“You can hear her too, can’t you?”
The woman under the tree pulled herself closer to the trunk and frowned at me. She was scared, of course, because I was a complete stranger to her.
I took a step forward, tapped the trunk of the tree and said again, “She talks to you too, doesn’t she?”
The woman didn’t say anything, but she kept looking at me with the same suspicion she usually reserved for stray dogs.
“She asked me to come talk to you,” I continued, caressing the tree trunk with a loving hand. “She has been saying this for weeks now, but I didn’t listen to her. You know what happens when we don’t listen to her, don’t you?”
The woman nodded. But she was still on the alert.
“Anyway, I didn’t want to upset her. So, here I am. Tell me.”
“She…talks…to you?” the woman asked.
I nodded as I tapped the trunk again.
“She…didn’t tell me…about you.”
I frowned at the tree and said, “You didn’t? Really? You have been bothering me about this for so long and you didn’t tell her?”
I looked at the woman, who seemed to be listening to what the tree had to say.
“She says…she says she didn’t…she didn’t want me…to know about you. Because I haven’t been listening to her…Only talking…only yapping…only me me me.”
I smiled a bit when I heard that. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out.
“Yeah, I know a bit about that,” I said sitting down on the sidewalk. The woman pulled her legs closer to her chest. “I do that all the time. I just keep yapping away when I am here. She listens well, don’t you think? She listens to all my worries.”
The woman nodded.
“I…haven’t…I haven’t seen you before…here.”
“I haven’t seen you, either. I come to talk to her in the evening. And that too only once in a while. Usually, after the birds are done making their noises.”
The woman nodded. It made sense to her.
I had noticed earlier that she ran away from the tree every time the birds came back in the evening. She usually didn’t come back to the tree in the night. But she was always there in the morning when I went for my walks.
And she was always complaining to the tree. About everything.
People had learned to ignore her. Like they were ignoring us right now. I smiled at the one or two whose eyes lingered on me. People usually don’t respond when I smile at them that way.
“You don’t like the birds, do you?” I asked the woman.
She shook her head.
“I don’t mind them so much. They don’t disturb me.”
She didn’t say anything.
“So, what did you have to tell me?”
She looked at the tree again.
When she started nodding at the tree, I did the same. I added a smile too.
“See?” I said aloud with my biggest smile.
I shook my head, but kept on my big smile.
“She said you will tell me yourself. She said it wasn’t right for her to tell it to me. She is that way. She is good with secrets.”
The woman nodded. And started telling me her story.