You taught me to garden. Hand on spade, my fingers tethered to yours like a vine.
“Like this,” you said, and you sliced the earth, specks of soil spilling out onto my bare toes. I clung to the frayed threads of your purple shirt and watched you plant watermelon in the sunlight. I handed you flat seeds one at a time and wondered if the clouds that merry-go-rounded above me also had mothers.
Our plants grew. We watched tendrils push their way out of the loam. We sat on the old blue camp chairs and pretended we were fancy ladies at a garden party. I clinked my cup of milk against your wine glass and waited for more sprouts to emerge.
“We have everything we need right here,” you said, handing me thick slices of watermelon, and I trusted your sunlight-coated words.
But in a flood zone, the rain always comes.
The roof leaked rust-colored rivulets. The house siding pulled itself away piece by piece as if looking for a better life. The plants bloated, soaking up the always-rain. I dug my fingernails into the fruit and pulled out soft hunks for you. You tapped your left foot on a chipped patio stone, staring at the sky and smoking, looking right past me as if I blocked your view of what could have been. My waves and smiles grew smaller until I became as invisible to you as the plants that we had grown.
At night, I heard footsteps. My own — soft, small, the sticky shuffle of dirty feet on peeling gray linoleum squares. His — there was always a ‘his’ — heavy, angry, demanding. Steel-toed boots heavy with the scent of diesel. Leather wing-tips that clanged like silver dollars. Your footsteps — weary, stumbling, lost. I heard them when you crept to my door at night. You were there to check on me, watch my breaths rise and fall. In the cracks between day and night, you tended to me. You tucked my toes in, making sure I would rest well so I could grow. And I lay still, absorbing your touch through the green wool blanket, afraid I would lose you if I opened my eyes.
I asked you what your favorite tree was. “Japanese cherry tree,” you said. It blooms and falls in the same week, exploding into life before it withers.
I buried my memories of you, with you. But like a plant, they too will root, bulky tubers of anger twisting around moments of joy, knotting together, forever intertwined. Rain will bleed into those roots. New growth will thrive before colonies of weeds settle in. One day the wind or a curious toddler will pluck a dandelion from that spot and blow its fluffy seeds, scattering more of you into the world, a mixture of sadness and love, inseparable threads in the starlit night.
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