Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Tree

I've moved more than ten times in my life.

When I was no taller than a pinky finger...exaggeration...I lived in a dainty Bronx flat and outside of the sitting room window, there resided a rather grand tree, the web of branches through which I grew acquainted with my neighbours.

I was a spy. The girl, within whom I would find myself a peer in an all-girls private Catholic high school, used to hang out with her friends outside of our building. I was not sure where she lived or any of my neighbours at that; however, I knew them. I did not know what they liked to eat or where they shopped, but I kind of, sort of, knew them. This was MY neighbourhood. I did not own it, but I felt some sort of attachment to it.

That girl was Michelle. She was a Spanish girl, whose dirty blonde hair ran all the down to her buttocks. Her hair was beautiful; it reminded me of the medieval Lady of Shallot who boated down the lake to her death. Michelle is two years older than I am and we used to take the bus together to school. I never told her that I had seen her before...I guess I didn't want to freak her out. Imagine being told that you were observed through someone's window many times....

Then, there was the dancer. She lived across the building from us. By now, you probably find me a little creepy, but every writer is inspired by his or her surroundings and I will never forget how much I wanted to be a dancer because of this unknown individual. I did not discover her name nor did I ask; the only reason why I knew Michelle was because of a formal acquaintance via school.

The ballerina had brunette hair, always tied up in a ponytail. Her window was directly across from my bedroom window and I could see her prancing grace. I was about 9-years-old, thinking how cool it would be to be a dancer. I pretended to be one. I played the music in my head and danced, hoping that someone, somewhere, would notice me dancing and be inspired by me.

There were many others who I recognised, chatting away at the corner of our block. Every time I went outside and saw them, I wanted to say 'Hey, I know you.' But that never happened because I was conscious about looking foolish.

When it rained and there were heavy thunderstorms accompanied by crackling lightening flashes, I left the sitting room window open and watched the drops pound against the emerald and trickling down until it falls off the point, the point of the leaves of that tree, the tree that made me feel at home...the one that introduced me to my neighbours.

I'm now in London; there is a tree across the street from me which reminds me of what a home is. I look at its proud appearance through my large rectangular window and it just makes me want to paint it. However, that rectangular window and that tree is already like a live canvas. Why paint something that is already real, a rare portrait?

Our neighbourhood is quiet and none of our neighbours appear to like the outdoors.... How will I get to know them? Knock at the door? But, then again, what's the fun in that? There will be no mystery behind each person. So, in a way, knowing Michelle, who her boyfriend was, what her favourite boy band was...disappointed me. No enigma meant that I really did not know my neighbours.... I liked imagining what each one's life was like; was he her brother? Was she married? Did they have loving families or troubled ones? I did not want to KNOW.... I do these things even today, on the train on my way to work, when I look at the people gliding along beside me or sitting across from me.

The tree is still there and when I visit the Bronx once a year, I see it there and I see my old window. I grow so sad looking at it.... I grow sad thinking about how many people the tree has gotten to know and how many have moved away. I grow sad knowing that life is a one-way journey; there are no round trips and what remains in reminiscence gradually fades away, becomes a fog and more.

When I saw the tree in front of my current house, I smiled as if saying, 'Hello Watson' to it.

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