Scattered Petals

We rested on a park bench and stared at the ground around us, each in our own thoughts. I watched as the spring breeze moved a lovely blanket of cherry blossom petals and others I couldn’t name across the path and grounds in synchronous waves like a field of grain. They were faded, of course, no longer the lovely pink of April, offering promises of sweet fruit to come, but a little tawdry, like once sensuous silk lingerie after too many wearings, tossed aside to molder, piled in the corner of a cluttered bedroom that had seen too many nights of silence. I relished the memories from before but could hardly call them to mind.

She sat there, fidgeting, anxious and unhappy—I could feel it in the air around her. I asked what was bothering her. She didn’t answer, but her lips became tight and thin and she began to tap one foot against the other, her hands clasped together, fingers turning white. I waited, mood spoiled, and wondered how I would somehow be to blame for her unhappiness. Finally she asked, plaintively, why flowers couldn’t bloom all year, why they had to die. We’d had this talk before, nearly every spring, and again in late summer when the annuals that she’d set out so carefully would collapse from their own decay. Predictably, the explanation surged to the tip of my tongue. This time I kept silent and wondered what she was really asking. But I knew. I knew that it would never be any better. There would never be another shared moment between us. No more laughter, except the cruel kind that punctuates irony.  A door had closed in a wall of her making, although I had done my part in carrying  bricks to the site.

Words were spoken later, much later. Tears were shed, though not many, really, everything considered. Perhaps the well was dry, perhaps it had never really been properly tended, or maybe one or both of us had been stealing little bits of water every day for years until there was nothing left but moldy rock and a faint wetness at the bottom. If trust departs, love must surely follow. When the final words came, it was me who uttered them, and it saddened me in a way that lingers, but it was the right thing to do for us both.  Decisions were made, two moving vans were filled, one to go south, the other eastward to a place that might once have been my home.  A house was spruced up and sold to a sweet, unsuspecting older lady who I fervently hoped would neither hear nor see the ghosts that surely must haunt the separate bedrooms we’d kept for so many months.

One day, soon enough, I closed the door on a long chapter of life, left the key under the mat, and walked away through scattered brown leaves blowing fitfully from courtyard wall to windows looking into emptiness.

~A.J. Mayfield

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