For two weeks straight we lay flagstone, my head emptied of any thought that isn’t engage your core, what happens when we’re married, lift from your legs, how do bodies shift, protect your wrists.
We work every day, more hours than we’re used to, to finish the job before a deadline imposed by a surgery that will change everything, but only a little.
When we finish you tell me you have a surprise for me. We get in the truck packed full with tools and gravel and lunch scraps and you drive me to the nearest nursery, tell me I can have any plant I want.
In my excitement I forget to lock the passenger door, drop dust and crumbs from my clothes as I touch dry hands to shelves of zinnias and calibrachoa, different colours than the ones already hanging in a pot on our deck. On the boulevard is a bed of poppies, paper thin and swaying yellow and orange. I’ve been trying for years to grow poppies but the morning glory always ravage them below ground. Shadowy invaders hide behind pale blooms and grow large on a diet of my tulip and crocus bulbs. Seeds and seeds and seeds and no fruit.
In the spring I planted seeds in plastic pots indoors, hoping to keep them safe on the second floor. I worry about them more than I did last year, probably something to do with turning 30, ticking clocks and revolution.
In the back of the nursery there are Icelandic poppies, big and showing pink at the tips of their pods, about to burst. I consider one, its stalk thick and hardy, its tallest pod independent but inviting. I imagine it in the backyard, then take a step back from the display. I think about my existing allegiances, the potential still buried in poor dirt and plastic. I want it, but I shouldn’t. Too much is already at stake, too much time spent comforting my own frilly green leaves as they attempt to sprout stalks and pods of their own. I have to give them a proper chance. They’re so delicate, the comparison might crush them, and I can’t sacrifice any more flowers.
One shelf over are the anemones, white with yellow centres. They’re nice but they’re not enough. Don’t fuck it up, you say, poking me gently in one rib and smiling. This is very important.
There’s a plant I don’t recognize. There are no flowers, just wide flat green leaves on narrow stems, fanned out like enormous nasturtiums. On the tag is a dark flower. It’s a hollyhock, or at least it will be. The tag says it will bloom deep burgundy and solid, almost black except for tiny yellow centres, by late summer. I pick it up and try not to imagine what it will look like, leave space in my mind for it’s unfurling.
I carry it on my lap in the passenger seat, dig a hole in the ground in front of our house and plant it. I press the dirt in with my hands and sit down next to it. Everything will change, but only a little.