He didn’t come outside yesterday. He didn’t wear his rubber-soled shoes and ridiculously large coat. He didn’t push his feet into the soil, savouring the satisfying squelch. He didn’t pick out the flowers that he liked the most and leave them on my front porch.
The marigolds were crying. Their petals dripped of their loneliness and neglect, wanting his gentle touch and instead having to find it in each other. My hand had lingered in the air next to my doorknob, not finding the courage to go over there and give them some company. I didn’t want the flowers to realize that I wasn’t the person they were hoping I was.
I had touched the jasmine in my hair, the petals almost brown now, after having worn it since the morning before. I didn’t have the heart to take them off, especially since he wasn’t there to give me a fresh bunch.
The first time I met him, he smiled widely at me with the teeth he had left and invited me home. His house smelled like my grandparents’, like wood and tea and a fragrance reminiscent of petrichor. He told me that I looked like his granddaughter and gently pushed the first flower into my hair, a delicate yellow daisy.
That day, I went home and cried until the daisy wilted. He reminded me too much of my grandfather, a man who had loved me more than my parents, a man who always told me I was beautiful even when I didn’t think the same. Maybe my neighbour was my grandfather telling me to move on. Or maybe he was just another lonely old man who had lots to share.
I went over to his place almost every day for a year. After I got employed in a company, I started going over to his place less and less. I told him I had work to do and left with guilt weighing down my heart like the flowers crying in his garden. Soon I stopped going entirely, citing work but not having the stomach to meet him.
Talking to him was not easy, his old yet sharp eyes and sharp mind comprehending everything but not voicing it.
He always knew that I was lying, even though he never said it out loud. He was always happy to catch a glance of me, and always waved, even though I didn’t deserve it, especially when I didn’t deserve it.
When he started seeing less of me, he began leaving flowers on my front porch early in the morning, wobbling across the street and placing them carefully next to the plastic plants that were already there. He did it every day without fail, except for yesterday, of course. Yesterday was different.
He never told me about the cancer. He never told me about the destructive cells festering inside of him. He only told me that I was broken and that was okay, because he was broken too. I never prodded, and neither did he. I never told him about my grandfather, and he never told me about his cancer. Tit for tat.
I planted my first flower under his watchful gaze, and I wore it in my hair when it bloomed. A certain thrill came with having something that I brought to the world. I imagine that is what mothers feel like the day their child is born and they get to hold them for the first time. I wouldn’t know.
I don’t know why I never told him about my repulsion towards having children. I never told him that I was scared that I would mess up the life of the child I would have, that I would be a worse parent than my own parents were to me. I never told him that I had not found any man worthy of spending my life with. I told him nothing of any importance, to be honest.
I wish I had. Today, more than other days, I wish I had told him everything. Maybe then he wouldn’t have left, and I wouldn’t be standing here in front of all of you, giving a eulogy I never thought I would be giving any time soon.
He was caring. More caring than my parents, more caring than my exes, more caring than the friends who come and go. He was always gentle. He treated me as lovingly as he treated his flowers, with as much compassion and kindness as he did everything else.
He was the only true friend I ever had, the only one who I wish had stayed. Because him being there was more of a comfort than I had ever imagined. I had never wanted to rely on someone, but he was worth relying on. He never let me down. It was me who did that. It was me who stopped coming over, me who started avoiding him. It seems right that I suffer for this by not having him in my life anymore.
I don’t believe in God. He did though. So, if there is a God as he said, please hear me out. Please keep him happy for me. Please give him seeds and fresh soil to plant his flowers. Give him enough rain and sun to help him make his garden. Please accept his flowers and talk to him. He would like that. Also, let him meet my grandfather. Maybe they could talk about me together, they could watch over me together, they could be okay together.
I don’t know when I will be okay. I know that it will take some time. I hope you’re listening. I will be okay, I promise. I will become okay because of you; I am sure of it. You will be there for me, even when I can’t see you. I know you’re here right now, wearing your large coat and holding a bouquet of lilies for me.
I hope you like the flowers I picked out for you, I placed them at your grave. I took them from your garden, from the patch you had left for me. I knew that you would take care of the flowers I had grown a year ago. The forget-me-nots that I have given you will never wilt. I will replace them every day if they do because I will never forget you.