I’m an avid gardener, and now, I have a new section to fill.
A new section to fertilize, plant, water, feed, and love. This love comes with little reward. I do not get to feel a tender kiss from a rose or an admissible hug from a magnolia. Instead, I get to feel the sun on my shoulders and scalp, and if I’m lovable that day, a breeze from the Pacific ocean over the mountain. The sun and wind reassure me with their prompted intimacy while I dig and dig, accelerating the age of my back’s muscles and skin’s elasticity. Like everything, labor sustains love and, with time, radiates beauty. So I continue, digging and digging, underneath the 2 pm sun, another hole six feet under the mud.
My relationships have proved to reflect my garden in more ways than I’d wish to admit. The men I’ve been with have all shown their true colors and delicacies the way my marigolds reveal their weakness when the sun shies away or when my lantanas attempt to assert their dominance over the bunch. Small-minded, like my flowers, they will spring back up when warmth is presented and shrink back down when I chop at their stems.
At times they will not try to persuade me it is okay with their soft petals and sweet breath. I can be putzing around my garden, placing my hand down mindlessly, and be stabbed by a fallen, maddened stem. Similar to Tommy and I’s relationship four years ago. I was sipping coffee and looking out my kitchen window. I placed my hand on the island table behind me which was accidentally on Tommy’s cellphone. He walked in at the same time and grabbed and twisted my wrist. I shrieked and spilled hot coffee everywhere, some on me, mostly on him. Before I could speak, his hand grabbed my jaw. Before he could speak, I crashed my coffee mug into his skull and watched as he crumpled to his knees.
When the rose’s stem pricked me, I snapped it in half and threw it over my mountainous cliff to be eaten away by the Pacific. When Tommy fractured my wrist, I stabbed his carotid artery with a shard of my leftover mug and buried him in my yard, the beginning of a lovely garden, left to be eaten away by the blossoms of spring and the heat of summer.
None of them were thoughtful in an intelligent way. Within the years and years of dating, not one of the three asked about a book I was reading or a painting I had been researching. They rejected pensive femininity while being drawn towards the physicality of it. Cadence, my second serious boyfriend, cringed with his entire body when he walked in on me shaving my upper lip, closed the door, and apologized. They pretended that softness, smoothness, and citrus smells were just a part of feminine bodies so they could maintain their false naturalness of masculinity. Enjoying feminine bodies is masculine, realizing femininity is masculinity evolved, is terrifying.
I stand in the same place where I had killed Tommy, sipping coffee from a new mug. I look out the window to my garden, larger now as it has grown with the placement of Ben. I smile. How wonderful a rotting man can bloom such pure, fragrant femininity.
Our relationship had been on the decline. As the summer was wrapping up, I could tell he was preparing to move on from my small cottage. Using me and planning to dispose of me. Years ago, I would not imagine killing him, but now I had become good at it, and, to be short, these men did not deserve much. They had their chance to prove a purpose, and now, they are fortunate to be a part of regrowth, a new circle of life.
A knock on my door broke this thought.
I walked to the door, my slippers soft against the wood floor. Without looking through the peephole, I opened it to find a woman about my age, maybe older.
Her eyes were swollen and red, her pale chest flushed with a purple fear. She had one of those complexions where her skin turned against her and gave away every lie. I was lucky to be tanned from the sun.
I knew who she was before I caught her looking into my home and holding back tears, Ben’s wife.
I found the message the day before he died, before I injected him with Pavulon. A notification on his phone asking how his sick mother was doing.
I caringly ushered her inside, listening to her story broken with short sobs. She had tracked Ben’s phone to my house when she became suspicious of an affair. Then a week went by, and she still hadn’t heard anything, so she drove two and a half hours south to find him.
I nodded and told her he left a week ago. A lie.
That I did not know he was married, which was true, and that he broke my heart, somewhat true.
We cried together with what felt like a maternal kind of love, though we had shared the same man. I offered her coffee, and she took it.
We both stared outside my kitchen window in silence.
“You know,” her voice was soft, “wherever he went, I hope he stays and never comes back.”
My eyes remained locked on my marigolds. I agreed quietly. Time seemed to move slower at this moment as images of his spoiling corpse spewed in my head. Her husband was tending to my garden by now, giving himself over to an unforeseen disposition. Admired by his wife one last time.
“Wow,” she said, gesturing towards my garden, “it’s beautiful.”
I smiled. If anyone could accept unrequited love, it’s a flushed woman.
“Thank you,” I replied, “I am an avid gardener.”
Alexandra Francese is a student in her senior year focusing in Sociology and English at University of South Florida. She is interested in dissecting the intersectionality of femininity and the empowerment of women characters. Alexandra is an avid reader and wholeheartedly appreciate types of art that bring stories and ideas to life, especially ones that include misandrist and feminine fatale characters while breaking patriarchal restraints. She is currently working towards her M.F.A in Creative Writing and is focusing on flash fiction pieces in hopes of developing a novel.