I woke up this morning, my head next to the window outside which, for so long, that goddam fifty-foot rotting behemoth of a tree has loomed, a fear which I simply had to edit out of my brain to go on functioning on windy days. As I write, I realize that the Feng Shui mirror I oriented against the storm window — ridiculous, but since I was powerless to do anything else about it, I had to do something — is still there.
Maybe I will stop having phantom-limb pain of the amygdala when I remember to take it out. I expected to be giddy with joy, but I have been used to fearing that thing for so long that I can’t really take in the fact that it’s gone. I keep expecting to look out that window and find that it has come back. It wasn’t just a ground-note of fear in my life, it was emblematic of the kind of neighbors who considered it just fine to let a menace like that hang over me, whom I suspected of thinking it would be just fine if the goddam thing did fall on me, and kill me, or destroy my house, leaving me out on the street with no place to work and no home for my cats. I imagined them giggling to themselves, like the woman of the house giggled when the big branch dropped in my yard five years ago, at the thought that I might be killed or just have my life destroyed, because, after all, they’re Republican (hardcore, as in “Defeat Obama” signs), Catholic, obsessed with the kind of FAMBLEEE life that is utter poison to me, keep dogs whom they let run around the yard barking their heads off all day… everything, in short, that suggests they would enjoy seeing a person like me wiped off the face of the earth. And their kids lived in the two houses across the street through all that time, seemed to have plenty of spare cash judging from the renovations they consistently undertook, but were apparently OK with their parents living under the shadow of Doom too… as long as there was a chance it might hit me. Which, the winds in this area mostly tending to blow from the west, seemed likely. I got obsessive about watching the direction my lawn flag flapped in.
The annual expeditions of their half-ass redneck arborists, chopping and topping the thing but leaving it standing, were a torment. See, look, we’re doing something about it, the process seemed to telegraph, so that when it falls on you we can’t be blamed. We’ll just spread our hands and marvel that what we did wasn’t enough.
Every time I looked up at it all this would wash through my mind. All the neighbors I’ve ever had have sucked — an obese Christian-right blowhard, a family of Salvadorans who neglected their cat, let their daughter date drug dealers and played the stereo all day (and took great offense when I spoke up about all three of those things, especially the loud stereo, which they maintained was “their culture”). I don’t know what it’s like to live among people who don’t telegraph that they wish I didn’t exist. I wonder what it would be like.
I know it’s gone, hallelujah, but it’ll be a while before I go up the stairs without half-consciously expecting to see its mutilated, dead bulk filling my window. I just have to keep telling myself that no matter how much they hate me, I can sleep safe in my bed now. As much as anyone does, anyway.