She sat across the table thumbing at the handle of her cup of espresso, reading over the local news paper, a school graduation, a street rezoned. I stare over her shoulder at the men across the street sorting out tree branch from power line up in a crane. I want to tell her about how as a kid, there were two trees in my front lawn, and only one of them I could climb to get above it all. I want to tell her about how when I finally started wearing jeans instead of sweatpants to school, how sad I was when the men came to cut the lowest branch off so the cars could park , the first arm hold, and it wasn’t that I could no longer climb the tree that got me, it was that I was embarrassed for the tree, looking all awkward without its missing limbs, abandoned circles cut out. It looked like it could never fully yawn.
I want to tell her how as a kid, at the start of every soccer game, I had a ceremony where I would eat a blade of grass because I thought it got me more in touch with the field. Maybe about how I felt like more than winning every game, if I could get every kid on the team to score in the season, then the record didn’t matter to me. Or about how I took a punch to the kidney that bruised and hurt for a week because I didn’t want to watch Josh Martin shove Christopher Henry into the bushes anymore just because he was slower than everyone else.
I want to tell her about the year the cicadas came out and left their shells everywhere and Jeff Harris across the street used to cook them on the grill and talk about how much protein each one had. There were so many shells that the sidewalks were covered and the lawns and the trunks of trees got piles around them and I used to try to avoid stepping on them on the way to school because it seemed disrespectful. All the other boys would stomp on them for the crunch they made.
I want to tell her about how every time I heard a fight in the kitchen over homework or boyfriends or work schedules or just because people fight, I would hide in my room and put my arms around the dog petting her telling her it’ll be ok. They’re just upset. It’ll be ok. And Molly would look up at me telling me the same things and then I couldn’t hear the shouting as loud.
I want her to know about how Eve Winnepe would take off her shoes in math class and how much it bothered me because I didn’t think the teacher would like it, and then I started to realize just how long her feet were and how they didn’t have any veins like mine and I would watch the way she moved her toes and it didn’t bother me anymore. And then how bad I felt when I did bad on those math tests.
I want her to know about the time that I first realized that sadness was temporary and that we often need to remind each other of that.
I ask if she sees anything interesting in the paper. She says the town council is debating whether or not a Lane Bryant should be put in on River Street. She says people are worried that it would detract from the artist district around River Street and how they don’t want anything so corporate.
I want her to see my sister crying at the kitchen table and how she never made any sense and I never knew what to say so I’d just sit with her and let her cry. She’d talk sometimes and then would keep talking and talking and I’d just watch and let Molly tell her it’d all be ok. But I’d sit and even after she left to go upstairs and close her door, I’d still sit and I’d see that she wouldn’t brush her teeth but I wouldn’t tell anyone.
I wish I didn’t remember when Eric Lansing took Beth Kobie home after fixing her his special drink and how much I liked Beth Kobie. She wore a prairie dress in the school play and I thought she looked like the most beautiful woman who ever walked. I left flowers on her locker and wanted her to go see The Truman Show with me one weekend but she said she couldn’t and I saw Eric take her in his car and the next morning how Beth didn’t wake up. Or about the bleach, or the roulette, or how hard grace is to find.
Maybe I’d tell her about the time my sister picked me up from an Indiana jail cell at three a.m. because I gave the cops her number as my legal guardian. She went with it and drove me home. We picked up donuts on the way back and I bought her a cup of coffee with the change in our parents’ car to say thank you. She never mentioned it again.
I want her to know about test after test after test and how it all opens to light. I want to tell her about how I’d walk barefoot in the park by my apartment complex in New York every autumn just to feel the crunch of leaves under my toes. Or about how big the sky gets anytime you head south and how vast horizons over oceans are. I wish I could just show her a morning without an alarm clock or how good it is to lock the door and rumple the sheets.
But I end up saying something like Yeah, but I bet all the revenue something corporate would bring in would be good for taxes. She empties her cup and asks me if I’m ready. I start to get up but then say In a second. I have to tell you about the two trees in my front yard.