Sunday, 14 August 2016

Beneath the Tree

  There was a wonderfully tall tree on the hilltop that Jason always liked glancing at. It was at least five times taller than him, had long branches bursting with green leaves that shaded a large area beneath it, and gave off this fresh, wonderful smell that he could breathe in even from the pavement.
  However, he’d always been a little too busy, too in a hurry, to take any time to visit the tree. He’d lived in the area for at least two years, seen the tree almost every day on his way to somewhere or other, but had never actually been beneath its shadow before. Sometimes, he would pause on the sidewalk for half a moment, staring wistfully at the tree, before shaking his head and pressing onward, his mind pulled back to more important and urgent matters.
  However, the tree remained a constant, always in the back of his mind. Free days were few and far between, but on the morning of one, Jason decided that he needed to meet the tree. At the very least, he would spend a few minutes just standing near it; perhaps he could touch the bark, grab a leaf and find out what the fragrance was like up close.
  His resolution was set. On the morning of his intended trip, the calls started coming in: projects, work, papers, contacts; he silenced his cell phone and turned off his computer. He put on his cap and laced up his sneakers, humming all the while. His phone vibrated on the table, but for once, he didn’t even notice it. He could finally meet the tree.
  He stepped out of the house, feeling light and light-headed. The door seemed to lock itself before he set off down the path, curiously excited. The pavement was surprisingly empty as he strolled jauntily, trying to contain a sudden urge to whistle.
  Soon, he came to the spot where he would always pause for those half-moments. The tree swayed gently in the distance, seeming to dance to the breeze that now gently caressed his face. He breathed deeply, immersing himself in the scent that had become so familiar. Climbing over the fence- had there always been a fence there? He’d never noticed- he felt his sneakers sink into the grass that was taller than expected. Though they tickled at his legs, they were mere nuisances in his journey to that wonderful tree.
  In a much shorter time than he expected, he was right at the edge of the shadow of the tree. He smiled up at its leaves, and breathed deeply. It was a momentous occasion, and he wanted to feel every angle, every particle of that point in time.
  He stepped forward.
  The world became slightly darker, though the aroma grew stronger simultaneously. He took another step, and every step after that was easier. Soon, he was standing next to the trunk of the tree. He rested his hand against it, enjoying the rough texture of the bark. It was everything he had imagined.
He sat down beneath the tree, resting his back against it. He could see his house from here. Time seemed to slow; the breeze was even gentler, the grass was comfortable instead of intrusive, and the tree bark felt softer than down.
  Abruptly, he heard rustling before a head appeared over the hilltop. It was a freckled face with green eyes and red hair; she was his age.
  “Hello,” she said. She didn’t look the least bit surprised to find someone else beneath the tree.
  “Hi,” he replied. Somehow, it felt natural that both of them should be there at the same time. They stared at each other for a second, an eternity, before she walked beneath the leaves, up to the tree, and sat down.
  For a long while, they sat there, staring out at the buildings beneath them. Perhaps time froze; he couldn’t tell. He said nothing, she said nothing, and they existed beneath that tree for an untold length of time.
  Soon, she rose from her seated position, and left. There was no warning, no indication; she was simply gone, her only trace being the flattened grass where she once was. Somehow, he felt a sudden lack, as though she had been vital to the experience, even if she hadn’t done anything. In mere moments, he felt dissatisfaction with the tree.
  All he could think about now was how much happier he’d been when there was someone else to share the tree with him.
  Maybe she’ll come back, he thought. So he sat there and waited. She did not return.
  The sun began to set. Every prick of the grass seemed to sting, the bark poked against his back, rugged and deformed. He looked at the tree and sighed, mild anger simmering in his heart. He got up, and left without any intention of coming back. He no longer smelt the fragrance in the wind.
  When she returned, the man was no longer sitting there. Slightly disappointed, she sat beneath the tree. Staring out at the houses beneath her, she felt a sudden lack. However, she rested herself against the tree and breathed deeply; recapturing that feeling she’d had when the shade had first enveloped her.
  The sun disappeared beneath the horizon, and the stars began to appear. She looked at them and smiled. She’d been here a thousand times, but each moment seemed more alive than the last.
  She would return tomorrow.

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