I tell J. of my friend who entered these woods with a gun, shot herself dead in a dark glade. No knowing where, exactly, and it doesn't matter. J. speaks of his med-school ER days, the bullit-riddled patients, bodies resisting resuscitation. That moment after somebody "called it", and the quiet release of possible salvation.
His story lingers under cedar boughs and hemlock as the light slips from the day, and we are silent for a moment, our footsteps on the loamy trail barely perceptible.
A woman and a dog approach through the trees, and I recognize her as the one who discovered my friend's shattered body here, six years ago. We're barely acquaintances, and I offer a quiet "hello" as she passes.
Although I live in a big city, our neighborhood enclave is small, with connecting lines criss-crossing over and under who knows who and who talks to who and, more importantly, who knows what. A secret can be difficult to keep, and I'd heard that this woman desires anonymity, but I know the truth regarding the cruel fact of her discovery.
I also know that she still walks these woods every day, regardless of what ghosts hover in dappled shade where bone and blood marked dirt.
I don't know what it means to stumble across a gunshot suicide.
500 years ago, this forest burned, evidenced by tree rings on long-logged lumber. Storms have blown through — and will continue to blow through — felling fir snags: eagles' perches. Fungi will go on with their decompositional work, breaking down everything into the smallest molecular bits.And in a mere two generations, this story will be — according to the odds — forgotten, a page from a book left out too long in the rain.