You asked me what would happen if you ate a watermelon seed, and when I said it would grow a plant in your belly, you didn’t hesitate, just popped the seed right into your mouth and swallowed it whole, laughing as it slipped down into warm and wet caverns. I tucked you into bed that night and kissed your soft forehead. You smelled of grass and hay fever and butterfly breath. The next morning, a verdant leaf fell from your ear. A single vine slithered out of your nostril. Soon you began coughing out whole bushes. Shy, green tendrils peeked out from beneath your fingernails and yellow blossoms tattooed your skin. I was never a good gardener, but I did the best I could, carefully tending to you over the years, snipping weeds from your head and watering your roots as you stretched higher and higher towards the burning sun. I never wanted you to leave, so I interred your roots deep deep deep into the soil, right next to the rotting treehouse and the milkweed garden. But one day, I woke up and you were gone. Dirt trailed out the door and brittle leaves lay dead on the kitchen counter. Only a ripe watermelon remained in your place. I baptized the fruit in the sink, split it open, and ate it, cotton candy syrup dribbling down my chin as I held the seeds in my mouth, too grief-stricken to spit them out, too terrified to swallow them. I carried them with me until I choked on those black and bitter pills, and I heard your laughter ring out in birdsong, and I smelled the breath of a butterfly.
Elena Zhang is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom living in Chicago. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in HAD and JAKE. Find her on Twitter @ezhang77.