It happened after he fell over the stump. He lost consciousness, his friends said, for several minutes. They had been playing tag, nothing more. They noticed the bump on the back of his head when they tried to rouse him. One boy said David must have hit the large, misshapen root of the old tree when he fell. When his eyes fluttered open, he smiled at his friends and said “I’m It.”
Years later, David would recall those words and wonder exactly what he had become. With his studies and research he had pieced together the trajectory of his fall, the velocity, the distance, the angle of impact, the force of his skull on the tree root. No, the fall did not kill him as it could have, nor did his head split open and spill its contents on the ground. Rather, his brain had undergone some other kind of change altogether and imploded in the nicest possible way. If being the smartest man on earth was to be considered nice.
As David grew and was tested and taught and developed, it was determined he had suffered some sort of trauma that resulted in a permanent benign growth that pressed and intruded on his brain. He was a super genius. Before long, he was in demand from think tanks all over the world.
It was difficult to shut out all the thought processes of which he was capable and just be in the moment. But lord did he try! When he was young, he felt he knew too much about too many things to enjoy them. After amassing several degrees at an accelerated rate in school, he proceeded to defile himself in the pursuit of understanding the appeal of carefree youth. But it never quite worked as he was never carefree. He could not quite shut off the ongoing commentary in his head explaining all the events around him, from the weather to a football game to a school dance; his brain would calculate the odds of rain based on observable data, the physics and strategy of the ballgame, the body language and social cues of awkward teens following the age-old dating rituals. He found the only time he could focus on one thing at a time was when he saw Lisa.
When he saw her, he didn’t think of math but of poetry. Instead of working on his Planck report, he wanted to study Van Gogh’s irises, as they were the same color as her eyes. It was such a relief to not be the smart kid for once that he relished his time near her. He didn’t dare approach her, as he was certain by her social cues she would not be interested in him as a possible dating specimen, but he still unabashedly admired her whenever he could.
The closest he came to completely losing his cool was the one time she spoke to him. Years later, he could remember every detail of that moment: the color of her shirt, the way her jeans caressed her slight curves, the ponytail that dangled over one shoulder, how she leaned her head to her right/his left when she asked for a napkin at the lunch table. He didn’t recall what lunch tasted like that day because his senses were saturated with her nearness, her lilac smell, and her small fingers that brushed his as she took the napkin from him.
Sitting in his office as a grown man, he could only but laugh at the memory of the nerdiest boy staring at the beautiful girl next door. What tripe! What a cliché! But as he looked out his window and saw the city lit for the night, he again wondered at how tripping over the tree stump had rendered him a lonely, smart man. He had undoubtedly helped many people with his discoveries and research. But he was so alone with his thoughts. There was a part of him that remained the David pre-stump, happy with a group of friends. Now he only had colleagues and lackeys. It was time to try something radical. Get out of his own head, so to speak. As he looked at the ticket on his desk, he knew this was a chance. The retreat focused on meditation and back to basics nature stuff. Not his thing at all. But he had never experienced anything like this, thinking of only himself with nothing to gain but some peace. It would be a mental challenge to shut out the world and find the boy within.
After one month, two episodes of freaking out, several crying jags, and more laughter than he could remember, David found himself walking alone through a forest. He stopped and stared at a leaf falling from a tree. It fell slowly, the soft breeze carrying it gently as if to cradle it all the way to the ground. As the leaf finally came to rest on some moss, David realized he hadn’t thought of any equations pertaining to the leaf’s fall, nor the processes of leaves changing color, nor anything except to just watch it and admire its grace as it fell.
Smiling, David turned to go home, knowing he had found peace just like he knew he would, once he put his mind to it.