he plants were mostly dead when Jen met up with Alex again. Aside from the last few stalks of Lacinato kale — they can survive even the earliest frost, he told her — there wasn’t much to look at. So they sat with hot apple cider on a cold concrete bench and took inventory, their faces clouded in steam.
She showed him where her arugula has sprung up in less than a week in June. There was the basil that had reached shrub status by the end of July, but deflated like a sorry balloon by the first cold day in September. Radishes had done better than expected during the hot summer, and the zucchini (as usual) overtook the entire bed with zeal, produced a wedding’s worth of blossoms (which she had meticulously de-stamened, stuffed and fried) before wilting dramatically.
The two of them had met at a juice bar, set up by a mutual friend (or so they were calling the Internet these days), several months earlier. Their relationship had also bloomed and withered, but without a frost as an explanation. Yet something about it had always felt genuine. Never rushed or desperate. In fact, she’d always told him that he reminded her of her best friend.
Their first few dates had ended platonically; their final few anything but. In him she had noticed her body moving naturally, never once subconscious. They moved from clothed to naked with as much effort as it took to breathe. Once they were naked, breathing was the hardest thing.
When they finished they would lie together and entwine their legs. He would squeeze her knee between his two or hold her hand. Not too hard, just enough to feel like one hand. It was that feeling she longed for again.
Their reconnection started slowly, hesitantly. She was wary, he perhaps guilty. They spent most of the winter apart — the schism having begun on the eve of 2013, which incidentally they had not spent together.
Sometime in spring he said hello. Electronically. From a safe distance. She responded, a little cool.
A few months later he tried again. This time she warmed to him. She wasn’t cut out for coldness anyway, and something felt familiar. She realized that she craved the familiar. The thrill of the unknown only lasts so long. His voice on the other end of the phone sounded comforting. They talked for a long time. She told him all about her garden, how it was thriving, and how she never knew she had the thumbs for it.
They laughed. He said he’d like to see it sometime if she would let him.
He told her about his new job, that he finally had his own office and some semblance of a schedule. He had never experienced such stability (which he figured might explain things). It was a good feeling.
She agreed to meet up with him after work for a tour of the garden. They didn’t manage to make their schedules align until most of it was dead, but they did manage it in the end.
There they sat with cider, looking in turn at each other and the curled-up brown remains of the herb garden. She let him hold her hand for a moment.
Some of it will come back, you know. Or so he said.