The carrotwood in front of the building is drunk on rainwater. His branches drape over the west facing balcony walls. He slurs his morning greeting.
“Hey, buddy. Workin’ from home today? Me too.” He calls to the man in the second story apartment, tapping on the sliding glass door. He purposefully addresses the man, instead of the woman. Not wanting to be too obvious.
“I hate it when you leave the curtains open. He always knows when we’re home.” The man hisses to his wife. The woman says nothing. “And who gets drunk at 8am?” He pours weak coffee in two mugs.
“Let him have a little fun. It’s been so long since the last rain.” The woman replies to her husband. It’s not like the big guy has a choice in when or how much he drinks.
“There, see. You always take his side.” The man complains. He glances from the woman to the glass door. That unsettled feeling rises inside him again, the frustrated desperation of trying to hold water in his hands. It surfaces more and more frequently of late.
“What side? There are no sides.” There are definitely sides. All three know it.
The tree taps the door again. “Getting that morning joe, huh?” He hiccups. “Is it good and strong today?”
The woman hides a smirk. Her husband’s coffee is always weak. Something she told the carrotwood many months ago. When it started.
They had always been friendly. On her evening walks she had a habit of patting his trunk and thanking him for his oxygen that day. His gray/brown bark like the flank of an elephant.
They got to know one another when everyone was ordered to work from home. The woman would take her lunch breaks on the balcony and chat. She invited the man to join them, but he opted to play video games and masturbate.
She confided to the tree that she believed the man was having an emotional affair with another player. Which was how she learned that the carrotwood has excellent hearing. He’d been embarrassed for the man. Had attempted to be diplomatic in explaining how he knew the man was not having an affair with another person. No, the man had formed a sexual fixation on a Tetris knockoff. Pleasuring himself to a ticking clock and increasingly difficult block puzzles.
Instead of being upset by this information, she’d asked if the carrotwood heard her having sex with the man, and he said yes.
He explained that he hears everything in the building. The woman in 110 takes a shit every day at 7pm. The little boy in 212 recently stopped wetting the bed. He whispered that the Maple on the side of the building tapped the boy’s window at night. The boy would wake up and know to go to the bathroom.
Roots absorb vibrations from below. Branches eavesdrop wherever the sun directs them to grow. None of his kind intend to be nosy, it just happens.
The next time she had sex with her husband, she climaxed imagining smallish waxy leaves and flexible wood swirling around her. In the morning, the first buds of spring had arrived on the branches that reached her balcony.
She pours cream in her coffee. Today is the day one of them will be brave enough to confess their infidelities. Their loneliness. Maybe.
“The coffee is perfect, as usual.” The man lies to the tree. And himself. And the woman. Sips his hot brown water.
The woman wonders if it’s possible for two people to fall back in love when most of their needs are being met somewhere else.
The man wonders if his wife would move if he agreed to never play a video game again.
The tree knows his time with the woman is fleeting. She will be gone soon, whether she stays or leaves.