“Surely you would save me if I were drowning?”
“I might,” she says, “it depends on how annoying you’ve been.”
“I don’t annoy you, do I?” I say tongue firmly in cheek.
“Yes, you do, and quite often at that.”
Grinning to myself as we circle the looming tree, I spy how its bark bears the initials of various lovers engraved upon its gnarly surface. So many people I shall never know, their stories now existing silently before me. So overlooked. So tiny. It’s kinda sad, and yet the sense of melancholy is a beautiful one; one that leaves me eager for a cigarette.
“I can’t be that bad. If I were that bad, you would’ve knocked me off by now.”
“The thought has crossed my mind many times. Sometimes, the image of your painful death is the only thing that gets me through the day. It caresses my weary mind the same as the sounds of the lulling sea.”
Observing a looping signature inside an arrow-pierced heart, I look at her from the corner of my eye.
“I don’t believe that at all.”
“So sure of yourself, aren’t you?”
Some of the carved letters and symbols appear to be many years old. Just how old I can’t quite say, but they seem to easily predate our arrival on this mortal coil. For a moment, I’m gripped by an urge to carve mine and Meeko’s initials, but then such a thing strikes me as tacky, and I refrain. Not to mention, it would be cruel on the tree, and yet without realising, I take my keys out of my pocket and begin to carve away.
“I’m sure that I inspire only love and affection in you, and nothing else.”
Shaking her head, she stands directly beneath Hachikō who’s looking down at her from a distance of a dozen or so feet. The wagging of his tail sends a blanket of skeletal leaves falling onto her as she reaches out her arms. Grinning, he lets out a playful bark from his hidey place.
“Come down, boy,” she cries, “you can’t have any food if you stay up there.”
Running my finger over the carved lines inflicted by my front door key, I place my ear against the cold trunk and listen for some eternal voice of nature to show me the way. All I hear is the blood rushing inside my head, and the echo of Hachikō’s paws as he digs them into the branch he’s perched on.
“What are you doing?” she asks. “Help me get him down.”