The pink flowered tree threads its roots along the edge of the stone walkway. The roots are twisty, tangly pointer fingers foraging for nutrients. The leaves nestled among the buds stretch out in the breeze to soak up sunlight. The bark forms a labyrinth teeming with small, shiny beetles and lazy grub. The branches are spindly, hooking up and under like a snake frozen mid-slither. Determined fingers run along the pink flowered tree. The nails are clipped to a perfect crescent moon of white. The peachy skin covers the child’s palms, races up her arms, slips under her loose tank top strap, and drops onto sunburnt shoulders and back. Grandparents grip tiny whirring fans in their fists and fall behind as the girl flocks from tree to tree. Ants march unwavering over picnic blankets. Bronze plaques reflect the light of the beating sun and heat waves pulsate from the sidewalk. The pink flowered tree looks down on the creature pawing at its trunk. Children are so unfamiliar to a tree. The pink flowered tree has pondered children and adults for decades. Decades of ice cream cones dripping down chubby toddler hands, ponytails lifted from the backs of sweaty necks, and red bug bites lining exposed ankles. Earrings, round and silver like bullets, poke through earlobes. Plastic flip flops steadily smack against the back of dirty heels. Their mouths open for the strangest things--to cry, to scream, to ask to be held. Words are chattered and spat into the wind, unfiltered and ignorant. Words are weightless to a child. As the sun heaves itself to the other side of the planet, the heat stops weaving viciously through the crowd and settles into the ground. Dusk swaddles each passerby in tender drowsiness. The pink flowered tree stoops to see the stragglers on park benches clasping hands. Street lamps bloom, lifting the smothering shadows. Cheeks blush. Buttery pastries are removed from their crinkly bakery bags and split in half. The crumbs bounce on the warm, worn metal of the bench. They patter softly, as gentle as a kiss on the forehead. Affection is ginormous to a tree. The river chugs along, the same water that lapped the feet of founding fathers and the same sunrise that warmed their foreheads. Crisp steps of polished, pointy-toed shoes clip down the street when the clouds are thin from sleep. Men in pressed business suits stride across the pavement, their hands bearing the sloping lines of briefcases. The steps to their offices are choked with people. They wail and chant, the words slurring together until incomprehensible. Heavy marble deadens the echo and the fury from their bellies as the polished man swoops in. Faces etched in the ceiling squeeze their eyes shut in bliss, the slopes of their sculpted noses aimed at the polished man. Their pupils are brushed with calloused fingerprints of a long-gone artist. The dome encircles the man with its snowy white walls before growing the sharp edges of a hallway. The man has been thinking a lot about the wrong things. He is thinking of the trees of his childhood, the great oaks that ruled over their kingdom of mismatched shrubs and stubborn dandelions. He is remembering the pressed blue checkered shirt he wore while being washed with harmonic chords of hallelujah, the plain cover of the hymn book in his mother’s hands. He
thinks about the doll his little sister nurtured, the one with an accidental marker line on its face and hair the color of toasted bread. He doesn’t recognize the signs outside his window for what they are, the nausea and pain in the bold Sharpie. A shaky seventeen-year-old peeing on a stick is unimaginable to a man blinded by the red in red, white and blue.