“What do you think the strongest tree is?”
It’s two in the morning. Your reddened eyes turn to look at your housemate through the fog of smoke that has filled up the lounge of your student accommodation. You’ve eaten all of the Cheetos, and you’re not entirely sure if your fingers will ever go back to their former non-orange self.
“I don’t know, man. Like, if all the trees in the world had a fight. Who… who do you think would win that fight? I’ve just been thinking about it, you know,” says your housemate.
Your parents phoned you up earlier and asked how the course was going. They’re desperate for you to not flunk another year. The first year, sure, that’s a free pass. But the second year…
“You need to get your act together, son. You don’t want to end up like your cousin James,” your Dad tells you in that voice of his.
Your back in the lounge. Your housemate is just looking at you now, one eye open, one eye half shut. It’s clear neither of you have spoken for a good few minutes.
“I guess it would depend on a number of things,” you say.
Your housemate is still looking at you. One eye open. One eye half shut. You realise many years later that he must have been asleep. No matter. He’s the audience you’ve needed, a blank canvas upon which you can paint your theories.
“Density of wood, the strength of bark, it’s ability to withstand cosmic amounts of external pressure. I guess the only way to truly know such a thing… due to the inanimate nature of trees,” you’re on a roll, “… would be to put them all through the exact same test and see how they perform.”
Is your housemate listening? You don’t even care.
“You’d have to build a machine, of course. A big, powerful, machine – one that could ultimately crush anything you put in its way. There’d be hydraulics involved obviously. And a press! Some sort of press. The press machine could use hydraulics to determine the inherent strength residing within each tree.”
“What is the strongest tree?”
Fast forward a number of years, and now it’s just you, your camera, your hydraulic press YouTube channel, and a number of tree cuts in some warehouse at a non-disclosed location.
Dropping out of uni two days after that night was, you insist, the best decision you ever made. Your old housemate, you forget his name (fame will do that to a person), graduated with a 2:2 in something or other. You lost touch with people, you fell out with your family. Deep down though, you knew you were doing the right thing. You were driven, for the first time in your life, by the pursuit of single goal.
What is the strongest tree?