by Denise Tolan
Now that he’s gone, I can tell you, most of you, that we probably had sex in your yard.
It started as a lark. No one will know, he said. It’ll be fun, he said.
He was right.
About the fun.
(I’m pretty sure some of already knew about this. Occasionally I saw slips of light like dandelion seeds coming through your windows like blown wishes.)
After we had sex in your yard, whenever we arrived at your house for dinner or drinks, we made sure to walk across our special spot. I felt something like power when we knocked on your door.
While you ushered us in, he would try to make me laugh: Your grass looks great, he’d say, sweeping his hand across your small green plot like an ancient landlord impressing a visiting king.
(I carried our secret carefully, like a knife in my pocket. Once or twice, I caught a look from those of you I suspected kept your curtains open. Perhaps you held a sharp secret of your own?)
I know that most of you disliked him. You thought he was using me. You thought that was the best I could do. So now that he’s gone, here are the things you were right about:
- He was cocky. After a shower, he’d look at himself naked in the mirror and whistle, like a construction worker from Working Girl;
- He was ungrateful. He talked about all of you behind your backs, even when you did something nice like bring him soup after his unexpected tonsillectomy. After you left, he’d say things like Vivienne is a replica of her china, out of date and easily replaced. I ate all of your leek and potato soup, Vivienne. He never cared for the taste of leeks;
- He used me for my money. I gave him my PIN number a long time ago and after I forgot to suspect him, he drained my account and left me with nothing;
- (He might not have loved me. I’m not sure why you’d want to be right about that, but there it is.)
You were wrong about some things though:
- Those dark circles under my eyes were not from stress or worry. They were from fatigue. When we first started visiting your yards, he let me pick where to have sex. I’d scan the area for the least visible place, beside a hedge or hugging a flower bed. But the night I moved to a tree in the middle of the yard, maybe it was your yard, Lee, he rewarded me so well I almost took root. Eventually I’d just walk to the middle of your yards and get on all fours like the neighborhood dogs you hate;
- He wasn’t stupid or backward or a Trumper. He read to me at night from Neruda and Wordsworth and Sexton. He tongued each word so lustily that I’d lay at his feet in case a sound fell my way;
- (And in spite of your disdain for him, he was willing to walk into your homes anyway. He did that for me. So even though he didn’t love me, it felt something like respect.)
We knew you had opinions about us. He had one about all of you as well:
- Your root systems are too shallow to sustain long-term growth. Consult a landscaper.
And if I might leave you with a piece of my own advice, spend less time mowing your yards and more time enjoying them.
Denise Tolan is a writer and an educator living in San Antonio, Texas. Her work has appeared in journals such as Lunch Ticket, Hobart, Storyscape, The Saturday Evening Post, and others. Denise is obsessed with all things Moby-Dick and longs for calmer seas ahead.