They say the World is small but I have never found this to be the case, for when I was a child I climbed a tree to see it. It hung over our back yard, in the winter its branches cast shadows like capillaries along the surface of the Earth. Full bodied, green leaves and pink flowers would blossom every summer. Grooves etch its bark, like fingertips soaked in a long bath. Green moss crept from the trunk, like a slow marching army, threatening one day to conquer all. From the peak you could see as far my as childhood stretched; all the way to the other boundaries of my neighborhood. If you looked from here you could see in-between the other houses and make out the tip of our driveway. It was from there that I was able to watch the van as it drove along our street before stopping in our drive. Mum already had the car packed from the night before and had it parked on the curb. It was mostly furniture that was left to be moved and a few other pieces that Mum had said would be too big for the new place. From the far left branch that stretched over the fence you could see into Tommy Morgan’s yard. My Mum never liked me hanging out with him because of rumors she had heard from other people in the neighborhood, but I never thought he was that bad, to me he was always just stupid Tommy Morgan, the kid who tried to jump dustbins on his bike and showed me pictures from his brother’s dirty magazines.
Dad told me once that the tree was haunted and because of this it had always fascinated me, part out of fear and part out of wonder. He said that a hundred years ago before our house was built a little boy had climbed it, but slipped and fell to his death. That now when other little boys climb it, he would push them off as easy as a gust of wind pushed dust. It’s strange at that age how we all just take what we are told to be truth, at the time it never once occurred to me that my father could be lying, that it is was just some sort of grownup joke or a way to keep me from playing in the tree in case I actually did fall and hurt myself. In a strange way this was probably the worst thing my dad could have told me, he had given the tree a sense of danger, given me the idea that there was something to prove by reaching its top. One Halloween when my cousins and Tommy came around we played a game where you turned off all the lights on the porch so the backyard was dark, you had to run up and touch the tree before the ghost got hold of you. In reality it was just a bunch of kids running back and forth from a tree but in our imagination the sense of peril was real, I remember being scared of the ghost but also scared that my cousins and Tommy would make fun of me if I didn’t do it. The game had become a rite of passage, a way to prove that you weren’t just a kid.
It was with Tommy that I first attempted to climb the tree; it was during the long summer months that you dream about all day while at school, but when they finally come you don’t have much to do, but sleep late and watch TV. Tommy came around to my house one of those mornings and told me that we were going to build a tree house. There was no doubt in his voice, just a steady confidence and the reassurance that he had it all worked out. He had even made a crude drawing that we were to use as a plan. He told me that he had a bunch of old wood left in his garage from when his parents got their new kitchen, and that his dad wouldn’t notice if we borrowed a few of his tools. The wood that Tommy was talking about was a cream coloured Formica, that was chipped around the edges and had holes where screws once were. We spent most of the morning throwing it over the fence from his garden to mine. I was made to climb the tree first; Tommy said that because he was taller it would be easier for him to pass the wood up to me. That summer I wasn’t yet tall enough to reach the first branch, so Tommy had to give me a boost until I was able to wrap my arms around it. Tommy had let go of my feet and I could feel my arms slipping from around the branch, the weight of my body pulling me towards the ground. My legs instinctively kicked out searching for something to stand on, something that could hold my weight, but I was too far out from the trunk, my shoe could barely rub against it. During those moments I felt like I was drowning in a sea of air, desperately striking out for a ledge before the water pulled me under. It was then that I started shouting for Tommy to help me, for him to grab my legs again, instead he just started laughing. It was the shock of this that finally made me lose my grip, and sent me falling to the ground. I landed on my back and winded myself, it took me a couple of minutes to get my breath back and Tommy was still laughing by time that I had. He put his arm out to help me up, but instead of taking it I just pushed it away and walked towards my house. Tommy came after me and told me to stop being a little baby. Eyes fixed on the house I told myself that wasn’t the point, he was supposed to be my friend, but instead he just let me fall, I had hurt myself and all he could do was laugh. Like my father had lied about the ghost I was lying to myself, hindsight now tells me that it was my pride that was really hurt. Tommy’s laughing made me feel ashamed of my own short comings, like I was somehow a failure for not making it into the tree. Through a cocktail of laughter and words of you didn’t even fall that far, Tommy tried to get me to come back. Instead I shoved him out of the way causing him to trip over a bundle of the wood we had thrown over the fence that morning. One of the pieces was by my foot and I was able to pick it up before Tommy got back on his feet. I swung it, trying to hit him with it before he could hit me, but it broke over his arm as he blocked it. Thinking back I don’t know what I expected to happen, I am not even sure if I was thinking. This was the first fight I was ever in, if it even counts. The only real memory I have of what happened next, is being on the ground as Tommy ran away. I know I was crying and that my nose didn’t start bleeding until after I touched it. We never really spoke again after that, the last time I saw him was the day we moved out of the house. I was in the front seat with Mum while she let the removal van pull out of the drive. Tommy was watching from his bedroom window, staring at our car, when Mum started to drive off, he raised his hand to wave. I waved back, but to this day I don’t know if he saw it was me. I hope he did.