I live a quiet, solitary life, so when there was a knock on my door in the middle of the night, I was naturally confused. The storm outside and the ungodly hour helped me rule out the possibility of girl scout cookies, so I peeked out the window to see what the wind blew to my door.
"Dear Lord, what an odd time to be going for a run! Get in here, silly. Go change into some dry clothes while I fetch you some tea."
"It was...ugly," she sighed, finally breaking the silence. "There were nasty words, things broken...both physically and emotionally, I suppose. I guess I should say I saw it coming, but sometimes it's just easier living the lie a little longer because the alternative seems unbearable. After the fight I just couldn't be there anymore...so I..."
"So you decided to storm into the storm?" I replied snarkily and received a pillow square in my face.
"I just had to get out, clear my head. I just ran and ran, and then I ended up here. Yeah, yeah, when I wake up tomorrow with a nasty cold, it won't have seemed like as good of an idea. Especially when you give me that 'I told you so' face I hate so much."
"That's what friends are forrrrr~" I sang.
She threw another pillow.
"Alright, alright, I'll shut up before you break another pair of my glasses."
She chuckled lightly-enough for me to know my presence was helping. Then she gave me one of those gentle smiles that made me know it was genuine, but that it was also trying to mask the pain in her eyes.
"It all just sucks." Her lips trembled, her eyes fought back tears.
"I know," I replied, staring at the blank wall ahead of me.
"You always do."
"It'll get better."
"Don't say that when you don't know for sure," she snapped back, bitterly.
"You're right, I'm sorry."
"So how's your love life?"
I almost spit out my tea. "You ask me that as though you actually expect the answer to change each time."
"Why not? You listen to the rest of us ramble endlessly about our love problems, family issues, work life, whatever else. Let us return the favor. I'm a good listener, too, you know?"
"Are you now?" I asked, raising an eyebrow. "Want to hear a story, then?"
"There once lived a toy shop owner..."
"You told that one last time already."
"Oh...err...how about the one about the gardener?"
"Is this going to be the same-ish story just with the occupation swapped?"
I looked to the ceiling for help. "Maybe...depends on how you interpret it."
"Fine, just tell me. Your words are soothing, anyway."
"Wonderful! Here goes...
There once was a man who felt lost in life. He watched the people around him pursue their respective callings and succeed with flying colors. He became frustrated, his pride hurting a bit, but he kept his head down, hoping God would send him some sort of sign eventually.
One day a friend dropped by with a potted tulip plant. 'My mother has fallen ill so I must go take care of her for an extended period of time, but these bulbs have just sprouted, and I'd hate to see them go to waste-any chance you can take care of these tulips while I'm gone?' The man felt a little fright-"
"Dude, worst idea ever!" She blurted. "Didn't you kill the succulents last time? Though there's that 'miracle lime tree' in your backyard that is doing oddly well...which is pure luck, by the way, since you never even water it."
"Thanks dude, but what does this have to do with me? This is a story about a confused man!" I defended.
"Aren't your stories always symbolic of your experiences? Changing a pronoun doesn't make you the most clever storyteller or anything."
"Oh shush, you. Do you want to hear this story or not?"
"Ok, ok, jeez, go on."
The man felt a little frightened by this new challenge, but accepted anyway (not really knowing if he had the option to say no). So he spent countless hours researching how to maintain and nurture the tulips. Week by week, month by month, he eventually brought these flowers to near bloom. His friend returned and was extremely surprised. Her eyes lit up at the sight of them. 'My mother has made a tough recovery, and I know it would just make her so happy to see these tulips when we bring her home today from the hospital!' Though sad to see his new baby go, he felt an enormous amount of accomplishment at what he was able to do. 'Perhaps this is my calling!' he thought. 'I am going to turn my yard into a beautiful garden.'
He began with a single rose bush. They proved to be somewhat tricky and rather prickly, he learned, but he thought them to be most beautiful. Through a lot of hard work, research, and trial and error, he eventually created a beautiful rose garden. His skin became more tanned, his hands calloused, and you could see faint scars everywhere from the rose thorns, but the accomplishment he felt greatly outweighed all of those things. After he perfected the roses, he slowly added some lilies, sunflowers, and other plants, but the roses were always his favorite. Each time the flowers were near bloom, he would give them away to friends, relatives, hospitals, or even the occasional sad-looking man or woman on the street. Winters were quiet, as he spent much time researching and meditating to prepare for what adventures the next season would bring. And then every year he would start over again, growing, nurturing, and then passing the joy along. Eventually it became easier to let them go-knowing that the joy his efforts produced would be greater when shared with the rest of the world. Though the rest of the world didn't quite understand this bizarre little man and his passions, he was content because he knew what he was doing and was doing a mighty fine job at it. He was happy."
"Didn't it ever get boring for him?"
"I think he never really thought about that. He just knew he was good at it, and kept doing it. And eventually it became the only thing he knew. And I suppose it was enough," I shrugged.
"He could have at least sold them for a high price and become hella rich."
"I think he thought his flowers to be priceless," I said. "And he hoped others would view them that way as well. So to slap a price tag on them would seem like an insult."
"Why not grow fruits or vegetables, then? At least those you can eat or something."
"Flowers are pretty, perhaps he was addicted to that beauty. It's what drove him. I don't think he was really looking for any tangible gain, anyhow."
"Well, I think you deserve a more tangible reward," she said with a yawn, then leaned over and pecked me on the cheek.
"Well then honestly I would have preferred a Benjamin, but I guess that was acceptable." I braced myself for another flying pillow, but she was just lying down, staring at the ceiling. Then she let out a long sigh.
"I know," I said, lying down next to her.
"You always do."
"You know, when I said it'll get better, I didn't mean that all this chaos around you will necessarily lighten up, but I meant that it'll be easier because you will get better. You'll be stronger, tougher, smarter, and more prepared. And that part I do know for sure. Because you, darling, are awesome."
I waited for some snarky "well, duh" sort of reply, but she was already asleep. I lay a blanket over her and kissed her atop her forehead, grabbed my tea and headed for the window. I stared amusingly at this 'miracle lime tree' in my yard and smiled. The rain had stopped, making the view outside look so crisp and clean.
"To another year of successful gardening?" I whispered, raising my cup to the night sky, and downed the rest of my tea.