I looked up at the tree. Its branches spread magnificently above me, its canopy catching the glittering late afternoon sun. Its limbs spread outwards from its trunk in twisted tendrils feeling their way in an unseen space. The knots and grooves in its bark were crisp artwork on a careful tapestry.
‘Do you know what you must do?’ the voice entered abruptly.
I tilted my head up and the up-side down face of the man with the hat came into view.
There were folds around the edges of his lips. Was it a smile? I couldn’t tell; he was upside down.
I didn’t feel like answering his question. I did not feel as though I was prepared for it.
‘I don’t think I know the first thing about who I am or what I am going to experience next,’ I said in a slow drawl.
He frowned, I think. ‘Do you think there is happiness to be found?’
I closed my eyes and let my muscles loose upon hearing the familiar phrase. It felt so tiring.
‘I was born naked and shivering into this world. Much of my childhood I have forgotten, and is now but a string of false memories coloured by my present desires. Every day this heart plunges into the cold and dark waters deep, deep inside a well. What do I know about happiness?’
There was silence. I opened my eyes, fearing I had offended him.
He wasn’t there.
I sat up and looked around. He wasn’t anywhere. The evening sun shone into my eyes as I searched for his dark form.
Across the park, I heard a dog barking. Children frolicking in the water.
I lay back down and stared at the tree again.
Albert Camus said that the only serious philosophical question was that of suicide.
A small cynical voice in my head sniggered as it noted this thought. ‘It’s a tree. How did it make you think of this? You’re going to be hard to fix.’
I let out a long, slow breath. Did I really already know what to do?
In the distance, the tower clock of the university began to ring the hour. In that split moment, there was no room for the voice in my head any more.
As the voice returned and began its dissatisfied search again, I smiled at it.
I already had my answer.