There is one tree outside of my apartment that looks like a giant hat rack. It has a long trunk and too many branches reaching in all directions. Some branches rest on the shingles above my unit and I can hear them scrape in response to quick winds on the nights I sleep alone. Others point to the sky, creating jagged lines across the moon. The tree seems out of place for downtown, where cheap lights flicker, homeless bundled in tattered sleeping bags line the sidewalk, and drunks scream at nothing. I know the tree is witness to everything that has gone wrong, and that makes me love and hate it.
I slept at Aiden’s place for the fourteenth consecutive night. We fought about time; he thought it moved too fast, and I could feel the thickness of each minute, the complications of each tick squeezing me motionless. We fought about whether or not white was a color. We fought about how I couldn’t see past the fabric of my world. We fought about my refusal to try on his shoes so I could feel the gap, the difference between us. We fought until his hands folded together. Then we fucked, and I could feel his sweat, bits of him dripping from his pores to pool on my skin and eventually evaporate.
The t-shirt he lets me borrow smells less and less like him each morning.
I came home from Aiden’s to discover men in orange vests climbing the old tree, chainsaws in hand, and two dump trucks ready to haul off the dead limbs. I knew the tree could use pruning, but something about the process made my throat stiff. The men cut through the smaller branches swiftly and the thin limbs tangled with each other at the base of the tree like barbed wire. The skeleton of the tree, the large branches, required more effort, and I could hear the men laughing between each piece thudding on the dirt.
“Hey,” I called to the men from my balcony. “What are you doing?”
“Sorry about the noise,” one of the men said. “This shouldn’t take more than a couple hours.”
“It isn’t the noise,” I said.
I explained frantically that the tree was the last good thing around here. They said that the tree had been pruned too many times over the years, which has resulted in too many wild branches that were more trouble than benefit, and it was time for the tree to go.
I watched them dismember the limbs. Shavings blew around, the panicking buzz of the saw grinding through the life of the tree.
I thought of Aiden’s smell, the sharp scent that wrapped me in comfort and guilt and madness all at once. I thought of his hands. I thought of how I ruined our love because I pruned him bare. I thought of my inevitable loneliness as the men ground the tree down to a stump.