by Loren Kleinman
I dig out the weeds in my garden. After 13 years, his shadow is as tall as the sunflower budding from the center of the lawn. He is a fly buzz, a low hum in my ear.
On May 28, 2004, I was forced into an empty bathroom and raped by a doorman at a nightclub. I remember him following me around the dance floor. I couldn’t get away. When he held me against the cold bathroom stall, I heard the sound of the dripping sink, the buzz of the moth. I saw the sun leaving the continent, darkness budding like a rose from my mouth.
For the last two years, I’ve been imagining what it would be like to garden with my rapist, our hands in the dirt, growing and healing together while I prune the roses and he shears the tangled honeysuckle.
When I’m down on my knees, uprooting weeds from the worn ground, scraping them from the side of the house, I try to catch my breath, a firefly on the run, but end up following it to the earthworm’s body as it writhes under the lawn bag.
It’s almost lunchtime, but I feel the need to stay and listen for his boots against the sidewalk. He shuffles towards my garbage cans, opens the gate, and puts his hand on my shoulder.
But I don’t look up. Instead I help the worm back to the dirt, return it home. I pinch its middle and throw it towards the end of the garden, far away from my hand hoe, its slick body pulling itself through the damp earth.
My rapist is a cloud over me. He rains and pours as I dig out the small stones. As I try to finish, to uproot the bare-limbed daisies, I let out a low hummed breath, again and again, a sentimental ode, a mindful elegy for the impossible weight of our shared life.
I dream I’m the grass beneath his feet, a leaf, a stone, or a cornhusk. I plant a new bulb and beg: Let me go somewhere hidden by lilies.
This is my garden, the place where I practice letting him go, where I spread my fingers across hollow earth to make room for the passage, to plant new life.
A minute or so before the rain light dresses sky he apologizes to me. He says I want your heartache, your pricked thumb, and the black dirt under your nails, the tangled weed.
I make a hill out of him under the rose bush, pat down the soil, and hang the bird feeder.
The wind wraps around the awning. The leaves blow off the lawn. I grab my shovel and get inside before it rains.
He’ll always be the storm over my garden, a gust of wind in my throat.
There’s no explanation for why I prefer to meet my rapist here, but each time after we meet we lose more of our leaves, go back to the earth.
I stand and watch him from the porch, his unrelenting presence, his face lowered, a heavy bloom sigh in a garden of daisies.
I close my eyes. I am a beautiful girl. I am a beautiful girl. I am a beautiful girl.