I’ve been here for as long as I can remember, but I never thought it was lonely. The shadows of Tall buildings follow me around all day and give me little reminders.
“Remember to wash behind your ears!”
“I know, Tall.”
“Don’t sit so close to the edge! He’s old and might collapse!”
“It’s fine, Tall. He won’t drop me.”
Sometimes, it can get a little annoying.
Luckily, they can’t follow me underneath Trees. It had taken some time, but eventually, the forest had pushed between buildings and through the concrete. Trees push Tall’s shadows out, and they talk to me instead. Well, more like they whisper while I just listen because it’s hard to respond to all of their chatter, but it’s cool and colorful and safe to rest on their broad branches. I like to sleep with Trees at night, and then during the day, I play with Small.
Small buildings are the most common, and they’re very polite and shy. They ask small questions like: “Oh, how was your morning, even tinier one?” “Oh, how was your night, even smaller one?” “Oh, how was your afternoon, even punier one?”
They don’t mean to be rude—they just enjoy not being the smallest thing around. Besides that, they are quite kind, and I always answer back, “You’re not so large yourself, Small!” even though they’re all at least two stories tall and I’m not even one. They know that, but they still get irritated, and we run and climb until Tall pulls me aside and huffs about how it’s dangerous to run and climb so fast.
“It’s just for fun, Tall!”
“No fun when you get hurt, Little One!”
“Oh, we wouldn’t hurt even smaller one!”
“Oh, we were just playing, Tall!” Small would cry and yelp.
“Shush, shush, it’s nighttime. Time for Little One to go to sleep.”
I think Tall assumes I just find a pillow and go to bed after that, but I don’t. I climb up to the top of Trees and they tell me which branches are young and can’t hold me so I don’t fall. Up high in Trees, I can see past Tall and plan out what I’ll do when the sun comes back. Sometimes I go to Factories, which are the biggest and the strongest. But they’re also the quietest. It took me a long time to realize, but Factories are actually very kind. They’re just very stern as well, and when I go climbing on them and they suddenly say, “No,” or “Stop,” then I know that something isn’t safe. The only time I’ve ever heard Factories say more than those few words is when they send rust whispers to the forest. Trees pass along their message, and it’s always the same: “Man is here. Don’t let the Little One come.”
And then Trees will erupt into whispers.
“Man is here.”
“Be careful, Little One.”
“Don’t let him go.”
“Stay here, Little One.”
“Careful, Little One.”
“Man is here.”
I’ve tried many times to go see what Man is, and why Trees become so anxious and noisy. But every time I start towards Factories after they say Man is there, everyone starts to scream.
“No, Little One!”
“You cannot go, even tinier one!”
“Stay here! Stay here!”
“Man is there! Do not go to Factories!”
And any step further from where I stand will be blocked by Trees’ branches and Tall’s walls and Small’s windows. They’ll start breaking themselves apart and throwing pieces in my way, and I have to scream, “Stop! I’m not going!” before they break themselves so badly they collapse.
Tall watches me for the rest of the day, until Factories say that Man is gone. They keep me distracted with reminders and lessons.
“Don’t forget to wash between your toes!”
“I know, Tall.”
“Man can be very dangerous, you know. They always go so fast.”
“It’s fine, Tall. I won’t go looking.”
And they love me and kiss me for staying.