Dead Tree

Looking up from written words she didn’t really care for because they were trying to tell her something that she didn’t agree with, she caught sight of a magnolia tree she hadn’t noticed before.  The February wind ruthlessly tugged and ripped at its bare, spanning branches.   The corners of her lips awkwardly wrenched towards her eyes at the show of persistence displayed by the tree.   She didn’t hear herself, but she let out a small laugh.

What kind of note would she leave for her mentor? I smoke. Short and sweet, yet suggestive enough that her mother could easily say, “I guess I never knew her anyway,” and maybe not cry so much, if she did at all.

Back to her book: No one is truly alone… the words trying to get her to believe in this idea swirled on in her head until they found the black hole vacuum at the core of her identity and disappeared with everything else she knew would only be found out to be a lie. She was always worried that she was lying to herself. She worried inn the sense that she was one of those people who lived life like everything was fine, but she really hadn’t accomplished anything, and all those “genuine” relationships she’d built really meant nothing to the other parties involved, and, worst of all, that she wasn’t as smart as people told her she was. She worried that they only said this because they knew it was what she wanted to hear. She did know for a fact that she wasn’t particularly attractive and that she wasn’t kind-hearted or sweet, but if she could at least be smart, she at least had that, and maybe she would have a reason to feel so lonely all the time. However, now when she thought about it, she sounded more like a prepubescent girl wining that No one understands me!

Why was she even reading this book? Her therapist was full of shit. She only met with this therapist because her insurance covered their visits. When the therapist asked her about her childhood, she tried to open up (she really wanted it to work this time). She told the therapist about the beatings and the molestation(s). She’d told the therapist about the self-harm (showed her the burn scars) and the attempted suicides. She’d told her about how her pediatrician saw the little ringworm shaped blemishes and spoke to her mother. Her mother had taken her out to lunch and explained that she wouldn’t spend the money to fix her so she should, “Get it right or get over it.”


In response, the therapist said, “Why does any of that matter?”

“Because I believe it’s a part of who I am. It’s what other people have told me I am…The people who were supposed to be the most important anyway. They’re my experiences.”

“So?” The therapist’s eyebrows lifted as to encourage the dismissal of all these emotions.

“So, this is what I know the world to be, and it doesn’t seem to fit with anyone else’s view, at least not anyone I’ve met…And honestly, if it did, they wouldn’t trust me either.”

And that’s when the therapist suggested the book. She told her none of this life experience mattered and then recommended a book that seemed to contradict that.


The wind slid between the branches outside. She tried to listen for whistling. She wanted the realization of the magnolia tree to be more magical in some way. Thus far, she’d only had one magical thought about it, and it’s the last thing she should’ve been allowing herself to think about. No whistling sounds. Maybe it’s just not loud enough, she thought. She went downstairs under the pretense of checking the mail, to find out if she could hear anything. More silence.

With the cold gusts licking at her bare legs (she didn’t even put on pants to go downstairs any more), she approached the tree. She stared at it. She desperately wanted it to stare back. She wanted to see if it was alive or not, so she began picking at the bark. She didn’t know what to hope for: a dead tree or a living one. She dug until she saw red trickling from the trunk, from her gnarled fingernails, but no green. She peered up between the branches while she sucked on the gore coming from her hands. She definitely couldn’t climb the tree to the stronger branches because she was afraid of heights. The trunk wasn’t too thick though. She might be able to work with that.

Realizing how cold she felt, she decided to go back upstairs, and look for a rope. Would she leave anything for her siblings? Three of them she’d never met, two of them were clearly better off without worrying about her, and her little brother. Well, he was probably so high he wouldn’t notice anyway. They’ll be fine. She couldn’t find any rope.

So, for the first time in three days, she prepared to go out. She looked at herself in the mirror and was reminded of her gaping pores, how crooked her teeth were, that she had somewhat of a unibrow and a Frida Kahlo mustache. Maybe I’ll grab some paint too.

At the store, an older man in line, looking at her painting supplies, asked, “Don’t you know that’s all a waste of money?”

She didn’t look over at him. She just picked up her bags, “What isn’t any more?”

By the time she got home, the sun had dipped below the thin tree line that surrounded her neighborhood. She looked at her empty phone. Then she painted without thinking. She didn’t paint how she looked, she painted how she felt she looked (after a few shots of whisky) – face craters and all. She used only dark colors for the background and outlines and barely perceptible colors for the details.

After she finished painting (and emptied the bottle), she decided not to sign it or anything. Even with all the work put into it she sorta wanted to throw it away, or burn it or something, so she ripped a hole in the canvas and left it inside the bathroom. She walked downstairs and realized that she’d forgotten the rope. She didn’t forget her cigarettes though, so she sat beneath the tree (not wearing any pants, of course) and smoked the entire pack.

She went back upstairs and threw up for a little while. She fell asleep on the bathroom floor for a little while because it was the warmest part of the apartment. Eventually, she woke up and began dragging herself into her bedroom where she tripped over the rope, landing face first onto the hardwood floor. She laid there and played with the rope, wrapping it around her feet with her feet until she fell asleep.


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