“Wood”, he said, “That’s all it is.” Bran looked skeptically at the lumberjack wearing the weathered face of a 70-year-old, who was really only aged 45. Bran wasn’t sure whether his face looked like that because of hard work or his pessimism. It didn’t matter. It’s not like he was going to participate in a beauty contest. Looking straight into the face of bitterness called Nathan, he wasn’t expecting anything good to come out of this conversation. “I’d gladly chop it down for you, you know – that eyesore.” “It’s special to me and it’s on my property. Does it really bother you that much?” “Yes!”, Nathan said, sounding austere. “You know, being around this tree just makes me feel special. I don’t know; it’s a living being and it seems to be happy with me. Maybe I’m just sounding ridiculous…” Bran wanted to continue on the beauty of life and energy around us, but Nathan had no interest in his thoughts. He was dead-set on getting rid of that awful tree with its branches hanging over his driveway. “Yes, you are. I’m telling you, it’s just wood. How idiotic can you be to think for even a second that trees have feelings?” “Well”, Bran replied hesitatingly, “It was just a thought…” “And a stupid one at that! I want you to send that tree to your ridiculous tree-nirvana. You hear me?!” “If it really bothers you that much…” “Yes, it does, Bran. Yes, it does. Do you know how often I have to sweep your leaves off of my driveway and do you realize how much of my sunlight your tree is blocking?” “Okay, if it really bothers you that much, I guess you can go ahead. You can keep the wood. I’ll be inside if you need me.” Nathan didn’t say a word; not even ‘thanks’. He didn’t even seem grateful or relieved that the tree would be out of his way. Bran shrugged his shoulders and figured Nathan no longer needed him. He needed some time to unwind.
After a good night’s sleep, it was time to check on his neighbor’s progress. Nathan had been eager to leave Bran with nothing more than a stub that served solely as a reminder that his only tree was gone now. But at least he left his property clean. Bran was curious to see if Nathan was satisfied with the change. He himself sure wasn’t. There was nothing but death in the air and he would no longer be able to pick up that indescribable feeling of vastness and peace the tree used to radiate. Perhaps hoping for Nathan to express at least a glimpse of contentment was too much. Bran rang his doorbell anyway. It remained quiet inside for a while, but after about a minute and a half Nathan opened his front door. “What do you want?” He sounded defensive, as if Bran was going to spit venom. “I saw you finished the job. I was just curious to see if you’re satisfied.” “If I have any more complaints, I’ll let you know.” Bran couldn’t tell if Nathan was happy with the tree out of the way, but at least he wasn’t complaining anymore. “Anything else?” “No, everything’s good.” Hearing that, the 45-year-old slammed the door. Bran was now thoroughly convinced that his neighbor would never be happy. Having him as a neighbor for a little over 20 years, he had heard one complaint after another. Never did he smile, whistle, sing or say ‘hello’. And a ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ was evidently way too much for him. It really wouldn’t have made that much of a difference if Bran had simply kept his tree, but it was too late for regrets. He knew that the best thing he could do was to accept his mistake. He didn’t want to end up like his neighbor. He wanted to be happy. His tree wasn’t the most important thing in the world. That, by the way, tied in with the remark Nathan made a few years ago, “Yes, Bran, the world does revolve around me!”
But the world stopped revolving a few days later. Nathan’s aneurysm had ruptured, causing a stroke. Once again, death was in the air. This time around, however, it meant peace. It wasn’t the kind of peace Bran used to get from his tree, but the nagging noise that would fill the heads and hearts of everyone who’d be around Nathan was gone forever. Even the pebbles around Nathan’s driveway seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. The source of constant negativity was gone. This was a perfect time to plant a seed. Perhaps Nathan deserved some respect. Bran agreed with himself that the tree wouldn’t be on his property; it would be on Nathan’s. Not to aggravate him, but to symbolically send him the kind of peace he had never experience in life. Maybe he’d see things more clearly in death. Or maybe he’d have another stroke wherever it is you go when you pass away. But Bran hoped that Nathan would one day finally recognize those little breaths of joy that he himself experienced around him all the time. Or just one little breath, really; his own.
Copyright ©2015 Didier Strijdonk