The Willow Tree

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The frost that clung to the willow tree was harsh compared to the soft flakes one would imagine to be the product of a winter’s first innocent snowfall. She imagined these soft flakes would not simply fall from the sky; they would sweep dramatically and slowly from left to right as they caught in the wind. Lately, it seemed every beginning and first seemed to yield disappointment for her; thus, the forecasted freezing rain was fitting for the first storm of the winter. It was so cold out that the rain had dripped and frozen simultaneously from the branches. As much as she wanted to avoid looking at the tree, she was drawn to its icy stalactites gleaming from the lights of the city. The way they hung from the branches reminded her of shiny, wet teardrops and she couldn’t help but start to cry. She slowly raised her hand and touched an icy stalactite with her index finger. The ice was not smooth nor wet, but sticky due to the cruel cold. She wished fervently that she could have raised her hand as she just had and touched him, even if it was only with her index finger. She wished she could have touched him a few hours earlier as they stood in front of this very tree and stared him straight in the eyes for once, so that he could understand. Instead, she had merely waved goodbye and gave him a small smile as she usually did, and watched him walk away with his hands buried deep into his pockets.

The mighty hands of the clock towering the city seemed to move in faster increments than usual as the hour of midnight drew near. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and tried to bring herself to laugh. How stupid it was that she stood with tears drying on her face in front of this tree that meant too much to her and nothing to him. Everyday they bid each other farewell at this very spot. She would stand next to the tree watching him wait to cross the street then signal for a taxi. Only when she heard the loud close of the taxi door would she then turn herself around and head back to her apartment.

It felt wrong now heading back home without hearing that reassuring sound, but she trudged on home anyway. Walking home, she thought of collapsing her body onto her bed, wrapping herself in blankets, and falling asleep to forget everything. She forced herself to concentrate on the rhythm of her brisk walking pace and the sound of her boot heels striking concrete. She lowered her head down into her scarf to avoid exposing her face to cold and carried on hurrying home. Her fingers were surely frozen as she came closer to the entrance of her apartment. Because she was cursing at herself for not wearing gloves while rummaging through her purse to find her keys, she had not noticed him waiting at the door. When she saw him there, she stumbled backwards and almost dropped her keys. He stood there somber with his hands buried deep in his pockets as she stood ashamed to have him see her clearly disheveled and troubled. She wasn’t sure what to say; “Why were you waiting for me?” stood on the tip of her tongue, but she felt the time for those words had passed while she stared at him. She was relieved when she saw his mouth open slightly, but it seemed he could not find the words to say either. After a moment, the realization that she was freezing came back and she shivered. In an instant, he took a step closer and enclosed her in his arms. When, he saw she did not protest, he tightened his grip and she brought her arms around him. She did not completely comprehend this moment, but she pushed all questions away as they embraced. Precisely as the clock stroke midnight, soft flakes began to fall from the sky sweeping dramatically and slowly from left to right as they caught in the wind.





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