Flowers

We miss the ball drop. By the time he’s turned on the television, there are just people milling about in Times Square and it reminds me of the nights I stayed out late dancing until all the lights in the club came on, the suddenly dazed look of people who know they have to go home, and most of them alone, but who don’t want to, so they linger.

That night, in his house, I walk the halls after everyone has gone to sleep, circling the kitchen island, my feet feeling the place. I drink in the dark of the trees outside, remember the bats in summer, the puddle my son splashed in in fall, the tracks of the sled as we pulled it through snow. I take it all in, as if to memorize it. I already know I’ll never be there again.

Tonight instead I sit in my own garden and think of flowers, the way they unfurl, how when everything tightly held suddenly lets go and the center is exposed. There is a way that they open, some to sun, some to soft moonlight, that is not unlike a heart. That had not been unlike my heart, when it opened to him.

What could he know of the shape of my grief, of the nights I spent after my husband died, watching my son sleep, the sound of his steady breathing a life line I clung to when something dark crawled around inside me and not even moonlight was enough, of the nights I wept until there was nothing left to weep? What could he know of how hard it had been after so much loss to open myself again, flower, petals unfurling, fragile center seeking a kind of sun?

What could he know of how when he handed me back only loss, I couldn’t make it into anything resembling gift? Instead it’s just something in the garden, dying, that my hands can’t save, all stalks and leaves and the aborted beginnings of flowers that will never bloom.

What could he know? He had already walked away.

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