By Beth Cortez-Neavel
It is spring now and averaging 40 degrees Fahrenheit a week. The skies stay gray and gloomy but the clouds refuse to release more than a sprinkle. This would frustrate any gardener. Next door he’s crouching bent-kneed over brown thorny stems. He holds a stainless-steel bowl between his own brown thorny hands. The clean water pours onto the balding dirt mounds; patches of grass greener than any Spring tree-buds. This is his Zen: this three-by-six square feet of garden. Seven tulip bulbs peeking above the ground. Four determined would-be rose bushes.
Day after day – ever since the snow and ice melted – he has crouched, hoping that come the warmer weather, there will be small rosebuds.
This is Allston, Massachusetts and this is a dirty street. A street where there are more patches of brown than green in the small front lawns, where no one has a backyard that isn’t a permit-only parking lot, where college students and musicians set off fireworks at all hours of the night, and where anything left outside and not locked up gets stolen unless it’s a trashcan. Lucky for this stooped and balding Japanese landlord, no one wants to steal a rose.
At first, when I moved in next-door, I stared incredulously out of the corner of my eye as I saw him hold a small indoor broom and slowly, deliberately sweep up the leaves from his twelve-car parking lot. As he swept the dead leaves into a pile by the chain-link fence separating his house from mine the fall leaves continued to spiral down around him. He didn’t look up. He didn’t stop. He didn’t even acknowledge that they were ceaselessly dropping from the trees. He just kept sweeping in slow, small strokes.
Done with my cigarette, I accidentally flicked it over the fence into his domain. Only then did he look up; his serene face transforming into one of disgust and disappointment. His eyes met mine. They seemed to say ‘Just like the ones before, another stupid American college student.’ I rolled my eyes. Whatever, it’s a free country. His roses were just wilting then. How dumb, I thought, leaving them by the sidewalk like that – one of his annoyed tenants might stomp them.
It is Spring and now I wait longingly, staring out my window into the gray. I am quitting smoking and I am sick of all these muted colors. I long for his roses. I wish now that I had his patience, his composure to crouch over a small patch of roots and stems; waiting for my roses to bud and then, bloom.

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