When I leave this place, I leave a patch of iris bulbs. They are in the back garden, sandwiched between brick-lain walls in a patch of dirt that has been mostly forgotten and gone to seed. One has bloomed, a deep crimson with wild streaks of yellow running from base to tip. They are caught in a web of shadow.
I brought the kids out, all twenty-three, to plant them in a wobbly line along the edge of the garden. They huddled in the grass, crouching tentatively to avoid all manner of creepy-crawly things that lurked in their imaginations. When we tamped the dirt down around the bulbs they shook and shivered, the grey clouds that had hung over us for most of a month having sunk into their bones.
For weeks afterward, the plants hung on at the edge of death; I watched nervously from the window until the sun came out and the rains poured down and the browning edges of the leaves turned green and strong, jagged blades pointed toward the sun.
I leave in three weeks. They’ve told me to go, that I’m unneeded. More accurately, they say that I’m not good enough. I have been fired, but in the way of the coward, in which I mean that I have been forgotten by choice.
I pack up my room now. I take something each day – a book, a picture from the wall, a box of supplies. I haven’t taken out the larger things yet, which I worked so hard to find and bring in, piece by piece, straining to shoulder alone. (I should have asked for help with the load, but I’ve never been one to rely on others.) Soon the room will be bare and sparse. The kids haven’t noticed that the things that make our room special are disappearing, one by one.
I will not take the iris. They deserve to stay and flourish, to reach up to the sun and spread the sharp edges of their leaves. The delicate confections of their flowers are wild things. Under the bushes heavy with white blooms, I hope the iris will spread and multiply, taking over the space outside my window in a way that I never could.
When I leave, the iris will stay. It’s likely I will never see the rest bloom. Others will; they will see the blooms that come each year and brighten this shadowed place.
They will see the riot of color that rises from black earth, where we went out and shivered, my children and I. Where we pushed our hands into the damp ground to make new life.
They will see what was left behind.
Petals, sweeping open to embrace the sky.