“Excuse me, but what on earth are you doing up that tree at this stupid hour?”
It occurred to me I should make some type of response. Of course, how should a grown man, sitting on a tree branch 30 feet above the ground at three AM respond? I was of the opinion there was no good response to make.
“Um. Reliving my childhood?”
I knew from her facial expression, my wife was not happy with that answer, and I should give her a better answer before she took a saw to the tree trunk.
“I needed to get outside.”
“Like when you walk?”
“I don’t really know, I just…” Sometimes it was hard to explain why I did anything I did. “I had to get outside. I couldn’t stay inside.”
“You couldn’t take a walk? You’ve taken them before. At this time of day.”
That was true. I’d left the house at three AM more than a few times in the past eight weeks. I’d taken walks that lasted two hours or more.
“I didn’t want to scare you any more.”
That was the truth, really. I knew she worried about me walking, especially before dawn. She worried if I’d come back, or if I’d end up dead by the side of the road somewhere, or mugged, and beaten, and left to die.
“I figured if I stayed in the yard, you wouldn’t worry so much.”
What else could I say? I knew it was nuts, sitting in a tree at 3 AM. Normal people didn’t do that. Normal people got up at five or six, then got ready for work. Normal people got in their cars, and drove to work. Normal people sat at their desks, or in their office cubes, and worked all day long.
For eight weeks, I’d watched them. Every morning. I’d watched them drive to work. I’d watched her drive to work. And then I sat at home, feeling like everything was wrong and broken. Like I was. Broken.
When I did things at stupid times, no one could see me. No one could watch. Everyone was asleep, and wouldn’t be thinking, “What’s he doing? Why isn’t he at work?”
“So, you think climbing a tree at this time of day means I won’t worry?”
“I’ll come down.”
She shook her head. “No. Stay up there. Just let me know when you have to climb a tree.”
“I’m OK. You know that. I’m OK.”
“I know.” She waved at me, then went back inside.
I’d have cried, really, I would have. But after eight weeks, I didn’t have any more tears. I knew she’d go back to bed, but she wouldn’t sleep. She’d worry about me. Even though I’d told her I was OK.
I wanted to tell her I would be OK. But in that tree, 30 feet off the ground, at three AM, I knew I couldn’t, because I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever would be.