried about her financial future. She had been able to put aside some money over the past few years for lack of free time to spend any of it –even if she decided to take a much-needed hiatus, she knew it wouldn’t cut deeply into her savings account. She also knew she didn’t want to continue the career track she had been heading down; she had been feeling miserable at work these past few years and knew this “opportunity” had come more as a blessing than a real burden. For the time being, she felt no pressure to look for a new job.
This is a new beginning. I can do whatever I want— this is the turn of a new chapter in my life, she thought to herself.
She had always dreamt of traveling the world, becoming an artist, performing in jazz clubs and soirees wherever she could find a gig. Selling art on the side, living in a new place every couple of years, writing stories and poetry, discovering the world one day at a time. She had kept this dream alive all through college and even grad school, telling herself she wouldn’t become like the others who had long ago sold themselves for money and a stable lifestyle. But then grad school ended and she needed to pay back her loans. And very quickly, she too became the cliché she had always looked down up and found herself trading her books and paintbrushes for reports and spreadsheets. By the end of the year, she was even sporting a blackberry and a suit to the office every day.
Despite her lack of interest, she was good at her job. Within two years, she had been promoted to project manager and she was on the path to becoming the youngest senior consultant in her department. The news of her dismissal was certainly surprising to her but it wasn’t as shocking as she expected an event like this to be. Instead of feeling depressed, she actually felt relieved, even free. Sitting at the table, the only thing on her mind was figuring out how to spend all this free time now that her scheduled had forcefully been cleared.
After finishing her second cup of coffee, Lisette decided to go for a walk and experience her neighborhood by day, making sure to leave her watch and cell phone and any other trace of a planned lifestyle behind.
Today is a new day. A new beginning. I can do this. She walked around and felt the sun on her shoulders for the first time in months. The streets were crowded with shoppers, strollers, and tourists and she felt good being around so much excitement on a Monday morning. After touring the neighborhood, she stopped by a park and sat down under a fig tree, taking off her sandals to feel the grass, still fresh with morning dew. She closed her eyes and laid back, stretching her arms behind her head as her legs extended out to a full relaxed position. This is happiness, she thought to herself, and she lay there, basking in her newly found freedom.
It was hard to tell what time it was when she woke up from her nap since the sun had disappeared behind a sheet of clouds and she had neither her watch nor her phone with her. She knew it must have been at least five or six o’clock since she could see people filling up the terrace beside the park, taking advantage of the happy hour deal the bar was widely known for. She saw the bar’s waitress move gracefully from table to table, dropping off drinks to customers with loosened ties and rolled up sleeves. She had always wondered who these people were that finished work so punctually at five or six, able to take advantage of the last hours of sun with a nice drink at half price. She used to envy them.
For the past few years, her hours at the office had extended ever so gradually that it took her a while to realize she would go days without seeing the sun. This fact eventually became normal to her and even on the weekends, it was hard for her to get up and go outside when all she wanted to do was catch up on sleep and lay around in pajamas.
She put her sandals back on and standing up, shook off the grass from her clothes. She noticed two or three birds on the tree again chirping above her as they hopped about. She whistled along and imagined herself among them, singing and flying from one tree to the next. She smiled to herself and as she continued watching the birds, she noticed how good she felt. Better than she had ever felt before. Tranquil and satisfied. This is what nirvana must feel like, she thought to herself.
She walked past the bar and winked at the cute waitress. She would come again tomorrow with a little bit of make-up and a good book, buy some time to build up her courage and ask for her number.
She left the park and walked towards the crosswalk, her eyes glowing with content. As she crossed the street, Lisette watched the scene unfold as a movie projected in front of her: the front of a silver sports car speeding towards her, the brakes screeching as the driver attempts to abruptly stop the car, the impact of the bumper against her body sending her off, the darkness that follows.
There was a loud but dull thud and everyone from the bar gasped as they saw a woman’s body fly into the air and land a few meters away from the car.
Lisette tried to open her eyes but found she could only keep them partially opened, rolling from side to side. She heard a female scream, probably the waitress, she thought to herself, and saw a man in a nice trimmed suit rocking beside her, yelling something into his blackberry as the tears rushed down his face. She couldn’t feel her body but she could hear the birds still singing to each other, pursuing one another as they hopped from branch to branch. She looked at the sky and saw her birds flying out of the park, one behind the other, and she closed her eyes, imagining herself flying off to join them.
This is a wonderful story, it made me realize how short our lives are and how much we DO NOT enjoy them.