I’ve never been good at starting a conversation. The idea of initiating a dialog used to seem as though it was easy . As if the books I read had all the answers, but what looks good on paper doesn’t always work once you look out into the world. My friend once introduced me to an ice breaker, meaning a way to ease the awkwardness of a mundane conversation and not a way to describe how I feel when I am talking to another person. As if instead of a fault line spreading through my body and allowing anxiety to course through and infect my brain, it is a way to spark an interest with a member of the same species. This question, this glorious question stands to save me from my own incompetence. So I ask it with excitement building in my shaky bones. 10 words that’s all it takes in the form of a question. if you could be a tree, what would you be? GENIUS!! They take time to think of an answer and in this pause it gives me the time I need to analyze every aspect of their face and every quirk in their mannerisms to learn as much as I possibly can. Every movement, every smile, every shifting of an eyebrow or pupil registers in my thoughts while they decide on their weapon of choice. Most likely they will announce their choice of a willow, or oak, or some other common tree. They’ll then ask me the same question, but I am ready. I’ve planned and rehearsed this answer many times in my bathroom mirror as if it were the last speech I would ever give. You never know what might be the last speech you ever give. A ginkgo I say with a stand-offish grin. Their immediate response is to ask what a Ginkgo is which lights the fuse to my mouth and allows me to explode with details. I say I am a ginkgo because it is the only species in its genus, it is alone and no other tree is like it. They assume this means I am unique although it means that I am lonely. Even when I’m in a forest surrounded by trees or in a room surrounded by friends, I am utterly alone. I am a ginkgo because ginkgos shed their leaves. They lose their leaves every winter like how I lose hope every season. Like a ginkgo I often appear as merely a skeleton of who I once was. I am a ginkgo because they are resilient and can grow many feet into the air. I refuse to quit and I refuse to stand down even when I am falling apart. I am a ginkgo because people cut me down to build themselves up and use me without my permission. Ginkgos never fight back. Ginkgos never stop their killers. But Ginkgos always keep growing. Forests of trees are defiled each day to supply a demand for paper, for furniture, and for fire, but I suppose if your heart is that cold, you may need a fire to warm it. After saying all this they once again pause to re-evaluate their own decisions and determine what tree they might be. I enjoy how my answer provoked deeper thought as if maybe after they answer we’ll understand each other a little bit better. I may not be perfect, but I’ve been through enough to know how not to fall. After all, when Hiroshima was bombed in 1945, all life in the area was destroyed, except for the ginkgos.
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