thistle and sassafras

"Tell me about your garden," he said, looking at her expectantly. "Tell me what you've grown."

She felt her cheeks flush hot with shame. "I don't have one," she admitted. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of dark seeds. She unfolded her palm to show him. "I only have these." 

He frowned at her open hand. "Why haven't you planted them?" he asked her.

She didn't know what to say. She knew she didn't have a good answer. "I've tried to," she said, feeling smaller and smaller. "But the ground is hard, and I don't have shovel." She lifted her head and looked squarely at him. "I don't have a shovel," she repeated, feeling naked, stupid, and cold.

"Why don't you use your hands?" he asked her. She glanced down at them. They suddenly felt clumsy and useless. "I suppose I should," she mumbled. She realized he wasn't listening. He wasn't even looking at her anymore.

She felt her chest tighten in the way it did when she was asked to account for herself. Then she remembered that she did grow things, in a way - though not in a garden. Things that provided joy if not sustenance. Dandelions and wild strawberries, thistle and sassafras. They sprang up in her yard, more plentiful and bright each year. Sometimes she gathered them up and gave them as gifts. 

The things she grew didn't feed the people she loved. But they seemed to bring happiness nonetheless.

She cleared her throat, and said quietly: "I grow other things."  

"What's that?" he replied absently, still facing the other direction. 

"Other things," she said again, louder. "I grow other things. I can show you, if you'd like..." 

But his attention was elsewhere; he was gazing at something far off in the distance. She peered at the horizon, trying to discern what it was he saw. But she could make out nothing.

And she didn't know if he could see things she couldn't - or if it was the other way around.