I don’t need anybody to tell me what I was thinking when I went outside in my boots that day. My gloves, I put on gingerly, picking up the paper napkin. I did not bother with my hat.
Under the snow I could still find the oak tree. I could always find the oak tree. There was no sound, no sound on the crisp snow, just some silence, more silence, and then the slow chug of a milk truck on a road that seemed far away. Far beyond blue gingerbread house, the house where I had made love to him in several rooms. Always shyly, tucking strands of my hair behind my ears when it would threaten to fall into his face. I thought my shyness would save me. I thought if I tiptoed hard enough, he would have to love me.
I called him the day after I made the appointment. I said I was having a medical procedure. This was the deal I made: if he expressed concern or even curiosity, I would tell him the truth. I would tell him it had something to do with him.
But he just said, “I hope they don’t have to keep you overnight,” which for some reason reminded him of the time he got a root canal from an unskilled dentist.
I must have been silent a beat too long when he finished his story.
“I thought that would make you feel better.”
Did this count as concern? I tried flipping through everything that had happened in the few months since we’d met. He went out of town a few times without telling me. No concern. But he always called when he got to the hotel and he brought me back nice things, like goat’s milk soap scented with flower blossoms. Concern.
“Oh,” I said. “Thank you.”
When the doctor cleaned me out with soap, I wondered if it was goat’s milk soap that smelled of honeysuckle. I was still thinking of honeysuckle when the procedure started, when the tube went in and began undoing everything he and I had done. A nurse brought me a bright blue sports drink and some saltines when it was over. She also brought my check-out instructions, which said I could return to normal activities within a couple of days. I was still gently leaking blood on a maxi pad. The Vicodin hadn’t worn off yet.
I chose not to remember. I know there was a taxi to take me home. I cannot describe the driver, the route he took, if I tipped or not. I do not know if he had to help me to the door or if I stumbled through it and to bed on my own.
I lay on my back, the ceiling spinny by now, and thought about lying on my back beneath him here, on this bed. If he called today, I wouldn’t answer. Maybe tomorrow.
Tomorrow was a new day and the ceiling was stock-still, staring at me as soon as I opened my eyes. I felt some cramping in my belly, not too severe, just the ghost of cramps. Just a ghost.
I went downstairs for some breakfast, which was a harder decision than I had realized. I wanted something tidy. Finally I picked up a red apple, slightly too soft for my liking, but it would do. As I bit into its soft pulp, I kept remembering what the point of fruit is: to keep the seeds inside.
And I didn’t cry but I didn’t not cry; I just removed the seeds one by one and placed them on a paper napkin. Then put on my boots and gloves, taking the seeded napkin outside like a treasure.
There was no way an apple tree would grow here. No way, in any season. Apple trees need full sunlight, spring planting. loamy soil. I knew all of this. I still went out there, seeds stuck to a paper napkin, and knelt under the oak tree. I had no trowel and so dug with my hands. I took off my gloves so I would get better traction, and my hands quickly reddened in the snow. I kept digging through icy layers until I reached the ground, which was equally cold to the touch. It was frozen and unyielding. I kept digging at it with my fingers, but nothing gave way.
I stayed on my knees under the oak tree with the apple seeds in my bare red palm.
As a child, I had once been allowed to choose a packet of seeds to plant in the flowerbed. I chose morning glories, the color of my favorite dress. The day I planted, I was restless. I would go inside and watch part of a scary movie. And then I would return, again and again, to the flower bed with my little watering can in hand. All day I watered the seeds and waited for them to bloom.