by Nathan Good
“What’s that?” I asked as she shifted the rhododendron an inch to the left in order to slot another plant in.
“A borealis,” she said. “It’s from Africa.”
“I mean why is it here? Why do you buy all these plants?”
“Photosynthesis. For the oxygen. I’ve told you.”
She made small circulating gestures in the air with her hands as if wafting a smell from a pan.
“Can’t you feel how thick the air is in here? It’s claustrophobic.”
I make a show of breathing in deeply, puffing out my chest and raising my shoulders. Then I bang my fists against my chest.
“The air is fine. It always has been.”
She looked at me with her head tilted to one side before turning and walking out of the room. From the kitchen she says, “I can’t breathe.”
For our anniversary I took her to the restaurant we met in. We sat by the window and looked out at the street. Rain lashed down and exploded into the small puddles forming just on the other side of the glass. I became entranced with them and the silence between us began to draw out. I watched the puddles jumping and pulsing with the rain and I heard her order another glass of wine.
“What are you thinking about?”
I remember her asking but I have no idea what the answer was. Before the dessert I took her hand across the table and clasped it between my own.
“Your hand is sticky,” I said and she nodded at the flower that sat in a glass between us. The petals were squashed and indented with nail marks. Some of them hung limp against the stem, drained of their fluid.
My phone began to buzz in my pocket and I jumped. She looked at me and held my gaze. The phone rang out and then, seconds later, started to buzz again. I watched tears begin to roll slowly down her cheek and she pulled her hand away to wipe them.
“It’s not her,” I said. “It’s finished. I promise.”
“Answer it then.”
I picked up my glass and drained the wine, unable to look at her. The phone continued to buzz and later, when I turned my attention away from the raindrops again, I was sitting at the table alone.
“Tina!” I called into the house but I knew it was empty. I flipped on all the lights and walked through all the rooms. She was nowhere. The car had gone.
When I sat down in the living room I noticed what it was, besides her, that was missing. All of the plants had gone. The pot plants on the fireplace, small shrubs by the telephone, the hanging plants in the kitchen. I stood up and walked through the house again. Every plant had disappeared. All that remained were a few piles of dirt that trailed from various surfaces and ran to the front door. I pictured her violently snapping the plants up and storming through the house with them piled up in her cradled arms.
After a while I sat back down in the empty living room. It was hot. The empty shelves screamed at me and everything in my head felt congested. Heavy. After gulping at the nothingness for a few seconds I opened the window and loosened my tie.
Nathan Good lives in Derby. His fiction has appeared on Dogmatika and in chapbooks you can find here.