Dr. Joseph Chang had spent the morning working in the garden. He had dug up the flower beds, turned the soil and pulled the weeds and clumps of grass that had encroached on the green wooden boxes surrounding his townhouse and then dumped bag after bag of magical plant fertilizer in little heaps. But somehow his heart wasn’t in the work.
He sat down on the cement step, a mournful look on his face. Planting flowers had always been Petra’s favourite activity in Spring – she would start turning over the soil, and then feign an injury or extreme fatigue, then with a wide grin and sparkling eyes ask him if he could rescue her. So he would find himself, hoe and trowel in hand, sweating as she watched and planned how the beds should look in the colourful geometries of her imagination. Then she would run in the house and pop out a few minutes later, refreshed and exuberant, and drive off to the market in their old, silver Mercedes-Benz station wagon.
Always, Joseph would watch her hop in the car and wave frantically to him, as she drove off to on an expedition to scout flowers and shrubs at the local nursery, just down the hill on Wilson St. Then he would return to his digging and weeding and sweating, happy in the thought that she would come home full of excitement and that they would go together after Church on Sunday to actually make the purchases. Again, he would follow her as she charmed salespeople, flit across aisles to snag the freshest looking alyssums while other lumbered toward them and help people reach pots that were a little too high for them. He was always the quiet one, watching and helping her out. At the end of the day, when she was exhausted from running and chatting and laughing, they would make dinner together quietly, and then sip a glass of wine on the couch. Sometimes she would crumple into his arms after the warmth of the wine would calm her and he would rub her back and hum songs that she liked.
A tear welled up in Joseph’s eye as he remembered those days. They were gone, and wouldn’t come back. Gardening wasn’t the same without Petra. It just wasn’t the same. It felt dead and hopeless.
He put the tools back in the garage and went into the house. He made himself a cup of tea and sat, with the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal and tried to read and opinion piece about the neurological effects of Internet use. He didn’t last long, though, and just sat with his plain lavender tea in his favourite yellow cup, with the plaid pattern on it and stared out the window at his cedar deack, with black metal railings. He was lost in the lush gardens of thought and memory.
He tried to think about which patients he would see on Monday and reflected on how best to chat with each of them. He ran a small family practice and knew all his patients and their families by name. He looked forward to seeing them on Monday. The families with children cheered him up and he liked the grumbling old men who came in and pretended that there was nothing wrong with them, ever. But he couldn’t concentrate – questions swirled in his mind.
What had he done wrong? Why had she left?
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