Ugly Homes

Another chilly, late spring evening where trees struggled to keep pace with the racing approach of summer. Rough, elephant hide bark hid crooning birds, busy building where twig tips tickled the sky. Lawns lived in daylight and died with dew of dark, a continuous cycle of resurrection. 

Our apartment balcony overlooked the greasy pizza place and Dunkin’ Donuts and small duplexes edging cracked, narrow roads. Mumbled hums of car alarms, playful children, and drunks going to get their fill washed the street.

Her barefoot heels dangled over the cobwebbed railing like she was dipping her toes into the atmosphere ten stories high. She sat on my lap. I held her close—held her up.

She said in her lazy way, “Look at all of those houses – straight edges, blocky, cookie-cutter.”

“I think they’re geometric,” I said, “all painted with the same white, brown, grey a long time before, and now peeled and flaked and faded away with each new storm and shift of season.”

“They’re just man-made constructions trying to be right,” she said. “Each is calculated, precisely two windows to every side, parallel to screen doors and welcome mats like they came from a catalog. But look at the trees – uneven, bumpy-smooth, many armed and stretching toward twilight.”

Our eyes traced the curves of an oak as if we were following a roller coaster. We leapt together from sycamore to willow to fir as if we were acrobats waiting to catch the other.

“Imperfection is natural beauty,” one of us said.

Her crown rested heavy on my shoulder but I wouldn’t let go.

“Every time I see a naked tree, I try to picture the roots underground, beneath the surface,” I said.

She shrugged, “It’s probably exactly the same as it is up top, but covered in soil and dirt and worms instead of wind and moss and bees.”

I thought about the world that must exist six-feet deep; it had to be there.

“If you strip everything away, doesn’t that make a hidden symmetry?” I asked. But she just laughed and went inside.

I didn’t realize then how much I needed, and while the sun slept, swaddled in a blanket of constellations, I knew I had never felt so alone.