Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dirty Laundry In Cézanne’s Country #1: The Garden

Laetitia kicked open the screen door and
stepped out into the garden. The screen door
slapped closed against the house. Laetitia leaned
back against the door. The laundry basket
in her arms was heavy with seven days
of clothing in it, hers and also Matt’s.
Laetitia caught her breath, bracing herself
to carry the laundry to the garage.

Her Paris friends, she thought, wouldn’t believe
she’d ever fit seven days of her clothes
in one basket, let alone her boyfriend’s.
Then she caught herself. Was Matt her boyfriend?

I’m living with him. Doing his laundry.
Lugging it like a wench through his garden.
Isn’t that what girls do for their boyfriends?
And look at this garden I put up with . . .

When Matt first purchased and renovated
the dilapidated cottage, Letty
asked a landscape designer from Paris
to look at photos and sketch a garden.
She’d shown Matt the beautiful layouts but
Matt ignored the plans for daffodil beds,
round tulip islands and iris borders.
Instead he removed all the plants and laid
decorative stonework over the bare earth
accenting the sycamore tree borders
and showcasing the ancient olive trees
and two pistachio trees on the grounds.
Then, salvaging plain, terra cotta pots,
Matt laid out almost two dozen zinnias
and marigolds along the garden paths.

Zinnias, Letty thought. She sighed. Marigolds.
American plants. Run-of-the-mill plants.

Of course, they did look pretty set against
the muted, reddish soil. Especially
the zinnias. Matt staggered their planting times
so some were always blooming all summer.

When a drawing Matt did of her appeared
in fashion magazines around the world,
her light skin against the dark ground, red hair
glistening with multi-colored zinnias
shimmering behind her, Letty received
more compliments for that drawing than from
the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue
she appeared in that month. She sigh again.

She wanted to miss what-could-have-been, with
daffodils and tulips and irises
but the simple flowers, American flowers,
set against bare earth and fancy stonework
had a kind of strange, magical beauty.
She didn’t miss what-could-have-been, rather
the garden simply made her think of Matt
and then every stone, tree, flower seemed perfect.

It kind of made her angry, too, that she
couldn’t miss what she wanted to miss and
couldn’t get angry that Matt hadn’t used
the fancy sketch her designer friend made.

She always thought one of the main reasons
you even have a boyfriend is because
you could be mad at him for everything.
But with Matt nothing ever made her mad.

She frowned, but it seemed so stupid trying
to get mad because she couldn’t get mad
that she decided she’d better just go
do the laundry before she went insane.

Letty took a deep breath with the laundry
in her arms. She walked into the garden.

(Tomorrow: Dirty Laundry In Cézanne’s Country #2: The Woman In The Garden)

No comments: