He’d driven through the night alternating between murky coffee and vivid flashback. The kid was three years old when the fights began, four years old when the court order came to move out. She’d moved out later; new boyfriend, new neighborhood, same old empty soul. They’d kept renting the thing, until, if, the economy ever turned.
The house stood empty now. They were between tenants and he’d grabbed the short straw to fix up the place. Unlocking the front door he found himself staring into the backyard. Flicking up the lock he stepped out onto the brick. Overgrown ivy and trees bending heavy long branches hedged him in. Then his breath stuck in his throat. The one place there should have been branches---there weren’t.
A small sapling of an aspen he’d planted it the first year they moved in. The white branches shaded the yard; the grass greener, colors brighter by contrast in the corner where it had stood. There was no grass now only the blood brown earth where the tree had stood, roots still spread out like veins trying to bring life to a missing heart.
‘Suite No. 1 in F’ was turned full blast and he poured a Guinness as oboes, bassoons, trumpets and flutes celebrated Water Music. He suspected this would all change. The empty walls and the stark bathroom would give ground to colour and perfume.
They’d met over vegetables at Trader Joes. A common liking for water cress giving way to soup and nuts. Fruit and salad to bowls and settings led to discussions of decour, single servings, and what was best eaten over the table vs. in front of the television. Grilled cheese seemed equally suited for both. Now the discussions were all ‘hypothetical,’ what would it look like if they both did the dishes? She right handed, he ambidextrous-could they still use the same paring knife?
He thought about how he liked his music and his kitchen and the preset Favorites on his computer. It was all nice, comfortable, safe and selfish. White, plain, boring and, yes, stark like the walls in the den and the paint in the kitchen. He suspected he was going to have to learn to give up his selfishness, his space; learn to share and die to self. A world of colour seemed vastly greater than the white safety of those walls.
She’d never really touched her mom. Sure there was the occasional hug but those were quick and shallow, lack of touch the norm in the house she grew up in. So she was surprised, really, to be comfortable now—with this touch, in this place.
The sheets on the bed, the cool on the air, the body always on the bed, all made for skin that was irritated, dry and itchy. So she poured the lotion onto her hands and massaged it into toes and feet, ankles and calves, thigh and back, arms and shoulders. She eased the hair out of the eyes and brushed the hair back in place. These were the saddest days and somehow the richest.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit , He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.