Upon Closer Observation of a Walnut

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The lush green leaves of the walnut tree stained my thoughts. We would sit on the ground collecting walnuts, carving them from their fleshy green husks and cracking open the shells to observe the rivets and folds of the shape of the walnuts, what looked like miniature brains. Then we would crunch them between our teeth.
This is the way I used to remember it. As of yesterday, something disconcerting started to dawn on me. I was at home, toying with the nutcracker that sits on my leather ottoman. I looked out the window and felt a silent unfamiliarity sweep through me. This of course is Boston; that was Virginia. We have grown apart; I rarely visit our old neighborhood. I used to use that memory to explain to my husband why I became interested in psychology. It wasn’t just the way the nuts looked like brains, but the way you and I would pry about our differences. Today, this all has been thrown into uncertainty.
Now, sitting on my couch, I set down the nutcrackers beside the dish of assorted nuts. I close my eyes and place my fingers on my temples. I enter the memory of the walnut tree and try to visualize the place where you had crouched beside me. I concentrate on the season; it is fall. I concentrate on the tree; it was the beside the grape vine and the raspberry bushes and it provided shade to a small bed of flowers that would not grow because it sucked up all of the water. I concentrate on the shade; it is twilight and there is a slight wind that makes the ground appear as if it is moving like water. Then I look up to observe your hands holding a walnut and I only see shadows. I search for your face and I just see the fence between my house and yours.
At age thirty-seven, for the first time in thirty years, I realize that you may not have actually been there with me beside the walnut tree. I feel you there in my memory, but I cannot see you. I must have seen you there before. The more I think of you and the more I am impressed with your absence, the less I know of myself. It seems that my memory itself has changed.
This deeply troubles me and I sit up to call my husband. He is traveling on business and the call goes to voicemail. I think of calling you, even, to confirm. What a trivial conversation it would be after not keeping in contact for fourteen years. How rude it would seem just to call you up and ask you to verify one uncertain memory: the day we realized that walnuts looked like human brains before devouring them. You must remember. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so odd. I have to know.
I pick up my phone. You’re not even listed as one of my contacts anymore. I search through several emails, including one from your mom. She wrote me to tell me you had sold your first home as a real estate agent two years ago after your career change. You never wrote to me anymore, I just heard about you through the rumors and small talk of our old neighborhood circle. Now, I can see your number, staring me in the face from your mom’s email that I have retrieved. I feel an eerie feeling. What if I sound crazy? What if it has been too long? Will you even remember the details?
I take a deep breath and try to compose myself. I shouldn’t feel daunted. We used to be close friends. We used to share week long vacations together in Montauk and we’d collect rocks together, paint them even. I still have a few you gave me as gifts. I pick up the phone and start to dial. The phone rings through to your line and a voice says hello.
“Hi, may I speak with Jessica? It’s Chelsea, Chelsea Morgan”
“Chelsea, wow. I didn’t expect this. What a nice surprise. How are you? Don’t tell me someone has died.”
“No, not at all, nothing of the sort. I just called to ask you something. I, um, have kind of a strange question.”
“Okay, what is it?”
“Do you remember the walnut tree?”
“Yes of course, we used to climb it together.”
“Yes, yes! And in the fall, do you remember cracking open walnuts with me?”
“Of course I do, we did that every year.”
“Do you remember one fall cracking open walnuts and realizing that they looked like human brains?”
“You don’t?”
“No, well not with you anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“I remember cracking open walnuts with my mom and she told me they looked like human brains, but I never told you that because you used to be disgusted about anything like blood, brains or eyeballs.”
“But I thought we talked about it together.”
“No, definitely not.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. I made it a point not to talk about that with you. Is that all you called to ask?”
“Well, yes, actually.”
“Wow. You are really full of surprises. We should catch up soon, but I’m just on my way out the door.”
“Oh, of course. I’m sorry to bother you.”
“Not at all. Good bye, Chelsea.”
“Bye, then.”
I hang up. We had not been together, you say. And you say you had not even told me that you thought a walnut looked like a brain. Was this possible? Something must be a mistake. I knew less of myself now than I had known just five minutes earlier. Under close observation, it is as if our years of friendship had darted a

About the Author: 
Erica Eller is an American writer and teacher living in Istanbul. She graduated with two Master's degrees in English from San Francisco State University: one in Creative Writing and one in Literature. She is addicted to texts, tea and travel.