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Freaks and Flowers

That morning, I tried to avoid Frank as much as possible while tiptoeing through my morning rituals. I had nearly made it to noon before he heard me putting away dishes, even with my attempt to place them quietly.

“Mary, is that you?” He asked, while grazing the granite countertop with his hand, the one with the tattoo.

***

Mary was in black ink leading up his left thumb. The font was small but large enough to notice; he probably forgets it’s even there. He got it when what feels like a lifetime ago, though it had only been ten years and admitting to have only known each other for two weeks. Considering Frank was a handsome, trust-fund hippie and five years my senior with his own lake house just outside of my College town; I didn’t argue against the tattoo.  Besides,  his subtle-blue eyes had a way of  making time seem trivial; two weeks was all it took.

Sometimes we would stay at the lake house for weeks on end, isolating ourselves from everyone, while playing house in the four story adirondack mansion, passed down from his late Mother.  Frank had recently dropped out of medical school and didn’t have a job, so he spent most of his days exploring different subjects by reading old encyclopedias, managing his mother’s greenhouse, and painting canvases of–me.  He loved painting me, and how could I have not loved it too as he would praise every part of my body and feature of my face. I had always known I was beautiful, but I never felt it until I met Frank.

With Frank consuming so much of my time, I decided to drop out of school and give up my business degree. My parents were disappointed with my decision and insisted on meeting Frank, which scared the shit out of me, but Frank on the other hand couldn’t wait to meet them and even offered to pay for their plane ticket from New York, which my father in all his pride and glory respectably refused.  With only two days notice of their trip to visit us, I frantically began cleaning the lake house, making sure there was no sign of marijuana or alcohol and hiding all of Frank’s canvases, pretty much anything that would overtly reveal Frank’s liberal personality.

I can never forget the pretentious look on my mothers powdered face when she first saw Frank; it was then in which I realized this would be the last family gathering.  Frank was polite, while my parents were condescending, and thankfully they flew back the following day after spending their evening in a hotel.  They were unable to accept my “freakish” lifestyle, just as I was unable to accept their snobbish upper-east side lives, and so there was not much communication after that.  Frank surprised with me a trip to Paris in attempts to cheer me up, which it certainly did. We saw as many sites as possible, visited every museum, and made love in  any run down hostel we could find.

Frank and I spent most of that summer in his mother’s old green house, growing herbs and vegetables, watering his mother’s favorite roses and orchids. He would tell me about his childhood in the greenhouse in which he would create his own jungle as his mother would tend to the plants. The greenhouse was his favorite place, and felt obligated to keep it as beautiful as his mother had.  She had passed away from cancer only a couple of years before we met.  He would spend hours making sure everything looked exactly the way she had wanted, and every plant was watered with the perfect measurement in which was all written down in her greenhouse book.  Frank’s mother was certainly an obsessive compulsive type person, and Frank was so much the opposite, except for in the greenhouse.

We had decided to never get married, considering it was only a piece of paper, and be life partners instead.  Four years after Frank and I met, Frank decided to get his masters for teaching.  He was spontaneous that way.  We started spending more time apart, since he was busy studying.  Seeing I was jobless and bored, Frank recommended that I manage the greenhouse.  I enjoyed it at first; the sweet smell of the peonies, the tomato’s swift change in color, the wild yet flawless atmosphere, but maintaining his mother’s precise instructions were exhausting, and then everything changed.

Frank’s headaches began a couple months after he began graduate school, and at first he disregarded them as a result of his long hours studying, but they kept getting worse.  One morning I found him in the greenhouse, beneath the hanging lavender, on his hands and knees. He said his vision was blurry and I rushed him to the hospital.  On the way, Frank looked at me and said, “Mary, I need you to be prepared, prepared for the worst.”

“What do you mean? It’s just a headache, don’t over react.” I told him with irritation.

“I went to medical school long enough to realize the cause of these symptoms can only be really bad, and most likely a tumor.” He said as he looked at me seriously with his forehead scrunched. My right hand left the steering wheel and went to my chest.  I could not breath.

“You dropped out of medical school. You don’t know everything, so stop being so egotistical.”

Naturally, Frank was right. The doctor said he had a pituitary tumor and it was pressing on his optic nerves. I stopped listening as he began using large medical terms in which I couldn’t understand.  I watched the doctor as he stood there in his white coat, telling us something so detrimental, but not actually caring, considering Frank was just another patient in his eyes.  Frank only nodded as the doctor told him that he could remove the tumor, but the optic nerve had suffered too much damage, and it would only be few days until he was completely blind.  It was the first time Frank had never had anything to say.

 

***

I hesitated before answering him in the kitchen that morning, and then taking a deep breath, I replied, “of course it’s me, who else would it be?”

“Perhaps you have been avoiding me then?” He questioned as he inched closer to me, continuing to use the countertop as a guide. He still looked so handsome, standing there in his Ray Ban Wayfarers, scruffy beard and perplexed look on his face. I slowly walked to him, took his tattooed hand from the counter and placed in mine.  I brushed my hand across his tattoo.

“Do you remember getting this?” I asked with uncertainty.

He laughed, the way he would like a wise-ass, but charming.

“How could I forget getting your name branded to me. Best decision I ever made.  Now you can never leave me, because people will ask, “Hey, who’s Mary?”, and I’ll have to tell them the tragic story of how you left me, a poor, blind guy.” He said playfully.

I knew what he was going to ask me, I dreaded it. I had worried all month. It was the anniversary of his mother’s death, and he would want to go out to the greenhouse.

“It’s the twenty-second, would you lead me out to the greenhouse, or are you busy right now?” He asked.

I wanted to tell him I was busy. I wanted to get out of this situation somehow, but I knew the more I prolonged this, the worse my anxiety would get.

“Sure, baby.” I told him, with little enthusiasm and a sigh.

The cobblestone stairs leading toward the greenhouse were unsteady, and I had to hold onto him the entire way.  Frank had been wanting to hire someone to remove them and put something more accessible in, but I kept delaying it, making up excuses as to why it would be inconvenient for me.  Finally reaching the greenhouse, I took a deep breath and opened the door to let Frank walk in.

I knew he would be disappointed. I knew he would be able to tell, and there was no way around it. I stopped tending to the garden almost a year ago right after Frank lost his eye sight.  He would urge me to go down there, and I would, but I would just stand there unable to do anything.  It made me sad to see all of Frank’s favorite plants and flowers when I knew he couldn’t and it made me feel selfish in some way, so I just stopped. I couldn’t tell Frank, though.

I cringed as we entered the greenhouse, and saw that everything was dead.  I dreaded what Frank would say.  The tomatoes looked more like prunes, the roses were brown, and everything was crumbled. Frank took a deep breath in through his nose.

“Ahh..It still smells sweet.” He said.

Surprisingly, Frank didn’t touch anything. He just stood there smelling the room for only a minute or so, and then he was ready to go back to the house. I didn’t know what to do, or what to say.  Every plant in there was lifeless, but Frank was right, it did still smell sweet, the same way it used to. I knew it was wrong, but if I didn’t have to tell him right now, then I wasn’t going to. I couldn’t tell him that I had let his favorite place collapse.  He still thought it was beautiful and full of life, I didn’t want to ruin that for him, or take it away.

I had no college degree, job or family; all I had was Frank.  Everything I do is for him, and I would not change that for anything.  The greenhouse, that was something I could not do, not even for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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