Saturday, October 2, 2010

African Violet On My Windowsill

You gave me an African violet.
Two years ago, you did. And I crammed it
in the front seat of my Neon, with the rest of
my life in the back. The U-Haul followed as I
drove in the 90 degree heat up to Chicago.
Mufasa & Layla kept meowing as if
I were driving them to their deaths.
But it was only to Chicago.

I wedged the flower between my seats and I
prayed it would not tumble to the floor.
Each turn, I held my hand out to protect it,
this little thing. An African violet
potted in an old record. You put our friendship,
what was left, what could remain, in that soil.
I thought. This record someone--you?--must have
molded, and worked, into the shape
of a makeshift pot.

Each time you'd send me a new mixtape I'd
put it on the stereo as I cleaned my apartment,
alone. Then, I knew our friendship was still ours,
and ours alone. We were safe.

When I arrived at my brand new old apartment
in Chicago, I placed the African violet
on my windowsill. That night I read Love is a Mixtape
and I thought of you, and your loss. How I
wanted to take your hurt and squeeze it,
soothe it, make you not feel broken by it
anymore. If you did. But I couldn't save you
from your heartbreak any more than
you could stop me from mine, could I?

Later, much later, I loaned you the book and I
sensed your hesitation. But I know and you know that
our losses are ours alone. Still, I kept hoping you'd
read it. Now the book is gone, somewhere, left hanging
between us. Like our friendship we also can't seem to

My African violet stayed on my windowsill, and I
took comfort in it for that short time it was. Happy
you knew me well enough to understand:
It was the most completely perfect parting gift.
One day I walked in the kitchen. Both cats were
eating the African violet, gnawing and swatting at it.
I yelled in horror, and in their fright, they jumped
off the windowsill. Taking our African violet
with them.

The record bounced slightly, and soil spilled
over my kitchen floor.