On my twenty-first birthday, I buy myself a coral cactus and name him Jason. He dies because I overwater him. Carrying the rotted stem, freckled with brown spots, to the compost bucket, my eyes look out the window to see a swell of grey clouds swirling and dancing with the wind. Jason plops into the plastic container, and I wonder where the clouds are going.
I meet you at twenty-four, and I know that I’m going to have to see the world through your eyes. I’m willing to abandon myself to adopt what makes you happy. For instance, you love zoos. Always have and say you always will. Now, I wait in a rainforest-themed café. A gaggle of fourteen-year-olds runs by me, littering the word ‘dyke’ like punctuation.
It hasn’t rained in four months. Trees, once draped in shades of green, have metamorphosized into skeletal outlines; brown branches frayed with crosses of twigs at the tips. Budding attempts lining the bark remind me of rosary beads hanging from the back of grandma’s bedroom door handle.
My mouth is full of the last sip of soda. Tongue swishes bubbles back and forth, a tidal wave against the inside of my cheeks. The chemical concoction pops against my taste buds, a symphony, until it flattens and becomes a resting pond near the back of my throat. I swallow.
Behind the counter, a waitress tickles the tops of scones with margarine; the stuff you call fake butter. Her left breast bubbles over the top of a black bra and out the collar of her t-shirt. Each time she bends to dab more margarine onto the end of the spoon, I hold my breath for her integrity. There is a part of me questioning whether or not the veins, bulging and yearning for a breach of oxygen, will find release. She seems so unbothered. Wordlessly, I wonder if there is any symmetry between the two of us; will I ever exist in a state so carefree?
Outside, darkness swallows the sky whole. The teenagers and other correspondents head for the exit. Apparently, thoughts of getting wet makes the crowds scatter, break, a sea parting as they return home to television meals and warm sheets.
“I’ve been prayin’ for rain. My uncle was sayin’ that the drought was killing the crops out west.” I’m not surprised to come into contact with a face caked in makeup. Brown hair falls in lengthy locks over both shoulders, and I want to ask why she doesn’t just tie it up, but I don’t. Instead, I turn my head to look back outside.
Condensation drips down the window, perfect lines wiped by a brief stay. There are no other visitors, this downpour has driven them all away. My eyes scan the glass, droplets of water twisting, turning, racing to soak into the wooden windowpane waiting at the finish line. Boughs of naked trees bend to create faces; wind contorting creased cheekbones, crucifixes weaving together to transform the visage from happy to devastated to beautiful. As Mother Nature places her bets on the drops of rain, the clock tick, tick, ticks behind me, and I don’t know if you’re coming anymore.
I can’t help but wonder if the animals pray for rain, too.