I remember when she asked me, “What do the roses mean?” See. I’d painted two roses, long stems, left on the floor, where they’d been dropped, with no water, and no care, to die. Zara knew me well enough to know I can’t talk, but I can paint. I can’t tell you what I feel. But I can show you.
She knew me well enough to know I couldn’t answer. But she asked anyway. “Is this us? Your parents? Someone we know? Who is this?”
I wanted to explain, honestly, I did. I wanted to explain what I saw. Where the painting came from. The roses. But I knew from decades of trying I’d only fail. She wouldn’t understand what I was saying. Couldn’t understand. Her frame of reference was too social. Too much like everyone else.
“I painted roses,” was all I could say.
“I see that. They’re beautiful, you know. Like everything you paint.” I felt her fingertips touch my cheek, oh so lightly, and then slowly track down to my jaw. “And like everything you paint. I know it means something. It says something.”
“I painted roses,” what else was there to say? The roses were alone. Without water. Without care. On the cold, heartless ground. Already you knew they were dying, and would soon begin to wither away, slowly turning to dust, blown to nothing by the breeze.
It wouldn’t be long before it came true. Zara was almost gone already, sometimes I didn’t see her, or hear from her, for days. Soon, that would become weeks. Then months. Until it became nothing. Until she was gone.
It was what she wanted. To have a life. To find someone to love. To care for. Who cared for her in turn. Someone she could talk with, and who would talk with her. Someone who spoke her language. Who touched her heart, her soul.
Not someone who was a puzzle. An enigma. A jigsaw puzzle made of shards of tempered glass. Shattered when forced to fit into a predefined mold that said who he could be, and how he could be.
I knew, with me, she would always have to guess what I felt, thought, dreamed, wished. I was that enigma, that puzzle.
“I painted roses.”
She shook her head, “I know. And they are beautiful.”
My mind raced from topic to topic, through the dictionary in my head, through the words I knew, desperately searching for words I could say that she would understand. My hands shook. My jaw clenched. I forgot to breathe for a few moments. I wanted to scream at myself. Tear my painting to ribbons, throw the remains in a fire, turn them to ashes. I wanted to be able to tell her I knew. And it was OK. And it would always be OK. That all I’d ever wanted from her was a bit of time, a soul who visited me, and let me know I was still alive. Still real. That I’d known she’d leave. I’d always known. But it didn’t matter, so long as she was happy. So long as the light I saw in her kept shining.
“Roses die when picked.”
I don’t know why I said that. I knew she wouldn’t understand. Couldn’t understand.
I broke my favorite paintbrush. Because I couldn’t explain. I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t find any words.
“Roses die when picked.”
She took my hands in hers, and held them for a time, until she believed they wouldn’t break another brush. Until she believed I was OK. “It’s OK. You don’t have to explain to me.”
I committed the feel of her hands, holding mine, to my memory, forever. I never wanted to forget how it felt, that simple touch, holding hands with her. That way, I knew I’d always have a reason to smile. I could always remember her hands, holding mine, and I knew I’d smile when I did.
Even after she was gone.
I wish people understood souls. And hearts. Then, perhaps, I could talk with them. Tell them it is OK to feel. That it’s who we are.
“It will be OK.” That’s all I could find. The only words I could say. “It will be OK.”
It’s week 101 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.