these are dark times, there is no denying & W1L 022: Write one leaf about your back yard.

I love this outfit.

Maybe it's the combination of feeling both lacquered and grimy.
Maybe it's the combination of an adequately long skirt and the stomping boots.
Maybe it's the Harry Potter t-shirt.
Maybe it's because all the dark colors tap into my high fashion roots at Hot Topic.
Maybe she's born with it.
Maybe it's Maybelline.

Jacket: H&M, mother's. Cardigan: Forever21. Ron Weasley t-shirt: gift. Skirt: secondhand, gift. Tights: generic. Boots: Steven by Steve Madden. Complete and unabashed glee: sartorial success.

(I've lost track of how many times I've used the Maybelline tagline on this blog. I am just a one-trick Sam who is not sponsored by Maybelline.)

W1L 022: Write one leaf about your back yard.

This is a trivially edited version of my original response to this prompt.

When I started this prompt, it was about being paid a nickel for every snail my cousins and I captured from the flowerbeds of my grandma’s backyard, and the crawly excitement and teamwork of lifting a stepping stone the size of our bodies long enough for someone to scrape the snails, mucous-gold as we saw them, off the underside into the plastic orange bucket someone else held nearby.

Now it isn’t. This is about grief, because apparently, aside from being A Time For Exploration and Independence and Blossoming, college is also when my brain decided to dig in the back of the freezer and find my past and unthaw it and holy shit, is it frozen hard and the running water is comfortably warm but it hurts and it is snapping and cracking and bleeding and now my hands are red and wet.

For as long as I’ve had to respond to “Oh, your grandma lives with you?” with “No, I live with my grandma,” which is to say, after my father died and my mother couldn’t stand the quietness of our house and transferred my brother and me like refugees to my grandmother’s house to be fattened and tough-loved, I have not been able to step into my own backyard – not the expanse of clovers and sourgrass and mail-order flowers erupting behind my grandmother’s house, but my backyard, my fifteen-by-eight corner house backyard with a fence facing the street and perpetually fog-damp concrete and thorny bush and patch of dirt – without claustrophobia’s sweaty fingers groping a path up my spine across my shoulders.

I remember growing snow peas. My father kept the dried ones in a jar, and when it was time, my mother showed me and my brother how to germinate them in a bowl of water, and we were alternately entranced and bored by the slowly unfurling progression of life. I remember picking them, and helping my mom clean them and snap the ends off, and I don’t remember eating them, but I bet they were good.

I remember when my dad got so fed up with the pigeon poop splattered linearly on the edge of our backyard and our neighbor’s cat hopping the fence to poop in our plants that he installed little tacks along the top of the fence. I was afraid they would fall off. They didn’t work. For a while we had barbed wire running along the top. It worked for a while.

I remember when my brother wanted a dog so badly my mom and dad brought home a black Labrador puppy. My brother and I went into our playroom and I spotted him while he stood on a chair to reach the giant Rubbermaid on the top shelf where we kept our baby toys, and we gave the puppy a rattle and something with parts that could be spun. It turned out both my mom and severely asthmatic brother were allergic, so the puppy went back the next day.

I remember when my dad called me and my brother out to look at a caterpillar making its way across the sea or maybe puddle of concrete that was my backyard. It was hideous. I couldn’t tell where its head was or which way it was trying to move. I couldn’t even see its legs, unlike the centipede my brother found in our living room once, at the foot of my dad’s La-Z Boy. He’d thought it was one of my plastic toy bugs, with which I waged war against his army men from Lincoln Log forts sometimes, and thought it was cool. Then it moved, and its legs were terrifying. The caterpillar at present was like a fatty black pipecleaner, but alive. My brother thought it was really cool. I thought it was kind of gross but I wanted to touch it. My dad said it would probably get eaten by a bird pretty soon because it stood out like a beacon in negative against its light gray background.

And I know that none of these should inherently make me feel like bricks and lead have replaced my feet, and like the world came crashing into existence around the space where I am standing, and that everything in creation, everything that was ever created, is anchored right here. I know that, but it does. And maybe it has taken me this long to so much as consider the possibility that it is not because I am still angry, or afraid, because only lately have I come to terms with the fact that it is not God and it is not stopping myself from loving my father to protect myself because if I didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt, and it is not stony anger and it is not walls but love that is catharsis. So maybe I am just sad, and maybe this is why when people care anyway, I am so surprised I just cry, and maybe I am ready to feel my hurt now, finally.

I haven’t been in my backyard for a long time. But I am growing snow peas on the balcony of my apartment now. They’re doing all right so far, although I think they might have some kind of dampness-related disease, as some of them are yellowing at the base. They grow toward the sun.
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