by Charlotte Newman
Nobody thinks in a city like ours that so much green could be had, but nobody thinks in a city like ours. Everybody coffees, everybody tubes, works, everybody can’t sleep, everybody beers, everybody neons, drops, sweats, food-shops, swipes, traffics, everybody chicken wings. Oh yes, me too, me too. I breathe though, for everybody. It’d be rude not to; I live on the edge of the woods! I tilt my face full-pelt to the green and I get our chlorophyll, doncha worry. I touch bark and not one week ago, bark touched back.
Yes, you heard me right!
I’ll set the scene. Grass: green. A little wet. There I was. Palm to tree — like so! I felt it breathe, morning-misty, like my own! The tree and I, breathing together. Imagine, ring road in the background! No, I felt … comforted, if anything. Sap glued my finger where a ring might have been.
That night, a man made of bark came into my room. No, I wasn’t dreaming, I remember at the time, thinking — I AM RESOLUTELY NOT DREAMING. His hair was moss and leaves — and looked, if I’m honest, a little rough, a little damp; I suppose he’d no time to towel off the dew. You’re quite right, he’d have had no access to towels. Don’t think me insensitive! I like the natural look. And no doubt in my mind he was the tree — or of the tree. By the leaves, mist, and scent, I could tell.
He lay down beside me. First, shy. Fumbling. I thought we’d get tangled, but we didn’t. He gazed into my eyes, then closed his — they were a lovely acorn — and sighed out the freshest kiss of air. Then he looked at me with such hope, I breathed in deeply and breathed out deeply and his leaves near-shuddered in delight! We went on in this way for some time.
No, not a bit scared, not even when the raven turned up — I was hoping she’d have a ring.
Well, I fell asleep, I think, and woke to find him gone. Window open, leaf on the pillow; a lock of his hair, I smiled.
Oh absolutely, I went back! To the tree, his tree. But there were people there! Thirty, fifty? Flasks, rucksacks, hair, purple, guitar, banner:
SAVE THE PEOPLE’S WOODS. FRACKERS FRACK OFF!
“What’s going on here?” I cried.
A woman said: “We’re saving the woods! THE PEOPLE’S WOODS, D’YOU HEAR?”
“Yes,” I said. She looked confused. Her hair was dyed mahogany.
“But-” I eyed those nearest to his tree and tried to swallow my tension. “What-”
I don’t know what I was going to say next; at that moment, a young man found the guitar.
I endured the creeping numb, angry men in orange high vis, they paved paradise, poor Joni. Some went.
I wish they’d all go, protesters, council, police, reporters, frackers — especially frackers.
Get these people out of the woods! A little privacy, please!
My tree’s not a people person.
Charlotte Newman is writing her first novel, The Blue Work, inspired by art, loss and an accidental trip to a taxidermist’s. Her fiction has been featured in The London Magazine and Litro Online and she was long-listed for the Reflex Flash Fiction Awards. She has worked in bookshops in Paris and in Greece. She lives in London. @whim_and_her