what we are to each other and what we are not

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Fiction, Issue Twenty Five

I heard she’d been standing in her garden, observing the mint when suddenly her feet took root and she became all linden, no oak, lonesome arms twining. Dressed in black, I visited her. Brought a cigarette and poured beer over her bones. Curled around her trunk.

The ground let me come and go, reluctant, but at least it remembered me.

We used to get high in the cemetery outside of campus on Sundays while other people went to Mass. We’d ash our joints in the wet dirt at the base of someone named Colson’s grave. He only made it to thirty-two and I thought about that a lot when she chose to go to ground rather than stick around. Predictably, idiotically, I’d spent a birthday wish or two on a future where we’d be drinking whiskey on some North Carolina porch in our eighties. It was silly since I’d never ventured farther south than Rhode Island and she hated the heat.

In that fake future, we looked the same even though I was white and she wasn’t.

Sometimes, when no one was around, I’d take a pen knife and cut slivers into her bark. Not at all like the way children carved their names when they were in love but instead like razor knicks when you just started shaving. The wood littered her roots like confetti.

Days after she turned, I saw him, burrowed in her trunk, a man of stone. I’d exhumed every rock and still, he had surprised me. Maybe in my grief, he’d been there all along. Maybe in my grief, I’d missed that she hadn’t done this alone. That she’d had someone else who understood how she couldn’t fall asleep some nights, frozen by imaginings of her mother disintegrating to nothing in a cold hospice room, years still in her future.

Or in someone else’s.

She’d never mentioned him before and even though we weren’t everything to each other, I thought at least she could have told me.

When I left her, I took him with me and, as earth turned over, watched him shatter on concrete like glass.

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