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I preferred to walk in the rain. The clouds created a dusty silhouette to nature’s wonders, and in these moments, I could perfectly gaze at the grass covered in a misty dew. But my new town didn’t bring as much rain as the one before; it brought sunshine, clear skies, and heat. So, there I was, walking in the humid sunshine. I tried to remember the smell of the rain, the feel of it on my skin back in Florida, but it was lost in the feel of the sun on my face.
I continued my walk down the old, dirt laden path. In the sunlight, I could see flowers that I had never before appreciated: bright sunflowers, and newly sprouting lilies. They were so beautiful in the sunlight, and this spectacular sight almost dulled the ache from the loss of the rain…almost. Every once in a while, I would kick the dirt around me, causing a cloud of it to spray up in the air. This was distraction: a good distraction against the ache in my chest.
As I continued my walk, I once again noticed the little things the sun brought out, and I found myself forgetting about the rain; that is until I reached the house of a lady down the street. Her face was etched with wrinkles so deep one would think an abyss lived within them, and her eyes were so dark and daunting that the Devil himself would cower with fear. She was a woman who wore her hair just a certain way, and her clothes matched and were impeccable. Her home showed similar characteristics. I was even mesmerized by her garden, especially by one particular section: her roses. They were a deep red, healthy and vibrant. I felt the need to turn away, however, as I had been staring for too long. Before I could turn back, I made eye contact with the woman. She stood with her hair in that high bun of hers, and the little black glasses perched on her nose. In her hand was a hose, and she was found to be watering the roses. We sized each other up, gazing at the way each of us moved, how we worked, how we calculated our surroundings. I found myself lost in the movement of the water, as it fell over the roses. She gave me a curt nod, and what appeared to be a weak smile, and continued to water the roses. I felt dismissed after that, and so I continued past her home, before making my way back to my own home.
I entered into my house, filtering past our distraught garden, and the moving boxes. In the kitchen, my parents were yelling still, reminding me of why I took the walk in the first place. I gave them no mind as I passed, entering my room, and shutting my door. It was a long night of arguing, and unfortunately thin walls.
I repeated the same measures the next day: as soon as the first yell occurred, I wandered off outside. I passed the lady with the roses, and she was in the same position as the day before, offering me that same smile.
This same thing occurred for another two weeks. She offered me that same smile as I walked, and I always stared too long at the roses. It grew longer that I would watch them, as I didn’t want to return to my own home, as my parent’s fighting was getting worse. My father never hit my mother, but he was verbally aggressive to her.
I found myself watching the woman’s garden closer on these days. The roses were wilting at the woman’s home, and it bewildered me as I watched her. She was a perfect woman, with a perfect home, so it was confusing to watch the roses stay put.
This one time, however, was particularly awful. My mother threatened to leave my dad, and I heard them both crying the second later. I wondered why they kept going, why they fought so often. I left the house before I gathered my answer, following my same path, to those same roses. They were really brown now, drooping towards the ground. The old woman was watering them again with deliberation. I watched her for a moment, before doing something I’d never done before: I walked closer. I continued until I was standing right by her garden. Tears streamed down my face as I watched her roses, as she continued to water them with a sense of urgency. She didn’t stop when I finally stepped beside her, but she did turn her head to the side to watch me. I felt her gaze on my skin as she watched me cry.
“What makes you so sad, child?” she finally asked, and her voice was soft, smooth, and like silk.
I didn’t want to answer her question. So, I countered it with one of my own, “Why do you keep watering these roses? They’re wilted, dead. You could get new ones.”
I felt her still beside me, and she grew silent. The water was the only noise around us. “Your parents fight, don’t they?”
I said nothing, but I knew she saw me nod. We continued in that silence before she reached out, and placed her gloved hand on my shoulder. “Look at me,” she said. It was a moment before I obeyed, but I saw a sincerity in her eyes that I had never seen before. “I water the roses because if I give up, they really will die. The second I give up, it’s already gone. The roses have a chance, if I never let go.”
I looked into her eyes, really looked, and realized that maybe we weren’t talking about roses, or maybe we were. But in that moment, it seemed right to think that maybe my parents’ marriage was the roses, and that they held the hose.