you will have focused intently on the tree in the yard. you will have asked yourself again, but for the first time aloud, if it appeared in a low whisper of unnoticing. you will have gone about your day. in an instant, like a sound so small and low one only feels it, you will have seen that tree hanging again in the bedroom window. and wondered again. and pushed it away. and gone about your day. and wondered. and pushed and wondered. and the push will have needed more effort each time
your wife will have come home from work and kissed you. you will have obliged, forgetting the tree until she was gone from you. the image of it will have flooded back in pieces like a memory of a dream as you rounded the kitchen table, not listening for his little cry in the space above. the tree will have been hanging over instead. a bath of thought for your peace to sit and digest in. you will have exchanged pleasantries with her, and she will have noticed that you were not all there. that some of you was out in the yard
you okay? she will have asked.
this is going to sound, um… kind of weird, i guess, you will have said.
well, that’s not out of the ordinary.
you’ll’ve laughed a little.
yeah, i guess not. it’s nothing really, just… was that tree out front… always there?
her eyebrows will have moved together. she’ll’ve laughed a short little laugh.
the one out front? with the moss growing up it?
yeah, was that there when we first moved out here?
she will have opened her mouth, pausing for a moment in something like a smirk.
i mean… yeah? what do you mean? it’s a full-grown tree, we’ve only been here, uh… like three years. in october.
yeah, i know, it’s just like… didn’t i used to park right there, like when we first moved out here?
she’ll’ve shook her head.
you parked behind. remember, you parked too close that one time. you, uh, you dinged the car door on it.
you will not have remembered, but will have nodded again.
okay. yeah, okay. i don’t know what i was thinking.
she will have smiled, embracing you. you will have wrapped your arms around her, moved your hands in circles on her back. the baby crying
you will have looked at it through the front window for a long, long while. you will have clutched the curtain until the joints of your fingers cried out in vivid white. you will have begun to mumble under your breath. was it there when your child was been born? did it stand in the window while you embraced your wife and touched her forehead softly with your mouth?
in the course of wandering back and forth in a loop from the opening of the kitchen, into the living room, and over to the window overlooking the couch, you will have touched your wife on the head absent-mindedly ten times now to comfort her. Your movements will have become rough, you will have almost hurt her. She will have narrowed her brow at the table, book hanging limp in her hand.
why has that tree got you so worked up, she will have asked.
you will have looked at her with strange, unending eyes.
i swear to god, that tree wasn’t there when we moved here. because remember, you wanted to take those pictures in the bedroom when it was, like, golden hour or whatever. and the light was coming… in the window… and now, um, now you can’t see the light… in the window anymore.
she’ll’ve walked to you as you will have been speaking and put her arms around your body.
it’s okay, she’ll’ve said, you’re just tired. sit down, let’s watch something.
you will have laid your head into her.
i just… am i going insane? am i just…
you will have started crying. your eyes will have given way and dribbled over her. she will have held you close to her, and you her. there will have been a weird silence. where comfort should have been, but you will have only felt the tree out there, in the space beyond. watching. upstairs, the baby erupting
ten days. you will have wandered the whole house in a loop for ten days. you will have told her not to look at it, that there were pieces of it coming in the room and connecting to you and they would likewise connect to her and drag her around the house. she will have given up showing her concern, instead tending to the baby as you paced. you will not have gone to work, you will not have slept. you will have withered into two legs walking and a rushing mind. Into an ache of odd, blank looks.
the last day. the baby will have fallen asleep. you will have sat in the chair facing the window and mumbled. mumbled what? prayers? something like prayers, prayers to me. to get your act together. she will have come down the stairs in one trudging step after another. her feet will have sounded heavy, her expression the same. she will have stood beside you with her arms limp at her side and her hands curling and uncurling in tight, weak little fists
you will have been on your knees on the couch, slumped over the sill and staring at the tree
…cannot keep living like this. i love you, i…
you will have seen it move a little bit in the corner of your eye. you will have not stopped looking
…a-and, i can’t take care of him all… all alone, anymore. you’ve got to do something, therapy or…
you will have thought back. first night back from your honeymoon, the moon will have come unfiltered through the window. the day you and her and the baby will have laid out there on a blanket in the yard, looking up uninterrupted at the clouds. not too long ago
…even listening to me?
she will have grabbed your shoulder. you will have turned to her, breathing heavy. beard unkempt, eyes sunken and off-white, mouth agape.
her mouth will have quivered. tears will have begun down her cheeks, she will have shaken her head.
i-i’m sorry. i’m sorry. i don’t know how to help you. i j-just don’t understand wh-what’s going on… the tree’s been there. it’s been there since we moved…
your eyes will have narrowed.
don’t you think i would remember it? why don’t i remember that tree, if its been… out there?
i-i don’t know. i don’t know, maybe… maybe you just…
maybe i just what? maybe i’m going nuts, huh?
she will have wept. standing alone in the middle of the living room. you will have pointed out the window behind you, still glaring at her.
it’s something… more… than a tree. it’s like… something that leaked in… from, um, from somewhere else. you understand? a-and it’s coming in the window… y-you can’t see… it’s coming in the window and going…
you will have motioned to your head.
…going into us. like into our… heads. it wasn’t there. because remember, remember sitting out there and… and we looked… at sh-shapes, at clouds and… showed the, the baby… remember?
She will have shook her head. whole body shaking.
i can’t do this anymore. i can’t be here…
the baby will have cried now. opening the house up in tight, resonating sirens that compress against the ceiling and pierce in your ears. your face will have flushed.
it’s going into him, it’s going into him, like little needles…
you will have stood still while it goes on and on
now, you pace in much the same abandon. you look out at your yard, pull the curtain away. pretty curtain to tear the light to a stripe across your eye. and out in the yard there is nothing at all. it is a calm and pretty day. it is a lovely birdsong sinking into the interior of your apartment, the carpet and the walls.
you sit back down on the couch and trace the corners of the apartment with your eyes. there is no one, no wife and no child and no tree. there is only me. and if you do not believe that you will see these things, let me assure you that you will.
if you do not believe in your own failure, you will.
as you whittle into a stump, you will.
as the good in you dies slowly, weathered down to gnashing-teeth tendons grinding your legs around to the cadence of your racing mind, you will.
and when i stand over you in wave upon wave of what you will have become, begging you decades ago to open your head to the bright lines of the pretty curtain