This city is not a place where fairies live. Not anymore. This place is hundreds of busy streets and a thousand conversations and millions of curious thoughts. It is cement and bricks and wooden frames, paint and awnings and patio umbrellas. This city is not a place for flowers.
It used to be.
My father told me about when he was a kid, how he would visit this city with his family. He told me about how the widow boxes overflowed with blooming vines, how there were bright fruit trees that lined the streets, how petals were caught by the wind and never landed.
He told me about how pollen built up until it was difficult to breathe, and how the bees swarmed up and down the avenues.
It is a strange thing to imagine now, but sometimes I see an old window box bent and empty and clinging, and I can almost see it. I have to be careful of how hard I try to picture it, however, or things will start growing and I will get caught.
Father said it was beautiful. He said it was a shame it couldn’t last. He’d shake his head and tell me ‘what is beauty for some can be death for others,’
He would say, ‘if you can, think of both when you create.’
I think of the bees and how very hard they search for flowers. I think of how the sunlight tries to brighten every street. I think of the way some eyes itch and heads ache and throats swell when pollen is thick in the air. I think of children weaving daisy chains and wishing on dandelion fluff. I think of weeding and blisters and angry stings and how magical it would be to live where there were always petals floating in the air.
Down the sidewalk, there’s a little boy standing by his mother, who is caught up in conversation. He’s looking at me, out of passive curiosity, out of boredom.
This city is not where fairies live. But who said they didn’t visit?
I catch his eye and tilt my head towards the ground, to where a building corner meets the ground. My hand sweeps out in a small gesture, and bright yellow crocuses break through the surface in a cluster, their flowers opening to give the air a brief scent of spring.
This city is not a place for flowers.
But it remembers how it loved them.
The boy’s eyes are wide, and he’s tugging at his mother’s sleeve. I toss a wink over my shoulder as I walk away. There is wild and there is caution, and between the two reside small moments of wonder. Yellow is the color of that boy’s moment. Perhaps yellow will be the color of magic for him.
This city is different, but that does not mean it is for the worse. There is a soft cherishing of wild things that floats in the air like dandelion fluff. There is a sense of mystery left in the minds of people who caught the glimmer in my eye. There is a pulsing wonder in the heartbeat of the streets.
This is all hands on deck, unfurl every sail. There’s a storm approaching and we’ve got to out run it. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
You asked me how I’ve been and I told you I spent yesterday crying on the floor. We’re not sure what went wrong, those words weren’t in cue. I was supposed to say I was fine. Now you’re blinking from the whiplash and asking me what happened.
Apologies for the blank stare and silent tongue, there’s panic in the mind and fires have erupted everywhere. Please be patient, we are scrambling for a response, but it’s hard to form one with the alarms blaring at me to say I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine. There’s been a malfunction.
I can see the furrow of your brow, the words forming in your mouth. I want to say ‘I appreciate it, but you really don’t have too’. Honestly, I’d rather talk about my weird dream last night, or your weekend plans, or anything else but this.
Because I am fine now. Or I’m better, at least.
I will be fine soon, really, I don’t know why I brought that up. Please help, we don’t know how to backpedal our way out. We’re opening every door we can find, scouring for something to say.
We’ve got a problem.
Something has been unlocked in the process, we’re experiencing a backdraft. There’s a suffocated memory suddenly exposed and it’s flaring up. This is a code red. I repeat, we have a code red. Someone, anyone, put out the flames before they consume me.
We’re dousing everything in water. So sorry for the delay, we can hear your questions. Please give us two to three business days to get back to you. Every hose is on full blast, flooding the place. Flooding me.
Please excuse this burst of tears, they aren’t what they look like.
Smoke is filling every crevice, thick and toxic from the memories it comes from. It’s staining the walls gray and black. We’re flooding them too, my tears are contaminated with smoke, flushing it out. It’s getting on your shirt.
When did I start crying into your shirt?
I can’t say I’m fine, you won’t believe me. We’re struggling to shut the doors we’ve opened in hopes of containing the problem. No one has a script anymore, we’re flying by the seat of our pants. There’s so much water and it’s too murky to find anything in it.
I’m sorry, I tell you, I don’t know what’s wrong.
But that’s not true.
I’m not clueless to this train wreck of a conversation. I watched it unfold in slow motion. What’s wrong is I wasn’t ready to talk about yesterday’s breakdown. What’s wrong is that I panicked, and I flung myself into memories without caution.
What’s wrong is that I have always shut these doors as soon as I could and let the pressure behind them build.
I’m fine, really, today has been fine. What you’re witnessing is from the past when I wasn’t. This is just a result of poor cataloguing. This is just my mind still in a wreck from a previous hurricane.
We’ve got a problem.
I haven’t been caring for old wounds. I haven’t had the energy to open those doors. They were closed to keep memories from overwhelming me, but they can’t stay this way. This isn’t sustainable. This isn’t inconsequential. This isn’t fine. I can’t do this alone.