In the year 3015, Arlen is living with his mother in Acushnet, Massachusetts and helps run their rose farm/nursery: Birkland’s farm. They live in the secluded part of Acushnet, in the town of Dartmouth in a small cabin near the farm. Arlen’s father left them when he was a newborn. Arlen’s mother, Aliah Birks, has depression, having still not gotten over her husband. It is dinner time, and Arlen is helping prepare lentil soup with his mother.
It is about ten minutes past six o’clock.
And yet, as I dice carrots with ease and try her unpalatable, but yet, indefatigable work of that brought joy to her eyes, I gagged in my mouth as her temples creased in worry. Her work made mine seem idle, yet, mine tasted better.
“Did I add enough salt? Or, was there no celery? Oregano, even?”
It always made her cease to give up.
Her eyes were honey and her long hair was a flowing golden river. And yet, her face-once also cream- was struck by the sudden snow.
She gasped and fell on her knees, crippling in fear and gnashed her trembling teeth.
“Mother, it’s alright, It’s just soup.” I helped her up on her feet and she twiddled with her long strands of hair and gasped, again.
The cracked bottles on the mahogany floors, the clear glass a wreck to the house. It could excruciate the most settle arguments, the most kindest of words.
She was harrowing over a loss that couldn’t be won. Her game didn’t contain confinement to what she always has done. The spiral that couldn’t ever be broken. Her cycle.
She asked me with her same distressed smile- as if life had cut her rope- and tried to lift my spirit, and yet…. Fail.
I set her up on her feet and drag her to the couch as she plops down and snores like a lion.
With the impression that she needed rest, I decided to take a break from the cooking.
Later, after another round of harvesting the roses from the farm, sweat dripped down my face and my palms sweat vigorously. The smell of salt like from Florida beaches came from my sweat, as a strong tang came over my senses, regarding this.
I pick a rosebud and take a glimpse of its closed bud, not wanting to expose itself. Funny, it reminded me of dear mother.
Back at the kitchen, I continued to chop the rigid carrots, the carrots resisting to be chopped in half. On the top of the marbled kitchen counter, framed in a shape of a heart and glorified by mother, was the picture of father.
This was a picture of him years ago, back when mother last saw him. He had a square jaw, strong stubble, bright olive-green eyes, raven hair.
Mother always bragged to me, “You get your looks from your father” and she would giggle over all those times he would request lentil soup for dinner.
How I wish that mother wouldn’t rekindle with the past so often.
I death stared at the photo and wished how he’d never left. Why would you leave us, dad?
The touch of a fingertip brushes my shoulder. A light touch, a pillow-like substance.
Surprised, I heard the scream of a little girl run out of my mouth, “AHHH! WHO IS IT!”
Her golden eyes locked mine and she lifted a genuine smile off her lips. Coral as a Seastar, her lips looked plump and pillow-soft.
She was an angel yet was as stubborn as a cow. At dinnertime, I realized that she simmered the soup too long. According to the recipe book, you only had to simmer it for an hour.
But yet, though she was turtle slow at her failing task of cooking, she managed to recreate -after she had to throw away the first attempt- what was proclaimed, in the recipe book, as scrumptious.
It was dead silent at dinnertime. It was so silent that I had the urge to break the silence and fill it up with the noise of words.
But what I had prepared in thought did not suffice mother’s pain.
“Why did father leave us, mother?” After all, it seemed that I was mature enough to understand.
“Mom, answer me: If you loved him so much, and you are in pain because of him, why did you just let him leave?”
Another death glare.
She muttered under her breath, too silent to be heard.
“What did you say?” I yearned to know.
The BANG! Of the wine glass clashed against the mahogany floors. The harsh reality that smacked me across my face.
The glass shattered to smithereens, breaking apart every ounce of pain she bottled up.
But now I know.
It didn’t matter how earthly the scent of the meal was. How the aroma of chickpea dominated the blend of celery and vinegar mixed in with the clear, watery, yet heavenly scent of the spiced vegetable. How much-wasted effort she put into such a nursing meal. But, no matter how much she tried, she could never face her demons.
The muffled screams that echo through the small cabin as she hides her tears in her pillow. I could hear it. Every ounce of sadness that whipped out of her emotions and stiffened her pain.
It wasn’t hard to hear.
After all, her room was next to the kitchen.
As I stirred the soup aimlessly, trying to piece together the history of her actions, I wondered if she would ever get over it.
Over it, like bottling her tears and trying to answer unanswered questions.
Especially ones from her own son.
That night, I was boiled in rage and driven by curiosity about the questionable meaning of why my mother wanted to cook lentil soup so badly today. Was it today that it seemed important to release emotions from its cage?
As I look out the vast, wide windows of the living room, I remember. Remember those days that mother and I lived like everyone else: crowded urban homes, public schools, the world of a bustling city that lit up the night.
But now, the open space was our only greeting. The knock of bristly wind that would seem to blow our small, enclosed, one-story cabin away, but it didn’t. In fact, our cabin would stay intact like a rooted oak tree. Instead of the clicking of shoes down the alley, the overpopulated apartment homes, and the constant blink of lights and the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Of rude cars honking at slow ones, it was all open space.
Our cabin was situated near my mother’s family farm, Birkland’s farm. At the very least, it made it convenient for us, who were harvesting the roses.
But, maybe the cause of my mother’s pain was how close we were to the roses.
The roses that were infected with the Blight disease-a fungus disease in plants-have spread across the whole farm, with the fungal disease infecting the majority of the planted roses. You’d think that she would be distressed with the farm in ruins, but…. She wasn’t.
On the day that the entire farm was wiped out by the Blight disease, I
Thought she would be perturbed, concerning the future of the farm. In fact, I wasn’t so sure myself either.
But that day, she was dressed and veiled like she was prepared for a death march.
Her raven silk dress streamed down past her knees, flowing around her heels and whipping through the wind. She wore a long black lace veil that tailed her from the back and was embedded in embroidered doilies. Though it seemed and looked to me that she was ready for a funeral, she was grinning, ear to ear.
“Wish me luck. Don’t forget to prepare tonight’s lentil soup.” She told me and touched my cold cheeks in her hands and placed a kiss on the top of my head.
That night, it was just another meal on Earth: one that consisted of lentil soup and broken wine bottles.