I was in the garden on the third day, fighting weeds and despair. A couple sauntered up, arms around each other’s waists. They looked familiar, but I couldn’t place them until they let themselves in the gate and got within a few feet of where I was kneeling. I shaded my eyes and stood with some difficulty. My knees aren’t the best.
“God?” I said, astonished. “Yes,” they said, smiling. They were married, of course. Would God choose to live together without the benefits of matrimony? That’s a question for the theologians. These two were absolutely married, beyond any shadow of a doubt. Beyond marriage, beyond romance. They were joined, as one.
The woman said to me, “Don’t garden in your church clothes, silly.”
He nodded in agreement and pulled her close for a little kiss. “Isn’t she the best?” he said. Then he took a bright yellow bandana out of his pocket and blew his nose. “I’ll leave you gals to visit.” He squeezed her shoulder, walked to a large stone, and sat with his back to the sun.
She stayed beside me, her shadow rippling over the deep green zucchini leaves. She fingered a strand of wooden beads around her neck. I had more questions than she had beads. They lined up in my head, but I didn’t speak them out loud.
Who are you? What do you want from me? Why am I here? Why do I even exist? When will I no longer exist? Isn’t it a waste of good consciousness, to just let it flicker and go out, like an unfed fire? Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? How would I know?
I could taste the remnants of coffee in the back of my throat, and knew myself to be alive. I smelled like the dirt under my fingernails. Thick clay soil, rich with worms. Clinging. Tight. In need of sand from the river, old stones ground down. In need of humus. Organic matter, ready to give itself to the cause of robust growth, to begin again.
She was watching, silent and calm, her face open, filled with approval. The late morning sun was hot. Dazzling. Dangerous. There I was, no hat. No sunglasses. Skin exposed. Soul exposed.
Suddenly, I remembered the wilting rhubarb I’d picked an hour ago, but hadn’t taken to the house. It wasn’t too late, but I had to excuse myself and dash away. The harvest was scant this year. I didn’t want my rhubarb to go to waste. I felt guilty. It would have been more polite to stay in the garden and visit—offer lemonade. I put the rhubarb in icy water and watched God stroll arm-in-arm upward into cloud and sky, a flimsy apparition of perfection. I wanted to drop everything and join them. But I stood firm, the rhubarb in my hands, tart and iridescent red.