…the herb garden

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After he is gone the loss empties you of feeling, so you stand in the herb garden every night to smoke one cigarette. He was taken away before anything began so you aren’t mourning the loss of what you had, you are mourning what can never be.

Except, of course, that’s not entirely true.

He was never taken away. He took himself away, and when you stand in the garden every night you wonder if any thoughts of you passed through or alongside that decision.

You exhale, trying not to dwell on the question. You cannot bear the answer. Although it is easier to think of your own suffering than it is to think of his, which came as it did with no sense of choice.

Over the weeks, standing in the herb garden, you watch the mint retreat to woody stalks. The thyme becomes a tangled knot. The purple-headed chives fade to white. The garden sinks into cold and dark with just a rectangle of yellow light from the kitchen, a low glow from the windows above where your children sleep or read beneath their sheets. Sometimes there are stars, pin holes in the black.

The nicotine tingles in your blood. Clouds shift. The earth tilts as you inhale your meditation.

The weeks turn into months and still he is gone.

Still you wonder where you were in his decision.

Still you evade the answer, and you evade the real question.

Over winter you stop smoking, and when spring arrives you stand in the herb garden in the pale and tender sun, and you see that amongst the dirt and weeds the mint is sprouting plump rippled leaves from its sturdy stems. Not dead at all.

You feel a flood of relief, and wait for him to return also.

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