I remembered the day. It was May and I’d finished planting in one of our gardens. I stood up and brushed the fresh earth from my knees. Removing my work gloves, I refastened the elastic that had loosened during my labor. Soft strands of hair had fallen from the knot and ended up flying in my mouth as the breeze blew. The scent of lilacs filled my nostrils and I hummed a lazy tune.
I walked up the steps of the back porch and picked up another flat of colorful pansies. I dug and dropped the hardy flowers with delicate roots into each aperture and covered them with fresh dirt. The air smelled of mud. Some of the dried grit, wafted in the warm breeze and settled between my teeth. It felt as if I was humming while holding a piece of sandpaper in my mouth. I spat a couple of times to try and purge the grains, but it didn’t help. I’m sure anyone walking by would have laughed at the young woman in short coveralls spitting into the dirt while she planted flowers.
You walked up beside me and knelt in the grass. You didn’t say much, which was unusual. I continued to dig holes and you dropped the pansies into them. When the plastic container was empty, you carried it to the garage and threw it in the recycling bin. As you wandered back out to the yard, I glimpsed your face. You looked ill.
“Honey, what is it?”
“I have to leave.”
“Do we need more flowers?”
“No, I’m leaving. I’ve packed my suitcase. It’s in the hall closet.”
“We’ve worked so damn hard and you’re not happy. You try, everyday. But I know you’re not.”
I turned away and stared at our freshly planted pansies. The tears came, because I know you were right. I stood and walked up to you, kissed you lightly on the lips. My nose ran and I wiped it on my shorts. I ambled to my lilac bush, leaned into it and took in the potent smell. The fresh blooms reminded me of childhood. Of easier times when all I had to worry about were mosquito bites and scraped knees.
“It’s okay for you to go. I don’t know how I’ll live though. Where I’ll go or what I’ll do.”
“You are an incredibly strong woman, you will find your way.”
You walked away and I attacked the bush. I pulled as many blooms off from it as I can stand. My fingers ached and are covered with scratches. With the bush almost bare, I carried my bounty into the house. I pulled three vases from under the sink and jammed them full. The air is already redolent with the smell of spring. I shivered as I heard the back the door slam. I knew you were gone for good. I placed my hands on the counter and wailed.
In my heart, this is what I’ve wanted, but my soul is that of a child’s. I longed to be cloaked in the familiar, and held. To be taken care of. As I placed the vases of flowers on book shelves and tables, my tears dried. I felt a strength grow within me. A light began to burn so brightly that if you touched your fingers to mine, you would burn.
I headed back outside and continued to place pansies in the little holes we’d dug together. The gardens may be mine now, but I realized, so was my life. I had to better learn to live it.