Home is Somewhere
I live in a falling-down house with a beautiful garden. It could easily be the eyesore of the street (except my neighbours are too polite to say so out loud). The house on the corner, two up from mine, with the white picket fence and yellow door, has been empty since Dorothy passed away. Her son maintains it—from far, far away— still, a For Sale sign is placed in the front yard. I expect it will be a long time there. For Somewhere is a disappearing town, forgotten and abandoned by anyone that desires to be someone.
We settled here so many years ago that I cannot remember life before. Like so many others, I fell from the sky and met you on the road to Somewhere—then, the air hummed, there were fields of trees laden with fruit and pools of water reflecting rainbows. There was plenty to ease our breath into the next day—until a stray gust of wind blew into town and things took a turn.
A dry foul breath rode in on that wind, trickling in between grains of dirt, tip-toeing through the crops, through the forest, inhaling all the moisture from the air, turning green into dust-land and rivers into puddles. Our tongues withered, and our hearts wilted. Thunderous, low-lying clouds drifted into town most days mocking, shrivelling up our last breaths of hope.
Months became years—thirty years later.
Even in the harshest environments, life does continue. The pair of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike return to breed—they breed for life, you said. Today I feed them the left-over mango, strawberries, and rockmelon—an expensive treat. I spent hours peeling, slicing, and arranging onto a platter for your wake. You were buried with your axe and oil can in preparedness for the next life.
All around me, people were overwhelmed with grief. Then there was me. I collected their tears in buckets, bowls, and pots. Mr. Lionheart, our dear friend, praised you for being the kindest man he knew. Oh! If he’d only had a heart. I thought I’d be broken-hearted. A little pained, but funnily, I felt nothing. Maybe it was shock; I do not know.
Some days passed.
I ponder the once beautiful garden. Although I never dabbled in the art of gardening before, I think I can learn. Walking, I admire them, scattering half the packet of poppy seeds between the towering rusted figures, some sitting, one thinking, and another its face raised to the sky. They filled in space where nothing would grow. And two old cactus trees. Gnarly and tough. You had spent years redeeming yourself, giving back all you had taken. No longer using your axe to chop down trees, you reinvented it to sow seeds, prune, shape, and nurture.
Once, our beautiful garden grew whimsical topiary shapes of creatures resembling those from a child’s imagination, between sweet pea, roses, and hydrangeas reminiscent of white puffy clouds. Plump broccoli, tomatoes, and cauliflowers thrived in our garden. There was the passionfruit vine that swept up and around iron-wrought gates. Well—that was until the dry. Roses withered petals turning brown and falling silently to the ground. Then you soldered figures in the hope to appease the weather-God.
I watered the seeds in with the tears I collected. Finally, Little rivulets began to form like the first rains in the monsoon, and a smell so familiar—sweet, uplifting, umm, it will come to me—yes, hope.
I scattered the other half of the poppy seeds in the empty block next door. The house was abandoned long ago by a family who slowly drifted away. They bulldozed it with a flick of a wand. Now wild berries grow there. I collect enough berries for a pie, leaving plenty for the finches and sparrows flitting in and out of the twisting branches.
One week later.
My home is like a border, secreting in the things I want to keep and keeping out what I don’t like. Although sometimes there are breaches. Jonah, my neighbour, came to my front gate. His words meandered in under the door, through the cracks of the weatherboards, unannounced. Uninvited. They dithered about, all-jittery jumpiness carrying on about things he unequivocally and most definitely knew nothing about. Well! That is quite enough from you. With a slice of pie, I bade him goodbye.
I spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in your chair in the garden. There is a change in the air. Perhaps the forecast of rain tonight will do something.