Today, I’ve just met a tree named Philop. Not Philip, but Philop. He’s quite a nice tree. He doesn’t speak English, in fact he doesn’t speak at all, but instead, communicates via telegram in Treenglish. I asked him if there were any Treenglish-to-English dictionaries I could consult. He said there were none, no one had written any. At first he was quite defensive over the fact that he wrote and sent telegrams. He spoke—telegraphed—as if I were interrogating him. And I was interrogating him, to be sure.
“This isn’t an interrogation, this is just small chat.”
“Yes, small chat. Like about the weather.”
“Let’s discuss the weather then—”
“Mister Tree, under what weather conditions do you send a telegram?”
“Why I never—this is—an interrogation—!”
I asked him where he has his telegrams sent. At the train station, of course. The one in town—and I informed him, the one in town was not a train station, only a train stop, and he riposted that the Union Station in Los Angeles still sends telegrams. I did not press the matter further.
I guessed his name was Philip. He was aghast. “How did you—almost—know my name?!” And he guessed my mailing address, after I suggested we exchange telegrams. I told him my flat—“Is that really where I should send my telegrams to?”
“Well… Actually, I do receive my mail at █████.”
“I knew it!”
“The same way you almost knew my name—Philop!” When I was guessing his name earlier I guessed it was “Philodendron”… “No… That’s my mother.”
So we exchanged friendly words and he asked me what I was cooking. “How did you know that I was cooking?” He gestured towards one of my companions—Bedi? “Hey, I go outside sometimes. …But it wasn’t me.” It was Iseul! Wriggling beside the tree! Though in Philop’s defence, I did smell like food coming out of the apartment… I asked him what he liked to eat. He said, and I think he read my face—“Well I’ll have you no I’m no cannibal, I don’t eat other trees. And I don’t eat humans. Except for small children.”
“Don’t worry, none of them are your neighbours. …What? What are you looking at me like that for? Do you expect me to import small children from exotic locales, like a Salvadoran ch—”
“I don’t want to hear this anymore.”
He has his own modest mycorrhizae, that little network of fungi that functions as the Internet for him. He suggested I use my own fungi infestations to translate Treenglish for me. I was mortified—and he apologised for bringing up such an intimate subject matter. It is something that only trees intimately involved touch upon one another… But it’s fine. I admitted to him that my own mycorrhizae didn’t know Treenglish, only English, and a little bit of Arabic.
Philop is a very nice man overall. I wanted to continue talking—telegraphing to him, but I had to come back inside to finish cooking my marmalade, cherry, and rosewater fruit preserves. I asked him where I should send my telegram. “Oh, it’s all right. Just step outside here and we’ll talk—telegraph together.”
And that’s how I made an acquaintance of Philop the tree.