I Live Among Trees
Mom doesn’t speak much lately because trees don’t talk. Be like a tree, she said in the past, only I wanted to be a bird. Mom never paid attention to my needs. She claimed trees are better, they bend but don’t break, trees are strong, grounded, rooted, stable. Mom doesn’t talk much lately, doesn’t move either, mom is a tree finally, and I don’t move much either, like I’m on a leash, but I can still talk.
My boss is like a walnut tree, he has that thing, juglone, that suppresses the growth of anything beside him. I tell him I want a raise. He looks me in the eye and I remain still, don’t even blink, he sees I’m serious, then asks, for real? Next thing I know is that I’m jobless, which sounds better than heartless but not for long; I’m both jobless and heartless when I get home. My son pats my shoulder, you did good mom, he says, you deserve better. Mom looks around like she’s not aware that something’s wrong, she eats and eats, swallows and swallows, like that’s all she cares about, like she’s feeding her roots. My husband frowns like he didn’t expect this, like I’m a huge letdown. He asks, now what?
My husband is like a happy cherry tree blossoming, doesn’t notice what’s ugly around him. I tell him we need a plan. That I am tired and weary and that I could sleep for years. He says I shouldn’t talk in song lyrics, he laughs, then asks, a plan for what? I shrug. A plan to get us out of here. He doesn’t get it. I say my dream is to have a secret plan about how to escape the life I’m trapped in, like in the Shawshank Redemption, he nods like he understands, but he doesn’t, I tell him I need to find my paradise, but he looks at me like he’s already in his, he says my life is fanfiction because I dream of being a character in a movie, although he doesn’t give a damn if my life is fanfiction, as long as I’m trapped in Desperate Housewives.
Mom is a weeping willow, she cries and cries, she grieves all the time, but she’s still here. I tell her she should take her meds. She makes a gesture like asking, what for? I shrug, I tell her those drugs keep her alive, and she frowns, she doesn’t get it, or doesn’t care. She frowns like saying life was better when she was young, only it wasn’t. Life was harder back then. And it only got better since then, but she forgets. I also claim life was better when I was young, but I am right. We both romanticise the past. Like life has failed us somehow, like we expected more, but we got this, and we grew tired of romanticising life, instead of plainly hating it.
My son doesn’t look like a tree yet, but he’s getting there fast. I tell him he should be sober. He asks why, I say to enjoy life; I’m tired of seeing him wasted. He says, you don’t get it mom, but I do, I do get it. He says he takes little trips to remind himself he’s not a tree. But what if we are trees? I ask him. What if growing up means you turn into a tree, stuck, rooted, trapped, caged? He stares at me, looks disappointed. This thing is smothering me, I tell him, he asks, what thing? I shrug and say, this thing called life, like life is out to get me and I can’t run fast enough. He passes me the joint, he laughs, looks me in the eye, he says, it’s not life, mom, it’s you, you’ve set the trap.
I am like an anxious, withering tree. I tell myself I have no fear. That my son is safe from harm and he will be the bird I never could be. I live among trees, inside a forest, only it’s not the happy place mom promised, because I am trapped in the woods with no way out. My son is not a tree yet, my son is a boy, like in those fairy tales, where a boy is lost, and the woods will swallow him, but some kind trees find a voice and talk to him and help him out, that’s the kind of tree I am, the kind that bows down to offer a shade, but then stands tall, lets the wind shake the branches so the birds fly away into the sky, I bend but I don’t break and I dread the time when all those fantastic expectations fail him and life catches up with him and turns him into a tree, I’m terrified, but I don’t tell him. Instead, I sing a song that comes to mind about dreams and expectations and he sings back, like he knows the lyrics, only he doesn’t, he sings of great hopes and revelations, and I don’t correct him, I prefer the song this way. I take a puff and smile. A bitter, condescending your-time-will-come smile I try to hide, but he can read my mind and still ignores it, because he thinks he knows better and for a moment I believe he does.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece and the author of “We Fade With Time” by Alien Buddha Press. A Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as Chestnut Review, New World Writing, trampset, Lost Balloon and others.