Inspired by Che Best
“Time (in a Tree)”
Fiction. Based on a True Childhood
by Starry Teller
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.
(Lights up. C sits center stage under a tree with a book.)
C. One plus one is two.
Red and yellow and blue.
These the primary numbers;
the primary colors.
The primary age.
The age of innocence and childlike wonder.
To learn to dance.
To learn to read.
(Holding up a book)
I have something more than this can teach. I have knowledge that is out of reach.
(Sets down the book and starts climbing the tree.)
(From a lower branch)
Before I ever climbed a tree, I knew what a tree was. I took walks with Grandma through the orchard all the time. We pretended that we lived in a tree fort. We would climb the trees and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
One time I fell out of a tree.
Not this one, another one.
Well, maybe this one. Most of the grapefruit trees look the same. I can’t really tell them apart. Sometimes I get lost trying to find my way back to the house.
GRANDMA. (From offstage) Darling, why don’t you come on back to the house to eat some lunch with me?
C. (Yelling) In a minute, Grandma!
(C takes a breath and leans back against a branch.)
C. One branch plus one branch equals two branches, but you can’t make a tree with only two branches. The tree is made of many branches but only has one trunk. One trunk plus many branches equals a tree, then? How come there isn’t a math problem about that?
(Starts climbing higher)
Look at the color of this tree’s leaves. Green. How many red or yellow or blue trees have you seen? When the autumn comes, the leaves change, but they are not primarily red or yellow. Yellow and red leaves means the green leaves are dying. And I have never seen a blue tree. Does a blue tree mean the tree is coming back to life? Maybe the primary colors really aren’t that primary.
(Stopping for a breath)
And while I’m in primary school, I am not the primary child I once was before I went to school. They say it’s all about innocence and wonder—
and yes the world is wonderful—
but the world is never innocent.
The world commits crimes to me every day.
The sunshine does not last long enough
And the moon does not shine bright enough.
There are never enough cookies in the jar, or sugar in the sugar bowl.
I fell out of a tree once.
Not this tree
And I tried to dance at home but fell onto the coffee table and sliced my forehead open.
They thought I was uncoordinated and told me I had to dance in a class.
But they don’t know how well I can climb trees now
and that takes serious coordination.
GRANDMA. (From offstage) Darling, I’m going to my doctor’s appointment. Grandpa is home if you need anything.
C. (Yelling) Okay Grandma, see you later!
(C looks down from the top of the tree and sighs.)
C. I ought to climb back down now. It’s getting late.
(Singing to herself and beginning the descent)
I have something more than books can teach.
I have knowledge that is out of reach.
(Talking and placing her foot on a branch)
Books are really wonderful. I don’t mean to say they aren’t. I learn a lot from books. There are just some things you have to learn by doing. Like climbing a tree. Or hugging Grandma. Books can’t teach you those things.
(C gets stuck between branches.)
And sometimes you get stuck between branches and you don’t have time to pull out a book and read if you should go down the left or right branch. One plus one is two, but if I don’t figure out how to get out of this tree, one tree plus one me will only equal one disaster—not two.
(C places her foot on a lower branch and continues her descent.)
Even though climbing out of trees can be hard, lots of other things are harder.
Like finding your way out of the orchard when it’s dark.
(Lights begin to dim.)
Or going back home to an empty house.
(C places her feet on the ground and turns toward the direction her grandma had been calling from.)
(Shouting) Grandma! Grandma!
(C faces the audience.)
(Speaking softly) Or waiting for the voice of Grandma who never came home from the doctor.
(C picks up her book and exits. Lights out.)