You see me like Alice saw Wonderland, with curious bewilderment and excited fright. I see you like the Alice I once was, but am not anymore. You look at me like I am not from here. You think of me as the one who got you into trouble, the one who will surely get away. You long for me; while I long for someone else, of course, inevitably. Confused, lost, tired. Constantly dangling between drastic purpose and existential woe, repetition and dispassion. And you, you smell like hotel rooms. The nice ones, the ones that smell good. Of air conditioning and air freshener and God-knows-what. Of something floral maybe, maybe new sheets. My eternal love for hotel rooms, my immense longing to belong. Do I stay, put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign? Dare I leave? Get out of the room – let out the room from me?
The tree appeared out of nowhere: we just walked past that old deserted garden and found it standing there. It was a huge tree filled with green leaves – a green so bright that it made every other green look pale. And leaves were all it had – no roots, trunk or branches; only leaves. It was a woodcutter’s nightmare – a tree with leaves alone.
Nobody knew where it came from, nobody ever saw a sapling grow. We just saw it appear all on a sudden with its head held high in the middle of a desolate garden – the Tree. However, someone said that someone had drawn a picture of it and it has been there ever since. We believed it.
The Tree became quite a spectacle for the townspeople. Every other evening they would gather around the Tree, stare at it while nodding continuously, talk to each other about it and eventually go back home only to talk about it more. During the afternoons, however, the Tree remained all alone standing in the silent garden. And it was during the afternoons that I used to meet the Tree on my way back home from school.
Our friendship wasn’t an easy one, of course. It took us months to become friends with each other, both of us being shy and hesitant. During the first few weeks we could gather up all our courage only to talk about the weather. But gradually we started having some real conversations – conversations involving things like how amazing a thing chocolate was or for which extremely grave reasons mathematics should be removed from the community of the subjects. Weather, in fact, was the only thing then that we didn’t talk about.
I even started reading to it. Some days I would come back running from school, throw my backpack away, and sit under it to read The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. The Tree would laugh its leaves off every time the Cheshire Cat said anything, and laugh even harder when the Cat disappeared. Some days we would just lie idle talking; I would ask questions and it would answer. It never answered to my question about where it came from though. Where it would go was not a question I had asked.
When winter came the bright green leaves of the Tree started turning orange. And it was the brightest orange of all; anyone could think that the Tree caught on fire. The holidays came and I started seeing less of the Tree getting lost in the crowd of visiting relatives and the presents in colorful wraps that they brought. And after the holidays passed leaving me all worn out with festivity, I went to the garden to meet it. The Tree wasn’t there. There were thousands of dark-brown leaves lying scattered on the pale green grass of the garden, but not the Tree.
The townspeople gathered around the leaves, stared at them while nodding, talked to each other about it and went back home. They didn’t talk about it anymore. They only started calling the garden the place where the Disappearing Tree was.
I called it the place where the Cheshire Tree was.