@ 2014 Mary Anderson Parks
I am becoming a wild thing. I am moving out of the garden and farther afield. I roam for miles, reclaiming myself, burying my nose in flowers and saying yes, yes to everything! To the gardener I have not said yes. I have in fact said no. It was not a very clear “no” perhaps, and that haunts me. We may have to go through the conversation again. But that is all it will be, a conversation. It turns out he is quite literary. How ironic. I thought him all brawn. My strong, brown, white-toothed man. But he has a brain, and a talent for seduction that smacks of the intellectual. He is someone I enjoy comparing ideas with, exploring them to their furthest edges. We have had several such conversations, he leaning his weight on his hoe, I shifting mine from ball to heel and back like a dancer. And we dance around the truth. Even as we search for it, we do a fancy back step away from it. I am growing tired of the parrying, the sparring. He wants to conquer me, to add me to a string of fallen women that have become his. I do not want to be one of them.
It is quite a wonderful thing to have discovered that I want to belong to myself, and be loyal to that man into whose arms I fell off the vine so long ago. That has not been an easy fall and it is worth everything to me to stay in the embrace of the one who kept close to me through all this time. I do not even try to tell the gardener these things. I am afraid he will find a way to take them away if I let him see how dear they are to me, how I would crumble if I did not have the love of my husband, who lets me be as crazy as can be. The gardener would not stand for it long. He would not even be with me long, not in a loving way. No. All I told him is that I am content as I am, roaming the hills and dales of this town, or staying quiet and wild, unseen in my home. He tried to tell me I am building a fence around myself. Ha, ha, I said, what about your garden? It has a fence around it, doesn’t it? He showed his bitter side then. “It is your garden,” he said. “I work and bend my back till I ache and sweat, and it is all for you and him to look out your windows at pretty blossoms.” He says all this with that accent he has, quite charming.
No, I will not go into the shed with him. That is where all this is leading. I fear he will trick me, though.
Or that in revenge he will claim I have already been unfaithful with him. What words those are, to change a life in a minute.
I want to get home now. I walk and walk up this hill and I want to be home, lying soft on my bed. Bathed, clean, safe. I am not the kind of risk taker I once was. I don’t take the same kind of risks. I want to take new ones. The gardener would have me think there is only one kind of adventure that counts. I would have expected more of him, spending his days in the garden. Doesn’t he know he is living an adventure? And then he goes to that place he rents and reads his books of romance and mystery, lights candles, starts a fire blazing. Does he not know that is all the mystery he needs? It is adventure to be alone, forging one’s own trail into eternity. How high-flown I am!
The act of love between us would be the act of a moment, no matter how I might try afterward to make it seem grand. I don’t need another man, or another lover. If this disappoints the gardener, he can just wonder why.
Why does he want my scalp tied into the bundle he already has? I am the wild thing you see half hidden behind a tree. I am no longer the woman seeking to draw the bee to her with her perfumed petals. I can be that woman when the time is right, but now I am in search of bigger game.
My soul is a tiger slinking sinuous through the jungle, senses sharp, feeling her muscles ripple under her skin, feeling at home in her skin, thinking her tiger thoughts. She climbs a tree and waits there, looking down at life. The right moment will come and she will leap into action. Or maybe she will settle her warm body into the curve of the limb and take a nap. The panther sees her and skulks away to hide in the trees, knowing itself not as strong and wondrous as the tiger.
You wonder where this wisdom came from, don’t you? It is too sudden. That is because there are things I keep from you.
I feel an ache between my legs, dull and heavy, pulling me down when I want to be lifted, borne away on a cloud. That’s what I would like, to be lying naked on a cloud and to have clear eyes and flowing light hair and perfect skin, not a blemish anywhere. When I wipe the surface of the table in the garden it comes clean, white almost as new, hardly a difference. But my hands, wielding the sponge, have brown spots. I yearn to have that man I ran off with so long ago see me as beautiful, or even just to see me, to look at me with tender eyes and not be thinking about his work. My own eyes fill with tears from longing to have him, to have him hang on my words. I want him to treasure my words, not criticize them. I want it to be like it was when we first met and he waited for me after class and we went to the soda fountain and sucked root beer milkshakes through straws.