My heart is always a two sided thing, garden flowers and sunlight and crafted beauty on the outside, and on the inside, an ugly restless cemetery lining all four chambers – fragments of headstones and moonlight float like silver shadows in my blood. Here, there are as many graves as people I know, some open, some closed.
I meet people with a spade in my hand these days. I tell them the truth: I like to grow plants. I try to show them the garden side of my heart first. I try to make sure they never see the other side. They joke about the dead plants in my sunroom. “I thought you said you like to grow things!” They tease. I smile back. “Haha, it’s the winter – all my herbs die!”
I never tell them the other truth, that I’m a pretty lousy gardener already planning a burial for our friendship – relationship – connection – whatever.
The more I want to share those flowers of my heart, abundant and rich in colour, petals as big as my face, the deeper I dig the open grave on the other side, digging into epicardial tissue, chewing me open from the inside out. The only way I don’t do this is if the other person stills the spade in my hand, gently takes it, sees the graveyard side of things, finds their own grave, and starts to fill it with fresh soil, making the grave a shallow thing.
Sometimes, on the garden side of things, I pull up too many roots, too many bouquets to give away to someone. I never know how much is too much. Sometimes, the spade on the other side digs too deep. Flowers fall through to the graveyard side of things. The garden side starts to smell like rotting earth and casket mildew.
This is how my heart has broken every time it has broken. It has broken many times. I think there is a limit to how many times a heart breaks before something changes permanently. Survival is always possible. Recovery is always possible.
But after a point, a heart becomes less a heart and more scar tissue.
I plan burials but I never plan the actual murder. I have never killed a connection that was important to me – that has always been the other person, who tells me
or with silence for centuries – this is the worst way, to kill a thing slowly rather than swiftly and compassionately)
that they do not want the gifts of my garden heart. They they want less. Much less. Very little. So little.
“Oh.” I say, when this happens. “Thanks for letting me know. ”
“I’m sorry – ” they start.
“No it’s fine – you don’t have to apologise,” I call, from far away, already in the cemetery, already distracted from the conversation. “I thought we mattered more to each other than we really did. Sometimes I get carried away. I make up lies that feel good, lies like “we liked each other.” or lies like “we are good friends” or lies like “we have a very deep and important connection”. Thanks for the reality check – you can do what you like with the flowers, they’ve already been plucked.” Potpourri. Trash. It doesn’t matter.
I find the grave I have already dug, My voice echoes, feels glass-heavy and far away – I am far away. I am inside a graveyard because it’s time to bury a friendship. So long as my heart is not broken, this process is easy. Eventually, the half-alive things finish dying in peace, in silence, in ignorance, unattended. They never hear from me. They never hear from the other person. There is nothing to revive them.
But when my heart is broken, I have to collect the rotting earth in my trembling hands on the garden side of things, start to push it back into the hole, clear some space, find fresh garden earth to seal the wound. And when I’m at the surface of my heart, with its wound fresh, I have to drown out your promises and good intentions (read: lies, probably) which follow the “I’m sorry I can’t give more/I don’t want to give more right now”. I have to drown out, or respond to the, “let’s stay in touch” or “let’s be friends” and “we do connect well…” – all of it sounds like hope and hope right now is a lie, and I can’t drown it out.
My hand reaches for a flower automatically to give to you. After all, a request for friendship is connection. This is a conversation for the garden side of life. But when I give a flower with one hand, the other hand must dig the grave deeper, wider, even though there is already a gaping wound. “Why do you want to be friends?” I ask, my voice clear and fearful and wary now on the garden side of things. I look down at the stupid flower in my shaking hand . Nothing feels real in that space between garden and graveyard. It is a nothingness. I try to move so that I can at least hide the gaping hole in the earth behind me. No one needs to see that.
No answer rings like truth. All that exists is the hole in the earth behind me. This is the only truth I know. “We have a good connection. We can help each other,” you say. I don’t believe you. I can’t believe you. Your voice lands somewhere outside my heart. Nothing lands.
I nod, distractedly, distantly. “Sure, yeah we’re friends,” I say halfheartedly, the words taste stale, as I build tissue out of spells and magic to fix the hole behind me. “Yeah, I’ll… keep an open mind about it,” I say. My voice is shaking. I think I am lying. I am lying. I am ready for nothing. I am truthfully only ready for nothing, the vacuum of death for the end of a friendship, I do not have an open mind. I have no mind at all about this.
“Leave, just leave, it’s ok we don’t have to be friends, we don’t have to meet again – we don’t – you don’t, just leave, it’s ok, you don’t have to stick around for some random once-in-a-while conversations, just stop. let’s stop.” – the words stick in my throat. I don’t say them out loud. I can’t say them out loud.
A small hand is pressed against my voice box, gentle but insistent. “Shh” BeingLovedAgain whispers in my ear. I cannot swallow; the words are rocks in my throat. She kisses my cheek and the rock dissolves into tears.
“I don’t know how to be around you” I say, finally, softly. “I don’t trust you.”
I would not want to be my friend if I were you. I am too broken. I am healing. I have nothing to offer. I am regrowing a heart. It is messy. You want so little. You want to give so little. I find myself wishing you wanted nothing. What you want is as good as nothing. I have nothing to give, I realise. I literally have nothing to give. There is no soil to grow anything; everything has been dug out. Grave or flowerbed, it all feels the same: empty.
You have nothing to give, and I have nothing to give either.
And then it’s time, finally to visit the graveyard side of my heart, and start to fill the grave with enough of the ugly soil, the dead worms, the old blood, – enough soil so that when I bury this zombie-half-alive-messy-ugly-remnant of a connection, a relationship, a friendship, the creature does not fall through to the garden side of things – the surface that I greet people with must at least look inviting.
Sometimes, even just the seed of a connection already feels wrong, already feels marked for death, already feels destined for pain; these I usually toss into open graves.
I wonder about the value of flowers these ugly things fertilise or give rise to.
Maybe all the flowers in my garden – the flowers I offer visitors – smell like dead things, and it warns people away.
Maybe this is why no one stays.
I tried to toss the seed of our friendship into an open grave, let it die before it’s ever born. Small mercies, I thought.
But BeingLovedAgain caught it in her hand, would not let me bury it so easily. I am too tired to argue with her. “What are you doing?” I asked her.
As the seed sank into her palm, she said with her scythe of a smile, “Writing a different story.”