Watched

I’ve never known what constitutes a garden. It’s something cultivated. Something that needs pruning and sheering . Weeding and seeding and watering. I have always been under the impression that gardens need care but not constant supervision. That they’re planted for the enjoyment of people. Like the rose gardens that some really fancy hotels have. Or for practical use, like a vegetable garden. The kind of thing that hippies live off of.

I was surprised when Nora told me she was moving into her garden.

I hadn’t visited her yet. She’d moved upstate to somewhere with cheap houses and high taxes. The kind of loose collection of residencies that is called a village and that is nestled inside something called a township which is then part of a county. I’m pretty sure we don’t have hamlets in the US. I think that’s just an English thing. But if Nora could have moved to a hamlet, she would have.

She’d hated living in the city. Four years for college, then seven years for her MA and PhD. Until she gave up on her dissertation and moved away. I never understood it. How she could she abandon all that work. Seven years. All those hours in the library. All those late nights agonizing over data. She’d jumped up and down after year five, when the department agreed to fund her for two more years. That’s how much promise they saw in her.
Anyway, I hadn’t heard from Nora in a good six months, since she’d moved away in November. In May, while I was loading up the dishwasher that I’d finally started using, I got this call from her. Her voice was the same. Distracted. I asked her how she was, and she said she was moving out of her house for the summer.

“Coming back to the city, huh? Knew you couldn’t keep away.”

“No,” she said. I can never tell if she knows I’m making a dig at her or not. Probably not. But maybe. She did leave, after all. “No, not at all. I’m just moving outside. The garden needs watching.”

“Why does it need watching? Are your eyeballs going to make it grow faster?” I stood over the hot sink, and my face was still sweaty, and Nora sounded like she’d always sounded, like she was looking for a piece of paper to jot something down on.

“Yes, basically.”

“What, so you have a quantum garden?”

Her laughter had always been kind of horsey, at odds with her small teeth and wide jawline that betrayed nothing equine. She was more cat than anything. She started and stopped things abruptly.When she laughed, like she did then, it was a short neighing sequence followed by sudden silence.

She asked me how I was. I wanted to stop talking about her, so I said, “I’m using the dishwasher now. But you’ve ruined me, I’m still washing the dishes before putting them in there.”

Nora had always been very anti-dishwasher. She sounded less certain now. “Well,” she said. “That’s good. You always wanted to use it.”

I wasn’t going to ask her why she’d called. She would tell me or she wouldn’t, and if she didn’t, I’d be able to invent my own – better – reason.

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