When Candice died, her garden struggled on until the frost came. After that, it didn’t return. Candice’s basement tenants were kind to us, their new, reluctant landlords; kind because they feared we’d evict them. We eventually tore up the dead garden. Candice would’ve preferred we rehabilitate her peas and her peonies, but we aren’t religious people. We know she isn’t watching.
Since hewing her garden, I’ve been dreaming, again, that a soil like sand sifts in my body.
There are days I leave my house and days I don’t. If it’s a house-ridden day, I make an exodus from the bedroom to the attic ladder. I slap slippers onto rungs, slide away the ceiling panel, look into the toothless mouth of the attic. It’s common to dream of losing teeth. I ask for the teeth dream instead of the one about the sand. On the notepad on my bedside table I scrawl, ‘teeth dream’. This is close as I’ve come to praying since Leo.
Sometimes I pass time in the attic. The window up there is dust-caked, gives grey light. I’m reminded it’s normal store things in attics you don’t want to deal with. The box of Candice’s things sits in front of the armchair that Michael might get around to putting out on the lawn. I’m glad he’s been lazy about removing it. I grab the tiny, knitted blanket, the it’s-a-boy blue stuffed hippo, settle into the seat, and open Candice’s box. The last time I did, I found a photo of Candice’s garden and thought I saw lilies. I had to put the picture away and give myself a temple massage like Dr. Edith suggested. Candice loved all plants except lilies: a funeral flower. I hadn’t considered she might’ve only hated lilies on my behalf, might’ve liked them before.
Weeks later, Michael roused me from bed, asked me to pick up the rent from Candice’s. I steeled myself for a potential interaction with the renters, planned an exit strategy. If they wanted to talk, I’d tell them I was in a rush to pick up my son. Michael wouldn’t have approved. He goes to the gin whenever I start pretending about Leo. He goes to the gin then he goes to the car then I go to the bed and dream of dry soil. I dream I’m filled from the lungs down with unceasing sand dunes.
I trudged up to Candice’s house and didn’t register the garden until I did. The tenants had planted a budding fig tree. Dragon snaps. Lilies.
I heard Dr. Edith telling me she didn’t understand why it wasn’t happening for me; there was nothing wrong with my parts. I heard her encouraging me to try again, assuring me there wasn’t sand inside me, tentatively offering prescriptions. I thought of Candice underground. I thought of baby Leo in a tiny box. I thought of them the whole time I beheaded the flowers, tearing those hospital-pink petals to shreds.