Zoraya joined the community garden because she had a fantasy about roses and sunflowers and draped fronds of bleeding hearts. She imagined filling the small apartment with flowers.
And that was what she had for the first couple of years. Flowers and flowers and flowers. Eulogio had been surprised by her gift with the garden.
” I never knew you were some kind of earth mother,” he said, watching her arrange a vase of lilies.
“You met me here,” she said. “After I left my mother’s house, after I left behind everything green.”
“You miss it.”
“My life is here now.” She smiled and walked over to him and into his embrace. “And now I have the garden.”
But then she lost her job and could only find temp work. And then Eulogio lost his job. And found nothing. For months.
So Zoraya sold everything. The rose bushes to Magda, whose plot was next over, and all remaining perennials to a man from a garden several blocks away — azaleas, hydrangeas, lilies. She dug the roots out carefully, with as much soil as she could spare, thinking that might stave off the shock of the upheaval. The annuals she let come to bloom then cut and brought them home.
In their places, she grew squash, collards, kale, corn, eggplant, onions, garlic, chicory. As many things as she could fit, as many as she understood how to prepare, determined to grow as much of their food as she could.
Eulogio laughed at her. “So you’re a farmer now?”
“A gardener, just as before. But now we eat what I plant.”
“We can’t live off that community garden.”
“No, but it can help.” She tried to set aside his comments, knew it was his bitterness that made him ride her.
“And when the weather changes?”
“Mrs. Connolly, upstairs? She taught me how to put them up. I have jars and jars of vegetables and sauces for winter. I think we’ll be okay.”
And she did think that. But she also worried. Her ability to help them get by, the success of her vegetables and her canning, these were things they needed, but were also triggers. She had seen it with her parents, the success of her mother’s stall at the market had angered her father, pushed them apart. Would the same thing happen with Eulogio? Would he walk away from her, saying she didn’t need him to care for her as her father had walked away from her mother? Or, like his own father, would his frustration and anger come through his fists?