By the time I returned to my hometown, it was dusk, and in the hues of blues, purples, and black, I saw my mother’s beloved garden had withered. Her treasured sunflowers: greyed and hollowed husks. Even the weeping willows I had waltzed with in childhood seemed a little more sad than usual, their blossoms brittle and easily drifting with the breeze. Somewhere, at the back of my mind, a voice was whispering you’re to blame for this.
All I wanted was to stitch the docile flora back together like I would with the practice dolls the headmistress would give us—the ones that were bursting with stuffing and torn seams but lacked buttons. I was told I was quite good at that, and, like any other adolescent lacking a true passion in anything, thought it was my calling. So I pursued it. My fingers, once pale and veiny, became cracked and callused; sometimes I’d sit in my cot and sharp movements would make them bleed.
But back when I was a little girl, back when Mama’s smile bloomed far brighter than any other flower whenever she gazed on me and Papa, I loved to tend the garden. I thought that was my passion, but my world was much too small, much too naïve back then. Before Papa died, Mama called herself the plant doctor. Her dirt-crusted hands would heave me out of the meadow next to our house and drag me to the nearest plant nursery; she’d smile the entire trip to the store and come home with armfuls of chrysanthemums, dahlias, rose bushes, saplings.
In the end I never saw the garden die—maybe that was for the best. If I were to watch it slowly succumb to illness, to infection, I couldn’t learn to desensitize myself. Staying behind would’ve been a poison; leaving was the antidote, an unwanted cure. I fled this place, leaving the broken shells of memory, of childhood behind. I told Mama I’d bloom for her before I left but she never got to see it. I hope she knew what I’d become.
I sat beneath one of the willows. A breeze passed by, a smaller branch half-filled with petals caressed my face. The ground beneath me was moist and squishy; I assumed it rained days before. Mindlessly, I find myself grabbing at petals and stalks of grass, weaving a wretched wreath depicting the decay. Someday, I thought, I’ll make an entire damn dress of what’s left of this place.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi’s work has appeared/is forthcoming from Sugared Water, Into the Void Magazine, Blue Lake Review, among others. She has been nominated for Best of the Net and recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.