Right, time to step up the to the plate. I started this thing to confess my mistakes and air out my head and I’ve been putting it off ever since. I’ve been too much of a coward to enter the forest of my own mind but I realise I’ve been looking at it the wrong way. This task is a mountain I have to conquer but I’m not going to conquer it by taking a helicopter half-way up and jumping out, hoping I’ll get a grip. The only way to conquer it is to put one metaphorical foot in front of the other and get it over with.
I hit my wife once. A few months before she died, the Tree Walker, whom I had seen neither hide nor hair of for over two years, suddenly returned, as if he couldn’t stand that, in his absence, I had begun to rebuild my life, and wanted to tear it all down again. Maybe he had even been planning for it; allowing me to become the happiest man in the world just so he could punt me back down to the bottom of the pile. Several months into this renewed reign of terror, mere weeks before my wife’s death, my wife walked in on me sitting in the living room of our house, staring out the window at the Tree Walker, lurking just on the edge of the treeline. I hadn’t told her about the Tree Walker; I never wanted her to feel the terror and anger that I did. Perhaps ironically, if not for the secret that I kept from her, she might not have.
She was only worried about me. She only wanted to see if I was okay. But I hadn’t slept properly in days; the Tree Walker was everywhere I looked and I was closer to the edge of madness than I’d ever been before. I was in no condition to interpret her love and kindness as it was. In my mind, her concern was twisted by paranoia to a condescencion; in my mind, she thought I was going mad, which I was, of course, but a madman never thinks of himself as one. I snapped at her, telling her to leave me be. She put her hand on my shoulder to calm me.
I swiped at her. I never meant to hit her, just to brush her arm off. Instead, I smashed her face with my elbow. I instantly snapped out of my one-sided staring contest with the Tree Walker and rushed to her aid. I’d knocked out a tooth and both the inside and outside of her cheek were bleeding. When I tried to help her, she batted me away, screaming at me not to touch her. I tried to explain myself but failed and she told me she was going to stay in her apartment in Rutland. I should have stopped her but, in my despair and self-loathing, I did not. I was too self-absorbed to even consider the possibility she might come to the very harm I had been trying to keep her from.
That night, Laura saw the Tree Walker for the first time.