Even before you came into my life that day at Home Depot when you called to me from the clearance aisle, a lonely and abandoned look about your stalks, I knew it was only a matter of time before the hole in my heart was filled through vegetative destiny. I nursed you back to health until no one would have guessed I bought you for $4.99, giving you weekly dosages of Miracle-Gro and root stimulator until you were a vibrant green, the green of the Green Monster in Fenway Park except for your variegated parts streaked yellow as if a child had painted you with French’s Mustard. You grew in the southern window of the living room , stout and drought resistant, an Australian native who spoke to me in my dreams like another green creature of God, the Geico lizard. You were my everything, the reason I came home from my work at the spinach factory with a sense of purpose and delight, a smile on my face as I walked through the door.
Yet now you tell me you don’t want to live anymore, your leaves drooping and brown around the edges, no sign of spider mites or scale, just slow, encompassing death. At least you tell me that. It’s not an answer I’m prepared to accept however for without you, my dreams no longer will be filled with visions and remembrances of that trip we took to Napa Valley. You must live I tell you, I will accept nothing else! Without you, I am nothing, Germont without Violetta, Count Vronksy without Anna Karina. Without you, my darling Schefflera, I cease to exist. I will still go to the spinach factory, still inspect each 10th can for imperfections and listeria but I will not be the same. You and I are one, plant and man a single soul between us. Life would be meaningless without you.
Inspired by an exercise in 642 Things To Write About. I’m toying with another run at NaNoWriMo and need to get the daily word count up.
I stand beside a gravelly, sand packed road. I kneel down and touch the ground with my hand. The sun threatens to pound me into the ground, its blazing rays like pieces of glass against my face. Breathing is difficult here and the heat is choking in its intensity. Yet small brown skinned children play a derivative of soccer with a duct tape ball in the empty field opposite where I stand. Children rarely seem to notice the elements. Only the old and the despondent comment on the weather. I have been talking about the weather for a long time. Sand blows around my feet. Cars and diesel trucks of indeterminate make and model creep along the road disappearing into the walled city like giant ants coming in from the hunt. In the distance, a jet roars into the sky. Sweat pours down the side of my face. I wear a bandana around my throat and mouth which does little to protect me from the blowing sand. It gets in my teeth and the corners of my eyes and I taste the destruction of this place. It tastes like gunpowder and death and a quiet despair. Just outside the walls of the city, two old men lie on reed pallets and watch me. They speak to each other in a tongue I don’t pretend to understand. They don’t appear to be lepers but they have been shunned by the citizens within the walls. Occasionally, as a car drives past the gate, it slows enough for a hand to shoot out through the dust clouded window and toss change into a basket at their feet. The pair seem neither thankful nor embarrassed by the alms. They only continue to talk and watch me. If I walked over and kicked them, I do not think they would be surprised or angry. They lack concern for their situation. I have been standing here for the better part of an hour. There is no memorial cross posted here, no makeshift memorial with pictures or rosaries, nothing to mark this spot where three years ago a woman my son had never met walked up to his checkpoint and punched buttons on the cell phone connected to the bomb under her cloak. True to the end, they both believed in their causes, each thinking a difference could be made through action. Neither action means anything now. The world remains unchanged. Yet my world, a world neither were trying to affect, is radically different. I have come here to find the family of that woman, to know them, to understand what drove her to the action that stole my son from me. I turn and walk towards the gates of the city.
A girl, possibly 15 or 18 or 21, it is hard to tell because her face is covered in thick, dark greasepaint, stands in the right track of a two track dirt road that runs off into the distance. She wears olive green pants and a dark brown flannel shirt, untucked. Her hair is brown, pulled back in a tight ponytail. She has clear slate gray eyes that blink quickly and infrequently. The greasepaint fails to conceal her beauty. There is a look of defiance and grim concentration to the girl, a certain tightness in the muscles of the mouth and corners of the eyes as in one who is in the middle of an arduous task. She holds a small pistol with a long barrel in her right hand, held with a gentle familiarity of a butcher and his knife. In her left hand, a rabbit dangles by the hind legs, a small red hole behind one ear seeping crimson into the dirt of the road. The girl faces the far side of the road, watching intently a military convoy driving on the main highway in the medium distance. Hundreds of trucks and tanks lumber along the road as thousands of men in vivid red uniforms march alongside. The rumble of the trucks is muted and faint. The sun rises harshly above the horizon beyond her right shoulder, beginning to illuminate the bitter landscape, chasing the dawn away. A faint scent of acrid smoke tinged with cordite hangs in the air. Long grass lines the side of the road she stands in but there is a path immediately behind her into the undergrowth. Dew glistens on the grass. Far off in the distance from the direction the military trucks move, hardly intelligible, an eerie chant drifts, ephemeral and spectral, the sound of a thousand weary voices joined together in praise of an unseen god.
A single soldier peels off from the serpentine convoy, followed by another and another, moving quickly in the direction of the girl. The entire convoy grinds to a halt. Ten soldiers fan out, a vermillion pack of human wolfhounds running towards the girl. A tank turret turns and a puff of smoke appears from the barrel. Second later, the ground a hundred feet in front of her explodes sending thick chunks of dark clay silently screaming into the sky.
“They always underfire”, she says.
The soldiers are still a thousand meters away as she turns and disappears into the underbrush, the only sign that she was ever there a darkening of the dirt where the rabbit bled out.