Author: Alyson Tait

I moved across the state and into the apartment alone. My keys opened the front door on April 1st, like a prank to my former partner.

During the summer, bright green leaves smear sap across the city, and streaks stain car windows, an improvement to the pollen that coats the sidewalks in April.

In the long winter, the branches of the barren tree scrape against my bedroom window.

When I complain, maintenance tells me they already trimmed them back, as far away from the building as they can.

They say the tree is too bare to bother me, but the sound alone makes them liars. The same sound reminds me of my overbearing mother.

A wailing banshee come to eat.

Nails on a chalkboard.

A delusional siren ignoring her target’s closed off minds and wondering if her failures are because she just hasn’t been loud enough

The noise was jarring — distracting — invading. After a year and a half, it invaded my thoughts. In the winter, the scratching branches even invaded my dreams. They entered my nightmares and called to me, fingertips tapping against the frosted glass.

The tree and its ugly skeleton limbs showed me my favorite Ferris Wheel, the one upstate that fell apart last summer.

It danced with my ex, a smile on her pale, narcissistic face.

It dipped my favorite book into a pool of warm blankets.

The tree knew me so well, despite my silence all that time.

“Alice,” it called, “come play.”

It’s lonely, like the rest of us. I could hear that in its voice, in the way it tippy-tapped against my window when the moon was full.

The tree had no withered brethren, so it sought whoever lived beyond the window.

My name isn’t Alice.

I’ve only known one, in fact. The last ex who never loved anyone but herself, and who later shortened her name to Ali. She would tap her fingers against the coffee table when she grew bored.

Thin little fingers with fingernails that would scrape against surfaces.

One night I wondered, as a car drove by and filled my room with yellow light if perhaps the tree had gotten confused. Absorbed a memory as I slept those early nights of my lease.

Maybe the lonely beechwood had heard the name and thought someone more willing than I lived there. It didn’t have eyes, after all.

Not since maintenance cut it back, at least.

Perhaps Alice would have gone and played, straddling the wider branches and laughing at the destruction they both caused.

By the middle of February, lack of sleep and nerves leave me tired, breathless, and easy to yell.

No energy to play, or deal with flowers and candy, or complain to management- again.

Instead, I took sleeping pills and waited for spring.

I bought new headphones and waited for the leaves to come back and smother the branches and their noises, and as I fell asleep – I tried to control my thoughts to steer my dreams. Like maybe the wind will carry the news over to the rightful over of the name being whispered every night to me.

When it finally worked, I dreamt I could float and watch myself outside my body. I sat on a nearby tree and held my breath for the longest time — waiting to see myself breathe.