I transferred all the money out of my trading account, and went to sleep.
A scraping sound against my bedroom window woke me in the middle of the night. I lifted the blind. There was a man with a headlamp clinging to the top of a large evergreen tree. He could have reached out his hand and pulled my beard.
I opened the window.
“What the hell are you doing?” I said.
“Putting a floodlight in this tree.” The floodlight was pointed at my window.
“It’s three in the fucking morning! Get out of my backyard before I call the police!” I yelled.
“This isn’t your backyard. It belongs to that guy.” He pointed a finger at a man who was walking around with a bullhorn, barking orders. It was my neighbor.
“Bring the tree closer to the house,” my neighbor was saying to a man driving a tractor. “I don’t want to see a single shingle on that house.” He was talking about my house. They were surrounding my house with trees. The trees were planted right up against my foundation.
“Hey,” I yelled from the open window. “You’re in my backyard! This is my house!”
He laughed at me and walked away. “Nothing you can do about it now.”
I stepped back from the window. I was angry but felt impotent. All those people out there on my property transforming it; I couldn’t stop them. They’d dug holes. Planted roots. Thousands of pounds. Trees and dirt. Who was going to dig them up and take them away? I couldn’t do it. The trees could be up against my house like that forever.
I walked across the hall to where my wife and daughters were sleeping. I shook Judy’s shoulder and whispered into her ear, “They’re in our backyard and there’s nothing I can do.”
“We’ll sell the house and rent” she said, half asleep.
“We can’t give up like that! We can’t let this guy surround our house with trees!” I wanted to fight but I needed troops. I looked out their window. A flood light shone in. A tree branch pushed up against the glass. “It’s too late!” I said. “The branches are going to come through the windows. The roots will ruin the foundation. We have no choice but to leave!”
My 7 year old woke up, or maybe she was awake the whole time and just spoke up. “We can’t leave until after 5th grade,” she said. “I don’t want to go to another elementary school.” Then she started to cry.
“See what you’ve done now?” Judy said. She hugged my daughter. I felt like an asshole. I felt very alone. I had to take care of the trees. “I’m sorry I woke you up,” I said to my daughter and I left the room. The whole house was swaying in the breeze.
I woke up and peeked out the window. My backyard was the same it had been when I went to sleep. “Fucking nightmares,” I thought to myself. I felt a mixture of relief and foreboding and then went downstairs to cook my daughter’s breakfast.
When I was in college I’d dream of tornadoes. These dreams would fill me with panic but they never felt real. As an adult I’m finding the distinction between my life and nightmares has blurred considerably. I wake up now and check in on my daughters sleeping and wonder how I’m going to keep my house. I wonder how I’m going to provide them with the consistency children need.
I’ve stopped trading. Trading is all about control; having it and keeping it. No one can fire you except yourself. No one makes a bad trade except yourself. Of course, the big lesson I’ve learned in life is that any feeling of control is a complete illusion. It’s best to surrender. But to what? I don’t have a whole lot of faith in anything right now. Perhaps that is what I need. More faith.
I drove my daughter to school and after I dropped her off, I called a friend to meet me for coffee. I wasn’t sure what I’d do at 9:30 if I wasn’t sitting in front of my desk staring at the quotes.
We grabbed our coffees and sat. “So what’s going on?” he said.
“Not much,” I said. It seems we’ve started all of our conversations like this in the last few years.
He told me he had bagged a turkey. “I cleaned it in my studio,” he said. “To keep warm I burned an entire pile of junk mail in the stove. It was like the American Dream.” He smiled.
“You have any feathers?” I asked. My daughter collects feathers.
And with that we were in his car and driving to his studio. It’s a cramped and dusty place, a garage that’s slowly being taken over by the vegetation around it. It reminded me of my dream. Half of the studio is home to machines that he uses to build his dark inventions, the other half is where he paints.
“I need more space” he said. “You want to take a painting for a season? These really shouldn’t stay in the studio through the winter.”
“Yeah, I’d love one,” I said, thrilled.
He reached into what looks like an over-sized file cabinet and slid one out. “You like this one?” he asked. I did. The painting he pulled looked like the marriage between a scrambled television and a Hiroshige wood cut. There’s a sense of vertical movement and of repetition. It fit my current mood: scrambled, repeating, but with a hint of beauty.
I took it home and brought it up to the office where, until the day before, I traded. I leaned it against a wall. I was excited to have it. When my daughter returned home from school it was the first thing I told her.
“Look, my friend gave me a painting. Do you want to see it?”
“No. Can you play with me?”
“Yes, I will. But first I want you to come look at the painting. I want to know what you think it is.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes at me. Then she ran up the stairs to my office.
“It’s a sunrise,” she yelled down.
I walked up the stairs to join her in the office. I looked at my trading setup, still intact.
“I’ll be down in one minute to play.” I said. “I just have one thing to do.”
She sighed and ran into her playroom. I could hear her reading to her stuffed animals.
I removed two of my three monitors and slid the other over a few feet, exposing the wall. I hung the scrambled sunrise. If nothing else right now, I still have faith in the sun. It’s gonna go down in a few hours and come back up tomorrow.
And I’ll be here between the two horizons, waiting for my picture to steady.
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