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 heâ€™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 isnâ€™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 itâ€™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 didnâ€™t look up. He didnâ€™t stop. He didnâ€™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 â€˜Just like the ones before, another stupid American college student.â€™ I rolled my eyes. Whatever, itâ€™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.