There’s a tree taped to the wall. A forest of them, actually. Though, to be fair, it’s not a forest, more a representation of one. Unless you get too close, in which case it isn’t any of those things. It’s a series of black dots and crosshatches. Up close you can see the texture of the wall beneath it. That blank, boring wall. A white one, just like those around it. Interestingly, when the light is just right, when the dimmer switch is at the optimal setting to emulate the tone of a sunset, the wall almost becomes 3D. In the corner of your eye where peripheral vision can give way to illusion you can sometimes sense the trees swaying, or their leaves twinkling. This trick is enhanced when the windows are cracked and the breeze outside sends a signal that life is present. A pine scented candle does not work, nor does any other false scent for that matter. But just after a rain, when the flora is purging its old skin, you wouldn’t believe how ripe it feels inside the room. Staring sideways with the wall in your peripheral, sitting by the window with your chin catching the vibrant glow of magic hour, the shadows are deep and piercing. The monochrome wall opens its eyes. It breathes just like the trees outside. Some nights you can reach inside of it and pluck a leaf right off of the image. You don’t believe me but it’s true. There’s a single red squirrel that jets across the wall when no one is looking. I saw it once in the reflection of my computer. Its tail stuck up in a fluffy “s” and held stable as the rest of the body bounced through the branches.
I once had a nice man over for dinner, just someone I met at a book sale who helped me carry my ridiculous stack of donations to the counter. It just happened to be one of those evenings I was talking about, where the air is alive and brings everything it touches to life along with it. The windows were cracked and in the sky was a supermoon taking up much of the window, almost like a spotlight floating with us through our conversation. At once that same moon went dark and a moon arose on the wall, in the background of the image. It sat there for a while and I tried not to let it know I had seen it. Because as it seems, once something in the wall knows I’ve spotted it, the game is over. But I knew it was there because a new light source reflected off of my wine glass. The nice man’s head was facing at an acute angle which kept him from seeing the high segment of the image where the moon was glowing, but he noticed my sentence trailing unusually off and my eye unconsciously making contact with the new moon, which made him turn his head jarringly towards it. Just as he turned the light faded and the moon went back into its original place in the sky outside my window.
“What the hell was that?” he asked in justifiable confusion.
When I tried to tell him that every so often something sneaks into the wall’s image he laughed uncontrollably. I didn’t think he would be the type to understand this sort of phenomenon anyway. But he really didn’t have to accuse me of being “batshit crazy.” Or, I don't know, at least put more charm into the accusation so as not to demean your own intellectual satisfaction. I didn’t force him to leave after that, but he got up rather quickly and moved our plates into the washer before letting himself out the door. Part of me wished for the moon to play its game with him and redeem me, but the rest of me wanted to finish my wine by the window and watch the world twirl through the universe.
After that night the moon and I became good friends. Sometimes I would notice it on the wall and mockingly start spinning in orbit around the room. I would see it bounce around in the background of the trees, laughing in its own way, I think.
Once there was a freak snowstorm in the middle of May that buried cars and shrubs and blew over electrical lines in my neighborhood. I lit some candles and made a fire, but alone in my apartment I felt the storm bring out my sorrow. With my books and my succulents, my manuscript and my bicycle, I suddenly felt something missing. I stared in grief at that second chair slid under the kitchen table. It was like new, the wood shiny, the woven jute of the seat still tight and not sagging like the other one's (which my body had released its weight onto infinite times since I moved into the apartment two years ago). Staring at the chair, blank in the eye but dreadful in the head, I lost myself for a moment. I floated away into a future where its version of the past carried different facts. Like, I wasn't socially awkward but instead had the wit and charm of a well-established New Yorker. In that future, I would need more chairs, many more. And they would be used as much as the one I sit in.
Like a zombie I went to take a sip of wine but the glass was empty. Without looking I placed it back on the coffee table and when I lifted my hand it tipped right over. I only noticed because it fell onto my bare toes, otherwise I believe my fixation on the chair would've held constant. I begrudgingly bent over to pick it up and glaring right at me was the moon in the reflection of the glass coffee table. It was initially too bright to look at directly, but then it dampened its glow into a bluish hue - more subtle. I slowly shifted my eyes toward it, wondering if when my sightline finally matched up it would disappear and leave me alone again to wallow. But it stayed, it let me look right at it. My mood lifted and I smiled. The moon smiled with me by getting brighter again. It was the most wonderful feeling - being connected like that. I can't really explain it.
I noticed the bright glow from my moon friend was so strong that the wine glass was casting a long shadow on the wall. I burst to my feet and scoured through my bookshelf. Then I found it, the book my brother had given me as a joke which he bought from the Pirate Store in San Francisco. A book of shadow puppets. I ran into place and flipped to a random page. Just as instructed I contorted my hand and cast onto the wall amongst the fake trees was a lifelike deer's shadow. I made it trot along the wall, and curiously, the red squirrel poked its head out from a bush. I quickly flipped to another page and cast a new shadow of rabbit hopping through the forest. The squirrel popped back behind a tree in alarm. I pulled apart my hands and the rabbit was gone. I flipped the page again and put my hands together, pointing my fingers just as it said creating a most fabulous goat, beard and all. The moon spun and glowed in applause. The squirrel came out of hiding and I swear I could hear it "tick-tick" with approval.