“What is this tree? Why have I never seen it before?”
Udom looked out the window of the meeting room. The big tree had a straight trunk that rose up to eye level. Bright green leaves were starting to spurt from each branch. The late sunlight caressing the young leaves reflected fresh shades of green that soothed the eyes.
The entire tree had shed its old leaves, which had piled at the base of the trunk. It was as if it wanted to say that its duty here was done, that the time had come to leave its body. The old leaves, once young and green, had grown large when fully grown, performing their duty of photosynthesizing light to provide energy for the tree until the end of its season.
Today, it had become a large dry crunchy leaf, fallen to the ground. It had become fertilizer for the tree to grow bigger. The life of the fallen leaf had turned to fertilizer to nourish the new lives that were now springing from the tree to continue to grow.
The question remained in Udom’s mind. He had worked here until he retired. This room had seen hundreds of meetings with his subordinates about their work. They had spent at least a thousand stressful hours in this meeting room, rushing in and out with their full schedules, had passed through the car park where that mysterious tree stood, over a thousand times.
Aside from that, he owned his own company. He was the owner of all this space. This tree was his too. He might even have been the one to order the landscaping department to plant the tree. Why had he never noticed it before? Never come to know it? Never even knew when this tree came to exist.
“Udom, shall we start the meeting?”
It was the voice of a young man who had started working at Udom’s company as an intern until he was now the head of the marketing department. And he was not even thirty yet.
Even though Udom was the CEO of the company, to all his employees, he was like an older brother. Always working side-by-side with them, always giving them opportunities, knowledge, teaching them how to work, sharing his experiences, always supporting them in their career growth. Udom had never taken off from work if he wasn’t seriously ill. Udom was involved in all the company’s projects.
“It’s like planting a tree. I take care of you just like I take care of a tree. I fertilize and water the tree, tending to it so we can grow together,” Udom once told his employees at a New Year’s party. It wasn’t strange that everyone considered him to be more of a brother than a CEO.
Udom looked away from the mysterious tree and turned toward the meeting room. When did the room fill up with his employees? He hadn’t noticed one young man who had prepared presentation slides.
Hot black coffee had been poured into his favorite mug; steam was still rising from it. As the aroma of coffee hit him, Udom slid both hands over the mug to absorb its warmth to wake him up. “(Not) just another day”, read a motivational message written on the mug.
The aroma of coffee and the warm mug had always been associated with his working mode for many years; they had always acted like a daily switch for his brain, turning it on. But today, that switch did not turn on.
Udom looked around the room, with a blank stare at his employees. He looked at the screen, where the first presentation slide appeared. “Marketing Department CLMV”, the company’s logo appeared in the upper right corner.
To him, none of it was familiar at all. It was as if he had just seen it for the first time. Just like he felt about seeing the tree from the window for the first time. The faces of everyone sitting in the meeting room seemed to be a distant memory. The documents and laptop that were open in front of him seemed foggy. He looked down at both of his hands, and wondered, “Are these my hands?”