by Gay Degani
WE VISIT A public garden every Tuesday, my lover and I, strolling downhill through the cacti first because I won’t have the energy to negotiate the incline after our hour of roaming. We wander around the lily ponds, shaded by palms, bamboo, stop under the canopy of an ancient fig. I dig shredded carrots from one sweatshirt pocket for turtles, pellets from the other for koi, checking to make certain no one is watching. I’m not the kind of person who usually breaks the rules, yet there are times when rules are flimsy things, easily bent back and forth, back and forth, until they crack, and it is this bending and cracking, along with so much desire that has led me here.
The Australian section is flat and wide where bottom-burdened baobabs make us laugh as we list names for baobab babies. Crocodile Dundee, I say. Kanga and Roo. He insists on Billy-Bob, but I say, no. Wouldn’t a child called Billy-Bob need Thornton as his last name? Silliness at 9:00 AM any day is what brought us together. But as we walk, I wonder about my baby’s last name.
We trail through forests of bamboo and trees thick with cherry blooms. Dark stones on waist-high pillars lead us into the Japanese Garden where Bonsai trees thrive in porcelain saucers. These miniature landscapes remind me of fairytale forests. I rest my hand on my burgeoning stomach, imagine reading Sleeping Beauty to our daughter, Rip Van Winkle to our son. Beside me, he reaches out to touch a tiny branch, plucks a tiny apple. Hands it to me. I take the tiny miracle, hold it in my palm.
After the Zen Garden, we pass by a tumbling waterfall, and stop to admire the tea house, its sliding walls, the tatami mats on the floor, a small table with teapot and cups.
I say to my lover, ‘This is all I need. Something small and simple.’
He takes my fingers and kisses them, says, ‘I know.’
We stand close to each other. I don’t cry. I won’t cry, not in front of him.
He pulls me gently across the velvet grass slowly, slowly, me thinking about the woman in his kitchen, drinking her morning coffee, planning what to do today, her children sitting now in class, her husband busy at his work. Does his wife glance at the orchid I helped him buy for her? Does she ever wonder about the little gifts he gives her out of guilt?
We leave the gardens, lingering at my car and kiss, a bare meeting of lips. He takes my hand and I study his face, notice the deep wrinkles between his eyebrows, the paleness of his cheeks, the wetness rimming his eyes.
‘What?’ I ask, but I know.
I watch him slink down the row of cars, hands stuffed in pockets, shoulders to ears.
Resting one hand against my belly, I open the other one to find the perfect, impossibly tiny apple plucked from the garden.
I’ve always known.
Gay Degani has received nominations and honors for her work including Pushcart consideration, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions. Her work has appeared online, in print journals and in anthologies. She has published a chapbook about mothers, Pomegranate, a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, (Pure Slush Press) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press). She occasionally blogs at Words in Place.