The elusiveness of our own hell…what the man in the tree told me


First of all, I don’t go to the gym. Fuck that. I don’t need that meat market mentality applied to an activity that should entirely be propelled from within your head and accompanied by no one but your own diligent psyche. The concept of going to a gym in order to flirt or bullshit with your friends is the most distasteful thing in the world. Women who put make-up on before the gym and men who go to the gym for 15 minutes before a date should all be hung by their feet.

Pure exercise is a solitary activity. You narrow your zone, slip into that unflappable Zen disconnect and if done correctly, your environment recedes to a mute point.

My exercise of choice is weight-lifting. This takes place in the dining room in my apartment. I have a bench and squat rack sitting there on the carpet where a happy family table would traditionally sit. Sorry, that’s just how I “roll.” (Excuse that annoying excursion into uncharacteristic urbanese).

So tonight, I rested about a half hour after getting home and then I hit the iron while I listened to music, which is my customary routine.

Squats, bench presses, normal.

Rows are my third and last lift, and they require that I stand, and as I do, I face out my rear patio door at a line of Evergreen trees that separates my apartment from the building next door. In this Zen moment (rows are hard for me, and my left middle finger is injured requiring that my concentration and focus were especially acute tonight), I happened to glaze at a section of the trees before me, and in this state of undifferentiated comprehension, I saw him.


The man danced in the tree, prodded by the evening breeze. He was made of leaves and branches and shades of green, but he was unmistakable, swaying with the wind, ebbing and flowing, his chin, his legs, riding the breezy storm ensconced in the tree’s plumage.

The man in the tree was my own private hell.

My purgatorial descent. I wouldn’t expect that others could see him, or that I could have seen him at any other time than tonight, here, as I paced methodically through my trying weight routine. Focus lent me a glimpse of the man, of my hell.

And I thought of our hell, the hell we live in, that we experience, and which others can never know.

Our own private hell, imbued within the featureless landscape of our meandering life, the hell that suddenly becomes visible and oppressive and which one cannot turn from.

Who can ever know our hell, and how can we ever know another’s?

Just fix your gaze on the trees and you may see…