How I Became A Lemon Tree

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1.

You may not believe me but I am currently speaking to you as a fully-grown, verdant and quite content lemon tree. Currently my lemons are in full bloom and the ground above my roots are littered with lemons that have fallen off of my vines. With a feeling of deep satisfaction in my roots I am able to watch over the backyard that I once spent so much time working in and I can even look into the bedroom where my wife sleeps. There is a Eucalyptus tree not far from me, which is the tree that my wife and I were married under. As a man I never thought that I would think this, but it is actually a very pleasant life living as a lemon tree.

Even though the initial transition was difficult, it is not as surprising to me as it may be to you that I am a lemon tree. Back when I was a human being, I was inundated with a perpetual cycle of hunches about life being more than what meets the eye. Even though I allowed our modern world to squeeze out of me a good amount of my childhood sense of wonder and awe, I still felt like anything was possible. The world of work, bills and societal expectations may have closed me off to a more free and unbound way of being, but still I knew that there was not that much separating myself from the rest of the plants, animals and other animate things that I shared this planet with. When I worked in my backyard I would often stop and just stare at the flowers, trees and other living creatures and feel a deep sense of kinship with it all. This may be why when I finally made the decision to become a lemon tree, I really was not worried about it. Even though my wife was initially horrified with the choice that I had made, deep down I knew that it was the right thing to do.

2.

Prior to becoming a lemon tree, I was a happily married man with a plethora of ambitions. At the end of every month I had a stack of bills piled on my desk and I felt relatively satisfied with the choices that I had to make in order to pay them. I was working hard towards becoming a financially successful psychotherapist and I had a nice house, a car, a dog, a wife and a love of food and drink that I was able to afford. In a sense I was living what is often referred to as the American dream. I enjoyed collecting records and reading books and even though I was no longer a young and naive man I still harbored romantic dreams about living my life as a writer and artist. On a grander scale my life was no different than most other professionals who had reached mid-life and made some peace with the fact that their youth filled dreams had not come to fruition. I was ok with this reality and was deeply involved in the study of Zen philosophy to help smooth out some of the harsher edges of my life. I was in love with my wife and becoming settled with things as they were.  This is why it still surprises me that the innocent act of sitting down one evening to read a novel and sipping on a glass of water with a slice of squeezed lemon in it would end up having such a life altering effect.

I can barley even remember the miniscule seed going down my throat that night. I was embedded deep in-between the lines of a David Foster Wallace novel and can only now remember a slight hiccup, a minimal bump in the road as the seed traveled down my throat. Once I had swallowed the seed I thought no more about it until a few mornings later when I noticed a very slight shade of green sticking out from both of my ears. At first I was not alarmed about this and assumed that it was backed up gook in my ears that was slowly oozing out. I had been meaning to get my ears cleaned for sometime but had procrastinated on doing so. That first morning when I noticed the green substance in my ears I told myself that it was time to make an appointment to get my ears cleaned. That day I called to make an appointment for the following week. I wrongly assumed that that would be the end of the problem.

The following morning the green substance had turned into what looked like a few small green leaves sprouting out from my ears. I pulled on the leaves and broke pieces of them off. I observed the strange substance in the palms of my shaky hands and could not make sense of it. I continued to try and pull the strange material out of my ears but it felt uncomfortable- like pulling lint out of a belly button. I grew slightly panicked because I knew that this material was not made of the same substance that I often found at the end of my Q-tips after cleaning out my ears. In a voice that indicated something was wrong, I called my wife into the bathroom to help me make sense of the strange material coming out of my ear. She looked in my ears and then attentively observed the green substance. She studied the material, and then looked into my ears again and again and again. She then told me that it looked as if there were small little leaves growing out of my ears.

I was terrified of doctors but my wife insisted that we go see an ear, nose and throat specialist and find out what was going on. Since the only way to get a same day appointment with a specialist is if you are very wealthy, a fellow doctor or a celebrity, I was not able to book an appointment until two days later. My wife decided that we would keep an eye on things and I continued to go about life as normally as possible. I avoided looking into the mirror and tried to push the matter out of my mind but at work my clients all seemed to look at me like something was not right.

On the day I was supposed to meet with the doctor I woke up with what looked like small, twig like brown branches growing out from both of my ears. I felt a deep pain in my ears when I first lifted my head from my pillow. I touched my ears and felt something that should not of been there. I ran into the bathroom to have a look. In the mirror what I saw terrified me. I screamed to my wife, who was still asleep, to come into the bathroom. When she ran in and saw me she immediately passed out.

3.

The doctor did not know what to say. He had never seen anything like this.  It was an enigma. It was as if for the first time in his twenty-two year career he had nothing to say and knew not what to do. His nurses crowded into the small observation room with posters of the inner workings of the ears and throat on the wall. The nurse’s mouths were all agape as they stared at me under the fluorescent lights. It was as if they were all helpless to say anything. All the doctor could do was use a scissors and attempt to cut off the branches. Strangely, when he did so the branches quickly grew back twice their size. By the time I left the doctors office, not only had I felt like a strange object on exhibition but I also had foot long branches with an abundance of baby green leaves growing out from both of my ears. I knew then that there was nothing that the medical establishment could do for me.

4.

I canceled all of my clients for the following week and realized that I was going to have to stay inside. There was nowhere in public that I could go with branches growing out of my ears without being arrested or an object of scrutiny. I was a therapist and as a result was very familiar with how our society treated others who looked abnormal. It was wisest to stay in and allow my wife to take care of me. When you have no idea what to do, when a fate comes upon you that you could never have before imagined- the only thing you will be able to do is try and go about life as normally as you can. Despite the fact that the branches were growing and the leaves where getting bigger I spent my days reading a long David Foster Wallace novel, doing sit-ups, meditating, cleaning the house, playing with my dog in the backyard, cooking and leading what felt like a rather normal domestic existence. My wife gradually adapted to the leaves and branches growing out of my ears and tried to calm me with kisses, back massages, foot massages and a refrigerator filled with my favorite foods. Neither of us knew what we were going to do about the unimaginable fate that had found me. As times passed it began to feel like we were just waiting around for some kind of answer.

Every morning when I woke up and every morning before I went to bed, my wife helped me prune my branches- cutting them back as much as possible so that I could be comfortable. But after we did this for a few days we realized that it was a futile effort because the branches and leaves would grow back twice as large. I do not remember when it was but after several days of living with what was already a physically uncomfortable condition, my wife and I made the decision to just let the branches grow and see what happened. We both knew that no doctors could help us at that point. To be honest, even if there was a doctor that could, I did not want to deal with becoming a source of bizarre entertainment and study for a medical staff whose routinized jobs caused them to turn living human beings into objects. No thank you. Not for me.

It became very difficult for me to sleep. Often in the early hours of the morning I would get out of bed and go sit on my couch in the front room. There I would stare out a large window and into the dark night sky that was lit up with stars and occasional airplanes. I would wonder about the pilots of those planes and think about how difficult it must be to work a job where you have to fly all night long. I would sit there in the early morning silence and stare out into the darkness wondering about what I was going to do. How had I suddenly developed these branches growing out of my ears? How could this happen to me? For hours I would search for answers until I remembered the night not long ago when I swallowed the lemon seed.

I then began spending the early morning hours glued to my computer searching Google for some kind of answer. I would type into Google phrases like: can lemon seeds cause a person to grow branches and leaves out of ears, cause of branches growing out of ears, symptoms of swallowing lemon seed, cure for branches and leaves growing out of both ears, natural cures for branches growing in ears, and on and on. I would often become depressed because despite the plethora of information on the internet about every symptom and disease anyone could possibly have, there was nothing about growing branches and leaves out of both ears. I felt alone in the universe, a victim of an impossible fate.

After two weeks of living with my condition I had fallen into a deep hole of despair. The branches had become so large that it was getting difficult for me to pass through the various doorways of my home. If the branches got stuck on a wall or the side of a door and made the slightest crack, I would experience a pain much like pulling teeth. My psychotherapy practice was failing since I had to cancel all of my sessions with clients. Some were considerate since I told them that I was very ill, but those who were dealing with narcissism or borderline personality disorder were more concerned about the quality and consistency of their treatment so they threatened to find a new therapist if I did not see them. I started to develop headaches and a perpetual sour taste in my mouth. I could no longer eat most of my favorite foods since my depression interfered with my appetite. I had hit the lowest point in my life with several feet long branches covered in fully grown green leaves growing out of my ears. My wife and I felt totally hopeless as to what to do and it was getting to the point where I had to do something. So one evening while sitting at the dinner table and sharing a bottle of red wine I asked my wife if she would help me. Being the gentle and loving woman that she is, she was willing to do anything for me but when I told her that I was going to dig a hole in our backyard and that I needed her to bury me in it her spine slumped, her smile melted away, her eyes drooped and she let out a deep and defeated breath of air.

5.

That evening my wife and I held each other all night long. We made love twice. After our lovemaking had exhausted the both of us my wife curled her naked body into mine and gently rubbed her hand through my hair and branches. She kissed my neck and chest hundreds of times and told me how much she loved me. My wife cried and being a man who had never had an easy time with other people’s emotions I tried to calm her and tell her that there was no reason to cry. Again and again I reassured her that burying me in the backyard would not be such a bad thing to do. I told her that I would always be right outside the bedroom window watching over her. I promised her that I would never leave her alone for a moment and that whenever she needed me I would be just outside. My wife is far from gullible and as much as she wanted to believe what I was saying she knew that she would be burying her husband alive. In her mind she was convinced that it would be the end of me.

It was no easy task to talk my wife into assisting in my burial. We sat at the dinner table for hours arguing about why the idea was or was not ridiculous. My wife seemed to think that there had to be another way to deal with the problem. She also felt that even if I had twenty-foot long branches growing out of my ears, she still loved me and thought I was the handsomest man in the world. I was still her husband. It required a lot of emotional and mental effort on my part but after hours of going back and forth I was able to get my wife to empathize with me. I was able to help her realize how much pain I was in and how depressed I had become. As far as I was concerned my life as I had known it was already over. I had become a prisoner in my own home, my psychotherapy practice was falling apart, I could not sleep much at night and I had all but lost my appetite. All the pleasures of life were fleeing from me and I so badly wanted to rest. With tears running down her flushed cheeks my wife finally relented and told me that she would do whatever I wanted.

I did not tell my wife this, but deep in my gut I knew that if I were buried in the ground it would not be the end of me. I had a hunch that the branches would continue to grow out from my ears and turn into roots, which would then, in time, somehow turn into a tree.

6.

That evening I was up before the sun. The long branches growing from my ears made it almost impossible for me to walk into my tool shed and grab my shovel. While trying to get past the lawn mower and the compost barrel I broke off a piece of one of my branches. It felt like I had just jammed my toe into a brick wall and I wanted to scream. The pain was overwhelming and beads of sweat developed on my forehead. The memory of that sensation still makes the leaves on my tree shiver. It was a pain like none other I had ever felt before but like all pain- it eventually passed away. I walked through my backyard with the shovel in my hand and found what I thought would be a good location for a tree to grow. As I promised my wife it was right outside the bedroom window. I took off my bathrobe and in my boxers and a long black t-shirt I began to dig. When I was finished the sun was up and birds were singing in the trees. I could hear the sounds of the beginnings of commerce in the distance. Cars, buses and trucks all determined to reach their destinations on time. I looked down into what was a deep enough hole for my body and branches to fit in and then decided that it was time to go inside and wake up my wife.

Before I woke my wife I stood above her for a moment. I observed her beautiful long, brown locks of curly hair spread out all over the white pillow like an abstract painting. I always loved the way that she looked in the mornings- so innocent and sweet. Her red lips and rosy checks were all pale from a long night of lying supine. One of her bare arms rested on top of her head making an L-shape and I observed the wedding ring that loyally rested on her finger. I remembered the day many years ago when I first gave it to her. We were as in love then as we still were at that moment. Quietly I thanked my wife for all that she had done for me and for all the love that she had directed my way. I was forever grateful to her. And then like snapping myself out of a daydream, I maneuvered my way down over her so that I did not poke her with one of my branches and woke her up with a gentle kiss on the forehead.

My wife and I had our morning coffee together and did not say much. I tried to tell her that I was going to grow into a beautiful tree right outside the bedroom window, that I would always be there but she said nothing and sadly looked at me in the eyes. All she could do was tell me that she loved me. We sat there in silence for a while and listened to the clock ticking and the various other morning sounds that our house made. In her white night gown and long silk bathrobe from Victoria Secret that I had bought for her a few months before, my wife leaned over towards me and said, “lets get this over with my love.” We set down our coffee cups and walked out into the backyard, holding hands. I then showed her the hole that I had dug and she pushed her hair away from her face and I could hear her quietly repeating, “this is crazy.” But like all loyal partners, when I handed her the shovel she seemed determined to do for me what I asked her to.

I will never forget this memory. In my boxers and black t-shirt I climbed down into the hole and my wife got down on both knees. As she leaned over to kiss me goodbye the sprinklers suddenly came on. We both continued to get all wet but still remained locked in our deep kiss. Something felt very symbolic about both of us getting all wet during our final kiss. It was as if we were both being cleansed of any residual guilt we might carry. When my wife stood up with the shovel in her hand I felt grateful towards the sprinklers. My wife’s white night gown was all wet which allowed me to see her naked body beneath. As I managed to maneuver my way down onto my back I remained focused on her body. The outline of her hips and breasts had a calming effect on my nerves. I folded my arms and nodded my head, indicating to my wife that I was ready to be buried.  With her hair soaking wet and her face covered with tears she blew me a kiss that I felt land directly on my heart. She then proceeded to cover me with dirt.

7.

This is the short story about how I became a lemon tree. I did not want to burden you with the longer story. Ever since I have become a lemon tree I have realized that life is to be lived- not read, written, worked or entertained away. In my human life it was impossible but I now spend my entire days and evenings in one spot. Other than when I am resting I continually observe life playing out all around me. I have nowhere to go and nothing to do other than be. As a result of just being nature is able to run its course and allow me to continually bring forth an abundance of lemons. It is through this existence of just being that I have become happier than I ever was as a human. Of course I miss being with my wife and dog in the way that I was as a human but now my dog spends its days resting besides my trunk. My wife built a swing, which my branches hold and she set up a beautiful little sitting area under the shade of my leaves.

Everyday, rain or shine, my wife will come out and spend hours swinging and sitting in one of the chairs under my leaves. Sometimes she will pick lemons. Even though I can not talk with her she will tell me all about her day and things that are going on in her life. I will watch how her hair drifts in the wind, the way her crossed knees look sticking out from under her dress and with all the desire of a man I will feel lust for her run madly through my roots. All of the same feelings that I had as a man are still there but the only difference is that now I am a lemon tree. When my dog rubs up against my side and my wife swings from my branches, I feel such indescribable joy and satisfaction. What once felt like such a horrible fate now feels like a real blessing. As much as I miss my life as a husband and a psychotherapist, I could of never imagined then feeling the immense amount of love, contentment and gratitude that I now feel. It is as if for the first time in my life I now feel rooted in the right place.

………and then there are those moments of intimacy that I look forward to throughout the course of each day. When I was a husband I was never able to fully open my heart to my wife. I always felt some kind of fear and an annoying blockage that would get in the way of me giving my wife the love I knew she deserved. As a lemon tree it feels like this blockage is no longer there and I am filled with so much love that I feel unafraid in expressing it as much as I can. Every night before my wife goes to bed she will come outside and stand besides me in her nightgown. She will look up into my branches, clean away anything that looks broken or in need of care in the same way that she used to run her fingers through my messy hair. And then just like when we used to curl up in bed together every night, she will snuggle her body up against mine and tightly wrap her arms around my trunk. I can feel the side of her sweet face pressed tightly against my trunk and I can feel the tears running down her face. She will hold me like this for as long as time and her strength will permit and what is strange about this is that now, when she is crying I am able to also cry. My tears are a bit more sweet and sticky than hers but she does not seem to mind getting my sap all over her skin.

3 thoughts on “How I Became A Lemon Tree

  1. I loved this.Bittersweet. I could imagine it being made into a short film. It would be torturous to feel sexual desire though and have that left unsatisfied.You’ll need her to suck on your “lemons”. Other than that though you have food, love, company, time, perspective, health, connection, a new sense and true sense of self. I might be a mango tree though as that will keep the girlfriend coming back. She loves mangoes you see. I do too. I might like myself more actually if I was continually producing something I love.

  2. This is a really lovely short story. It makes me think of a modern day Giving Tree. The symbolism is wonderful with great depth and truth. Your story mirrors life and all the complexities of love with the imagination of a true wild mind. I will read it again and again even if it brings tears to my eyes.

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