On the Uber ride to our first date, I told my driver about my garden. It wasn’t a topic that I imagined Uber drivers regularly discussed with their passengers, nor was it a topic I would usually bring up, but my stomach was filled with nerves and I wanted to distract myself during the twenty-plus minute ride.
“How has your day been, Miss?” He asked me.
“It’s been good,” I replied. “I spent the day gardening.”
“Oh great,” he said, genuine interest peppering his voice, a voice tinged with an accent I couldn’t quite place. “What are you growing?”
I told him about the flowers and herbs I was attempting to bring to life on the rooftop patio of my house. “I’m a novice,” I admitted. Words tumbled out of my mouth (a sign of my nervous energy) as I told him that I was growing thyme, cilantro, pink and purple petunias, and tomatoes. My tomatoes, I told him with a small sigh, had not been doing very well lately.
I figured he would “ha” and “hum” at my story. Politely agreeing with my plight. Probably willing the ride to be over so that this plant-loving young woman would get out of his car. But, to my surprise, he began to engage fully in the conversation. He told me all about the plants he grew in his own garden. I was shocked as he threw out the names of a few different varietals of tomatoes that thrive in the hot and humid climate, and about creative plant holders that hang from the air. We talked about soil and petals and flowers in bloom, and by the time I got to you, I was already pleasantly surprised.
I was mentally preparing myself for disappointment. A defensive mechanism. History had taught me the danger of high-expectations. So, before I walked up the stairs, I took a deep breath. “If he sucks,” I said to myself in my mind, “you can have one drink and go.” I straightened the fabric of my yellow skirt, making sure none of the flowers on the design were bunched together, and then I made my way up the stairs to meet you.
I am no natural green thumb, though I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve killed my fair share of plants, but with each growing season I learn a little bit more. I have grown beautiful flowers, lush basil, and stalks of purple lavender. I’ve hovered over my flower pots, closely examining the newly sprouted stems, and I’ve felt sad pangs as I’ve watched the fruits of those labors perish due to either my own missteps, or even worse, elements over which I have no control.
When I first saw you, you were leaning against a wall by the bar, gazing out towards the street. Our eyes met, we smiled at each other and then we hugged. You stepped on my feet during that first hug. As much as I tried to stop it, that voice in my mind chimed in: “well, here we go.”
For a second, I worried it would be awkward, but nothing with you since then has ever been that way. We got our drinks and you told me things about yourself. As you talked I wondered if the world was playing a practical joke on me. Everything you said just made sense to me. The experiences you’d had were similar to my own – different in details, but close in affect. The life you were searching for sounded like one I had imagined for myself. You told me about your ideas and you questioned the world in a way that opened up possibilities. When the date was over, we hugged again, lingering for a moment over the possibility of something more, and then I hopped into an Uber. It was a silent ride with my driver, but that was fine with me, there was nothing else to be nervous about, nothing more to say.
That night, I stood at a bar, sipping a whiskey ginger with a group of people. My friends asked me how it went. I told them I was surprised. I was cautiously optimistic. I was afraid that if I told them just how well I thought it had gone that I would jinx it somehow. I looked up at the dark, pulsing bar and saw a neon sign on the wall. Good things this way, it read.
On our next date we lay side-by-side on a blanket on a grassy slope, the tree’s shadows covering our faces from the hot summer sun. I listened as you strummed your guitar. Memories of childhood – the sound of the guitar wafting through the air – filled my mind. I told you that to me this was what home sounded like.
I wouldn’t be me if I said that I wasn’t worried about what was going on between us. But the thing was, it wasn’t you I was worried about. It was everyone else’s reactions to us. Because I didn’t know just how I could explain to other people what I had found in you. I could already foresee the pleasantly skeptical reactions when I tried to explain how we had become so close to each other so quickly. But there wasn’t a logical answer, no way to explain it. In the same way that a seed grows from water and sun, we just worked – it was a reaction.
We spent an afternoon together walking down the city streets. When we started to walk, I wondered if it was too soon to grab your hand, but then you grabbed mine. We looked at all the different patios of the rowhouses. Each time we passed a unique flower I pointed it out to you. We talked about which garden arrangements we liked and which we didn’t. It was fascinating, I thought, to look at the different configurations of plants that people had put together in front of their houses. Big tropical flowers, or mazes of green leafy vines or prim and proper hedges, perfectly cut. Each garden had its own story. Its own look. Its own specific set of elements that linked together to create something beautiful.
It’s taken me up until now to realize that there is no cookie-cutter model for how love makes its way into your life. Or, for what happens to that love after it does. No two relationships are alike. No one method is better than the other. If it’s healthy, if it’s cared for, it will grow.
The same is true with a garden bed. Not all plants grow in the same way or on the same timeline. Some will sprout only days after the seed is sown, certain types of moss take years and years to take up an inch of space.