John is 72 years old and his favourite thing to do is sit in his brown, single leather chair in the middle of the living room, watching the television. One afternoon, John was sat, snug in his leather brown chair chewing on some liquorice allsorts. He shoved his wrinkly hand into the black packet of sweets and grabbed a handful at once. His favourite ones were the ones with the pink or yellow sugar coating around the liquorice. He threw two into his mouth, closed his jaw abruptly and began to chew. All of a sudden, John leaned forward almost immediately and coughed, spewing the half chewed-up sweets from his mouth onto his 40-year-old carpet.
At that moment, John thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a dog to clean that up.” He immediately shook the thought from his head. They cost too much, they are untidy and unhygienic, they are needy and smelly. John wasn’t having any of that. No, no he was content with his little apartment, and, his brown leather chair. Content. Now that is a dangerous word. Again, he shook his head and persuaded himself that, to be content is what he has and likes. He has lived in this apartment for 45 years now, surely that must mean he loves it here and he is content? John stood up and slowly bent his fragile body towards the sweets and scooped them up into his hand. He shuffled in the direction of the kitchen, breathly heavily as he moved. He stopped by the bin and threw the sweets into the black abyss.
John closed his eyes and let out a sigh. I wonder what those sweets will find at the bottom of my bin bag. Will they be greeted with my half-eaten sandwich from yesterdays tea, or will they be greeted by the mouldy leftover loaf of bread. Surely, supermarkets can’t expect a single person to consume a whole loaf of bread before the sell-by-date? A whispery, foggy voice slithered through the creases of his brain and said, “Maybe, they intended the loaf for more than one person.” John rolled his eyes and kicked the silver bin with his foot which was cushioned in his navy coloured slipper. He kicked the bin with such force, that he suddenly began to wobble. In a few seconds, that seemed like a lifetime, he tumbled to the floor. His other foot followed the first one and he began to fall backwards. His slippers went flying from his feet, one ended up in the bin. John’s body hit the floor with such force, he heard a crunch. John bellowed from the top of his lungs, as the searing pain from his back propagated to every inch of his body. Tears filled his eyes and began to stream down his face, landing onto the cold, yellow kitchen floor. His eyelids began to close and his breathing got slower; then darkness fell upon him.
After a while, John awoke, shocked and confused. For a moment everything seemed fine until a sharp pain began to pulse throughout his back. He creased his face up, causing his eyebrows to lower and move inwards. He looked up to the kitchen counter, and, saw sitting on the edge was his white phone. He started to use his arms to pull himself towards it, but with every movement, more pain shot up his back causing him to yell in agony. He eventually made it to the countertop and reached his wrinkly hand upwards. He moved his hand side to side searching for the phone. His hand landed onto a cold plastic object and he grabbed it, pulling it downwards. Sure enough, it was his phone and he dialled 999.
After a good few hours, John was lucky enough to obtain a hospital bed. He was resting his head against the soft pillow, staring at the wall. A nurse walked in with a beaming white smile from ear to ear. She approached John and checked his pulse.
“How are you doing John? How is the back? Any pain?”
John turned his head towards her and shook it.
“Well, is there anything I can do for you?” the nurse said, shifting slightly from her position.
“No, I would like my privacy. You can go”
The nurse looked down at her paperwork and looked back at John, “Well the medication should continue to suppress the pain. If it returns, do call for one of us.” She began to turn around but suddenly stopped in her tracks and said, “Oh yes, sorry John, is there anyone you would like me to call for you? Any family or friends?”
John caught her gaze and huffed. “No, of course not.”
The nurse’s cheeks started to turn into a rosy pink colour. She replied, “Oh sorry John, what about your grandchildren. Any of them live by?”
John looked furious, he shuffled in his bed, rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t have any family or friends. What is the point? They cause pain. Don’t believe in it. Rubbish, it is.” He turned his head towards the window and stared at the old tree outside. For a moment, he felt bad and considered turning around to apologise, but he shook his head and rolled his eyes at the stupidity of the thought.
A few hours passed and John didn’t move his gaze from the window. He was fascinated by the tree. He wondered how old it must be. Perhaps 150 years old at least. What took John by surprise was that it was June! Where were all the blossoms and fruits he thought? He moved forward slightly to look at the other trees around it and sure enough they all had blossomed. There was a myriad of colours: pinks, yellows and whites. However, this one tree stood there, alone and old looking with not a blossom in sight.
John decided to go outside to take a closer look at this tree. He pivoted his body to the edge of the bed and swung his legs outwards. He placed his feet into two, very thin white hospital slippers and pushed himself upwards. He left his room and began to walk down the corridor. As he did, he got a whiff of the different smells of the hospital. John could smell cleaning agents one moment, then roasted chicken the next. He turned the corner and as he approached the door, he got a whiff of alcohol. The smell lingered around this rough, and very tired, looking man sat in one of the hospitals blue plastic chairs. His head was rested on his shoulder and his chest rose periodically as he inhaled and exhaled. John, rolled his eyes yet again, and pushed the glass door open and found himself in the garden.
There she was. The big, old, dying tree. He stopped walking when he was about 2 metres from it. The wind was strong today, and, as it moved through the branches it howled like a proud lion. John felt sad for the tree. His mouth pursed open and his gaze moved from the bottom to the very top of the tree. The branches waved and howled at him as if they were asking for help. John suddenly felt very alone. He felt as if he as staring in a mirror. He was the tree. The old man’s gaze dropped downwards and his whole body sunk in shame. He was 72 years old and had no family and no friends. He had never felt what it was like to love another. Not even a dog, who could eat any food John may drop onto the floor. He had always forbidden love in his life. It would only lead to heartache and pain. Then the same whispery, foggy voice returned and told him, “how would you know if you don’t give it a try?” This time John did not shake his head but instead burst into tears. The whispery, foggy voice grew stronger and louder.
The foggy voice said one last thing, “A life without love, is like a tree without blossoms or fruits” – Kahlil Gibran.
John looked up from the stony ground and peered at the beautiful blossoms around him. His frown began to grow. It grew and grew into a gentle smile. He wiped the tears from his face and felt a very strange feeling surge throughout his body. Hope. It is never too late to change your path. To change your destiny. He looked at the tree one last time and shook his head from side to side and returned, with a skip in his step, to his bed.