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Emmanuel was a special person: he loved embracing trees.

On the way from his home to his work, he would always come across that centenary eucalyptus located in the corner of streets 68 and 4, and he would hang his arms around the trunk for some minutes. The caretakers already knew him, s they would not bat an eye. Emmanuel would also salute them, but with a handshake.

On many occasions, he would invent excuses to his wife of the sort “I will buy a can of corn”, “we run out of vinegar” or “I need a 2 millimetres screw”, when it was not “I will be back later, Esther”. There were many times in which Esther, tired of waiting and with the dishes getting cold, would jump on the car and bring him back from this palm tree or that one.

Disregarding his occasional small lies, Emmanuel was a beloved person in the neighbourhood. The greengrocer and the baker would spend hours discussing with Emmanuel about the freshness of the ingredients, about the rains of April and the ones coming in Winter.

Autumn was a very melancholic time of the year for Emanuel. He understood the moment of the trees and he contained them. His embraces were longer. During this season, when she noticed he was crestfallen, the baker would add a fritter to the half-dozen or she would give him 100 grams of biscuits.

—They are very fresh, I have just pulled them out of the oven. Take them, they are for free.

 

*****

 

In the backyard of their apartment located in street 2 they had eight trees when there was barely enough space for one. The neighbours, of course, grumbled at first because the branches would get through the blinds and ovenbird nests would appear in the balconies. “Come in and drink a mate with me, Ramiro, that I will explain everything to you”, Esther would nod, and then the same story all over again. Once he finished counting the one hundred and thirty four bonsais, Ramiro began to understand.

At work, everyone admired Emmanuel. When he sat at the piano, his students, in whispers, would call him “heavenly”, “magic”, “genious” and “mad”. As Emmanuel had told them, flattery should be only used with nature.

—But, Emmanuel…

—Richard, please, to the piano. Show me your improvement in E scales, that we have to give a show on Sunday. You have been doing it great.

 

*****

 

Emmanuel suffered the pruning time in his own flesh, he felt they would cut his arms, not just the nails. Esther knew it, so, during this time of the year, if she went to the supermarket she would buy candles for Emmanuel to light under the semi-naked cypresses. The caretakers of the block, realising that Emmanuel hands were beginning to tremble due to the cold, would help him out to light the candles and would even sing a Beatles song to them.

—This ceibo loves Yellow Submarine. Check out how it moves its leaves.

—You are right, Emmanuel, but I do not remember the lyrics. Start singing and I will follow you…

 

*****

 

The greengrocer was the first one to realise that Emmanuel had stuck to the weeping willow. Only his legs were visible, since the leaves completely covered his torso. Half an hour to one hour and a half was normal, but four hours embraced to the weeping willow were too many hours, the greengrocer thought, and he entrusted the shop to his son while he brought Esther.

—Where did you see him? I have been looking for him everywhere. I should have thought he was embraced to the weeping willow. Stuck? Let’s go.

Together with the greengrocer and with Esther, the baker also approached the weeping willow, since she noticed the commotion and she suspected the worst. After six hours, Emmanuel was still ferociously embraced to the shaggy tree.

—Emmanuel, come on. You have a class to give in a couple of hours.

—Emmanuel, the croissants I brought you are going to get cold.

—Emmanuel, I brought you some fennel, but they are heavy. Esther alone cannot carry them.

Emmanuel never unstuck from the tree.

 

*****

 

Since then, Esther waters the weeping willow twice a day, with the hose she borrows from the Pampean caretaker of the building in the middle of the block: once very early in the morning and another time at night, when the sun has already set. She does not embrace the tree, because she is afraid of getting stuck, but during pruning time, she asks the pruners to avoid cutting the branches of the weeping willow for this year.

—Emmanuel would not have liked it. It looks pretty as it is. That eucalyptus, however, is very high. Start with it.

 

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