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Issue #9 |

Landscaping

Bode thought his house was decent. It was a slight, unpainted bungalow with walls that became damp and soft when it rained. And his compound, gated and unpaved, behaved like a stopped-up sink in the way it retained water. Blue tailed lizards scuttled in long limbed bursts across his premises, dark winged birds flew over in low, predatory swoops, and when he visited for the first time, before construction of his house began, a pig had been wandering around the trunk of closely packed banana plants. On a particularly bad night, when he had slipped, fully clothed into a puddle just by his well, he thought, seriously, that maybe he should not have moved to Ogudu. There was a swamp nearby, wide and deep enough that people who tried to swim across it drowned. Buildings in the neighborhood with poor foundations sunk, got swallowed up, and he worried, oddly, that one day he too might be inhumed along with everything else.

Yet, he wanted it, his own house, and this was what he could afford that made sense. Pallid cement plastering with shades fluctuating from cloud grey to mercury, single lapped aluminum roofing sheets that crinkled in the sun, wooden windows and doors, everything just as spare as he could live with. Real things happened incrementally, he thought. The inside was the same, similarly economic. A dark purple six-seater, a fine rug across the living room, dining room floor left as rendered concrete which gleamed when struck by light, a television set, wood shelves, wood tables and drawers, and thin curtains billowing at every persuasion. All this was kept from sinking by a reinforced concrete raft foundation. “Trust me,” his structural engineer had said to him again and again, “No sinking.”

 

An electric pole had fallen the night before, compelled by strong rainy winds. The lights in the neighborhood had gone out. By morning, there was traffic leading up to the estate gate. Cars inched slowly past the fallen pole. He whistled when he saw it, thinking of electricity travelling with the rain water, thinking of the danger, imagining hypothermic bodies being dragged off to the roadside by weary commuters. He had seen it before, electricity sizzling through a man. A thing to witness, really, all that bright light (and cooking flesh), all that sizzling. But he did not think too much of this, of burning bodies. His mind drifted, as he passed the pole, to the woman he left at home. Her, Kayinsola, young, agile, a little wicked, consumed him.

It was the night of an incredibly hot day when he first brought Kanyinsola to his home. He remembers it was hot because an older white woman had fainted on the street close to Bourdillon, her straw hat failing to protect her. People had gathered, himself too, and everyone, every passerby, sighed about how hot it was, how terribly hot. That night, when they arrived at his home, both of them, suffused with alcohol that could be wrung out of their bodies, yelled nonsense at his barking dog. He chained the dog to its shed so she could go in safely. She was obscene in her yelling. She threatened to cut out the dog’s throat, and he thought it was funny when she began barking at the dog as fiercely as it barked at her. He doubled over laughing. “You’ll wake up the neighbors,” he said to the dog, rubbing it from skull to saddle to rump. He kissed its muzzle, “Are you hungry again?” he asked. When he stood, his head smacked the roof of the dog shed. He laughed.

The sex was rough, incredibly rough. And he could not decide if he liked it, could not decide if he wanted total control or if he wanted to relinquish it, his will, his control. The dog continued barking into the night, it began a long low howl, once, twice, thrice, before the neighborhood dogs joined in. In the morning, they had sex again and this time it was tender. He considered it a gift, the tenderness, fully aware that it might be fleeting, that their encounter might not happen this way again. There was an ease born of rightness, an ease where all their limbs aligned just so.

 

She did not like the dog. He knew immediately by her cold stiffness when he introduced it to her, the way she stroked its fur with only the tip of her fingers, even the way she sat on the freezer while he made breakfast, her legs in a quarter lotus, underneath her and away from the dog. It pawed at her, and she recoiled. He chopped onions and tomatoes and peppers, broke eggs and asked her to whisk them. “You should know I don’t like dogs,” she said and he chuckled.

“Please take him outside. It’s a him, right?”

“It’s a him. Timber. I think he likes you.”

“Please take Timber outside,” she said, and he did.

He ran around the compound with the dog, avoiding the puddles, forgetting momentarily that he had eggs out on a frypan, engaging with Timber with a childlike singularity. Timber ran in between his legs, ran around him, its tail wagging violently. When he returned to the kitchen, breakfast was ready, and Kanyinsola had begun eating.
Before her, he had brought several other women to his house. Timber was almost always chained by his shed when the women were around, straining against his leash. When they were gone, he set Timber free, he allowed Timber to roam about, to do whatever it wanted. Whenever Kayinsola passed by, Timber growled, a low simmering growl, flashed its wet tongue.

“Stop that,” he said to the dog every time it happened. But Timber wouldn’t. It continued to growl at her.

 

They were jogging back to his house one day, himself and Kayinsola, and had slowed to a walk when she told him she had lost her job the day they met. “My company was downsizing and they let me go,” she said. She had packed her things and sat in her car and stayed in the office parking lot for a long time, “I worked hard, you know, and they just let me go. I was sure I was going to sneak into the building when everyone had left. I was going to go in and break things.” Somehow, she had ended up at a bar in Victoria Island, had met him, and followed him home. “It could have been anybody. I could have left with anybody,” she said, “All I wanted was a distraction.” She stayed longer at his house, for days at a time, while Timber remained chained to the shed by the well, free to move around only at night.

 

Kanyinsola began by removing weeds, uprooting short shoots in a circle, and then in a bigger circle, so that a considerable patch of bare land appeared. Then she stopped for days, thinking. “I drew up a plan,” she told him.

“What plan?” He asked, and she showed him a sketch of his compound, a plan view outlining a garden, a concrete walkway leading up to the house, two big trees on either side of the walkway. She was going to fix up his compound, she said.

“I’m going to construct a French drain. I’ll channel all the water from your compound into the street drain.” He nodded, though he did not know what a French drain was, had never heard of it. “Okay,” he said, barely understanding the plan she had given him.

“I’m going to need tools and funding,” she told him. He assumed she was joking.

The next day, Kanyinsola wrote him a list and gave it to him. He struck off ‘pickaxe’ from the list, “There are no rocks here,” he said, thinking of the soft soil, of the swamp nearby that inhumed things; buildings, brave but stupid animals, trifling humans, the earth even. Let only the lightest things, moss dense, rise to the top. She purchased every item she would need, from gravel to pipes. She began to dig a knee-deep trench on one side of the house, and got only as far as a meter. She saved the odd rock she encountered and showed it to him when he returned in the evening, told him how high the water level was. “Just below the surface. So close to it,” she said. It took her eight days to dig the trenches on both sides of the house. The day she finished digging, it rained. The uprooted earth slid back in, mixed with the rain water, slushy earth formed in the trenches. While they made dinner, while they ate, she refused to speak to him, she shrugged his hands off her shoulders.

In bed, he massaged her, noticing the hardening of soft muscle, rib-like tendons forming on her back and arms. Then, pacified, she told him about what she saw in her mind’s eye, what she thought his compound would look like when she was done: all the stagnant water gone, the compound filled instead with bright-veined crotons, purple cordylines, red and yellow acalyphas, tightly packed ixoras and dumbcanes, the concrete walkway surrounded by low, green grass, highlighted by a dark opalescent moon going over in a cloudless night sky, big trees with strong, muscular branches, stocky stems, and spindly leaves, yellow bush draped along the perimeter of the compound bursting forth as summoned. She said the thought of it made her feel peace. “Imagine how Adam and Eve felt in their garden,” she said.

 

The dog attacked her the next day, as she slowly moved gravel from one pile to another closer to the trench. She had been loading up a small wheelbarrow and traveling back and forth the small distance, bidding her time, waiting for the rainwater to dry up. She heard the dog’s growling as she passed it, heard it but failed to register it, the persistent sound washed away, drying up with the rest of everything else in that afternoon heat. With her back turned, she only caught a glimpse of the dog, only saw its trailing chain after it pounced on her, after she began to fall to the ground.

“It growled in my face,” she said to him when he returned late in the evening. She had pushed it off and ran for the house and it trailed her. “I’m not sure it wanted to hurt me. I don’t think so. It could have if it wanted to,” she said. There were scratch marks on her arms and legs. She remembered screaming, she must have, she said, her throat felt sore, her skin too. All her cuts, too many to count, throbbed, and a headache loomed round her forehead. “If I don’t lay down the headache is going to spread,” she said. He took her to the doctor that night, and she left his house the next day, the plan she had drawn up for his compound gone with her, while the gravel, the wheelbarrow and the shovel, the perforated pipes, the bags of sand, the rolls of wire mesh, and the trowel, all her tools, all of which he had paid for lay out in his compound under a translucent tarpaulin.

He took Timber for a run, giving the dog a chance to stretch its legs beyond the walls of his compound. They ran up the surrounding untarred road within the estate and then the tarred road outside of it, Timber’s leash firmly in his grip, wrapped around his palm several times. They had done this since Timber was a puppy. He gave Timber a bath when they returned, realizing that he had not bathed Timber in a long time. Timber’s furs drew up lather, and he rinsed it off gently, stroking the suds off one way with the soft tip of his fingers, a trick he had learned when Timber was still a puppy out of fear that he might hurt the dog, even though now Timber was a big dog capable of causing serious harm if it wanted.

Kanyinsola did not return to his house. She did not return until after her scars healed, which took weeks. Instead, he visited her at her shared flat on his way back from work. She cooked for him, and if she did not feel like it, he brought along food that they both shared.

“It’s too late. I don’t think you should return home,” she said one Friday night, and he stayed behind, even though he had no change of clothes. He used her toothbrush in the morning. In her bed, distracted, his fingers outlined the new scars on her forearm, the bumps in otherwise smooth skin. “I’m going to kill your dog,” she said. He lifted his head from her laps and turned to her with a look of mock incredulousness. He kissed her on her forehead. He kissed her on the cheek, something he had begun to do when he sensed she was upset. A kiss on the cheek. He thought of it as an abatement technique.

 

She told him about her prom night. How she had chosen this red dress for the night, a red dress with a high slit up her right thigh. “Not red red, but you know how blood has this dark undertone? That red,” she said, “I tried on many dresses, but once I wore that red one, I just knew it was the one. It made my skin glow. God.” Her heels were the highest she had ever worn, her jewelry the most expensive. “I looked in the mirror and I looked different, you know. I was ready. What for? I don’t know. But I was ready,” she said.

On prom day, she told him, she was so nervous she cut herself while shaving her legs in the bathroom. She laid out her clothes in the morning, her red dress, her underwear, a velvet shawl, her new silver necklace, and earrings chosen for their spine-like curve. And yet, as though failing to recognize that the day was an important one, her mother made her do chores. She had to cut and shred ugwu leaves for vegetable soup, had to hand wash bed sheets and pillowcases. By evening when it was almost time for her to leave, after she had brought in the laundry, the bedsheets smelling only faintly of perfumed detergent, her mother decided to send her on another errand, to buy egusi at the junction. She had told her mother no. She had done everything that was asked of her, while her brother played. She was the one with the big night, not him. But she went anyway, one last thing to do and she would be free for the night.

On her way to buy the egusi, the neighbors’ dogs barked as she walked by their gate but she paid no attention to them. They always barked at her. She knew that dogs could sense things that humans could not, and she wondered if they could sense her desire for their owner, Sijuade. Too tall for his age, blessed with brown eyes that neither of his parents had that made everyone wonder where and how he got them. “It is a silly thing,” she said, “to write someone’s name over and over on paper, but that boy occupied my entire mind. And he acted like he did not know that I had a thing for him, like he was off limits to me. Knowing he would always remain elusive because I was not brave enough to go after him, writing his name over and over was both prayer and catharsis.

“I really wonder if those dogs knew I liked him. They knew when his grandmother died. He said they did not stop howling the night she died and in the morning, they found his grandmother dead.” The dogs barked as she returned with the egusi her mother wanted. They could not reach out to strike her, so they barked.

It would have been a good night, she said. Her friend’s father had agreed to drive them. She waited by the window so she would see when he arrived. She saw his car down the street, said goodbye to her parents, walked out of the house, out into the street. She was almost at the car, had only to reach out and open the door, when one of Sijuade’s dogs started to run towards her. It knocked her down. At that moment, the dog was her world, the only thing she could see. She called out its name, she knew it by its color, only one leg a different shade from the rest of its body. She heard Sijuade calling after the dog, saw his long-limbed frame, his eyebrows converging in worry. Yet, the fang moved in quick, fastened onto her, did not let go. It should have been too much to bear, enough to cause her to faint. “But I did not faint until after.” She was present, she said, as it happened, she was present. She only fainted after being released, after it had set her free. Later, Sijuade would come to visit her. She was bedridden, and his smirk repulsed her, everything repulsed her. His room, she was sure, was much bigger than hers, his house too. His parents had money, they were not tenants as her family was. They could afford to repaint their house every year, had a gardener who trimmed their shrubs, a driver who drove him to school. “You screamed so loudly,” he had said. He cupped his mouth, silently screamed to show her just how loud. He touched the bite mark, grazing slowly so it did not hurt. He kissed her afterwards, first on her forehead, then her cheek, then on her lips. The rabies shot did not sting as much as she thought it would, the wound cleaning did, but what stung gravest, she said, was Sijuade’s kiss. How dare he?

 

Her return to his house was like a homecoming. It did not make sense for him to get rid of his dog for her, she could not ask it of him. And it did not make sense for her not to go to his house because of a thing, a dog. Not with the way he felt about her, and not with the way she felt about him. Not when their bodies made magic together.

One night she woke up suddenly and cried into his neck. And he, mildly surprised—he had never seen her blubber, never imagined, or expected her to—held her. He had been awake, he knew it was the thunder that woke her, that aligned with a point in her dream that was terrifying, the way these things happen. “It was just the thunder,” he said. What her dream was about, he did not know, he did not ask either; he was scared to. He held her for a long time. Then he pulled her not so slight body even closer, inadvertently dragging the bedsheet along with her, and kissed her all over her body. It could have been quick, or it could have been a few hours. Time always slipped away when he was with her. He tapped into a well of energy he did not know he had, felt, often, the need to whisper her name too. A soft whisper, as though he were confessing something that was too much for him to bear alone. She warned him: “If you tell me you love me during sex, you can’t take it back,” she said, a joke. There was also, now, the desire to taste. A need that had never been so strong or compulsive or insistent. To taste whatever she offered him as though he was hungry. He tried to exhaust every possibility, every crook or midpoint, every line and slab. Gathered her flesh where it mattered, sucked, licked. Came. He separated his body from her and caught his breath. He was crazy. He wondered if she felt it too, this magic. If she did not, why did she lean so closely into him whenever she could, why did she hold his hand in the middle of the night when she thought he was sleeping? Her lips still shone, there was sweat on her forehead, her neck, and that soft glow of moisture on her skin led him up a thin line of frustration. For here was hunger not capable of being quenched, desire resistant to pulverization, an insatiability painful to bear. He was hungry for her. Happily so. Just ravenous.

She would make an effort, she said. An effort to be comfortable around Timber. She wouldn’t wear her disdain openly. He thought about how, as a child learning to swim, he had been left alone in a pool, his torso surrounded by a floater. His ears filled with water, his eyes too. When he said he wanted to be taken out of the water, no one moved, no one answered him, his uncles and cousins watched him. They wanted him to be comfortable in the water, they said, so they left him in there. He could not tell how loudly he shouted because of the water in his ears, he could not tell if anyone heard him because they all remained unmoving. He could not tell either if what was dripping down his face was water or if he was crying. As he called Timber forward into the living room, Kanyinsola held onto him tightly. He remembered the water suddenly, the blue tiles of the swimming pool, the heaviness in his eyes and ears, but as she stroked Timber, it barked in appreciation, he forgot.

 

“Your dog wouldn’t leave me,” she said to him when he returned from work. She had just showered. “He stayed with me when I was digging outside, and then followed me into the bathroom when I wanted to shower. He just sat there and watched me.”

“I told you not to worry about the compound. It gets done when it gets done. I can’t have you doing all that work. For free,” he said. But she did it anyway. She resumed her digging as soon as she returned. It was as though she had not left at all. On Saturday mornings, after breakfast, instead of walking Timber, they worked in his compound. They graded the trench, so it sloped downward from the back of his house towards the front. They laid the French drain, tested the slope till water flowed easily from one end to the other, covered it with granite, tamped the surface till it was flat.

They got the plants together, at a garden in Anthony. They were shown around by the horticulturist and he had no idea flowers were so expensive. He thought that since they were supplied by the earth, found on its surface, they should not belong to anybody, should be cheap, like water or salt. When he said so, the horticulturist was not amused. Bode let her pick the plants she wanted. She picked out crotons and slender stemmed hibiscuses, ixoras and bleached out dumbcanes. The spots of white on the gleaming green dumbcane leaves reminded him of spring water.

They planted them together, following the plan she had drawn up. He thought it amusing, how she had taken charge of this, his own space, thought it interesting, when as she sat and rested, Timber ran up to her, pushed her back to the ground, and lay on her chest, stayed there, as though counting her breath, waiting for its own to align with hers, as though the steady beating of her heart was its peace. She screamed, but she let Timber stay until it got off her. As they worked, as she responded to his questions, he began to see what was in her mind’s eye, her plan began to make sense to him. A garden, a tree that would grow on for decades, that would house birds and lizards. A mango tree that would harbor ants and drooping fruit. What he saw was this: a pleasant rusticity, a stillness and sure footedness, a place that felt right, a home, with flowers and light, every darkness driven away.

Now, with the groundwork done, the French drain laid and covered, she let the dog lie by her side on the earth, let it lay on her chest, let it lick the inside of her palms, trail her as she walked around the compound.

 

Saturday morning, weeks later, an unending breeze, the roof crinkling in atrocious heat, sounding as though slowly squeezed by God, the compound dry, lizards scuttling, or slowly slinking along, to catch colorful insects at the roots of newly planted flowering plants. He walked round the compound and pulled at random leaves. He watered the plants every morning before leaving for work, did it as he brushed his teeth. Sometimes, the moon was still out when he watered, and he thought that Kayinsola did a good job.

He set a chair in front of his house and sat. He was taken now with compound watching. Now that Kanyinsola’s work was complete, in stellar bloom. He was thankful for the days of little beginnings. He found it wondrous that her slow, painstaking work yielded this unending payoff. More lizards scuttled past, leaves fluttered, a bird sang, an echoey tune he had memorized without knowing.

“Timber, walk. Let’s go for a walk,” he called to the dog. The dog did not come. It winced instead. He called again. Timber was slow, teetering and slack-jawed. “What’s wrong?” he asked, knowing as though it was his own body that something was wrong. He was not sure what. He thought maybe it was the heat. “Should we put an air conditioner in your shed?” he said to Timber, taking it inside.

“Something’s wrong with Timber,” he told Kanyinsola, remembering that Timber did not run to him when he returned from work the night before. All efforts to train Timber otherwise had failed. Timber always came to him if it could. It was something of a joy. He had never taken care of an animal before Timber. He knew nothing besides that they needed to be fed, and even then, was at a loss for what to feed it the first few days. But he was in need of a companion and was willing to learn and try. He fed it milk the first night, as instructed. The vendor who sold him the dog in the middle of Lagos Island traffic had listed out things in a hurry. “Milk, give it milk,” and more, but all he remembered was milk. He folded a blanket by his night stand and laid the puppy on it, close enough to hear the dog breathe, far enough to avoid stepping on the puppy in the middle of the night. “I’m going to call you Timber,” he said, climbing into bed and drawing his blanket up. He stared at the puppy till he slept off. He forgot about it in the morning, forgot what he had done, which was to buy a puppy from a stranger in the middle of traffic. He did not remember immediately, and when he did, he called its name once, Timber, and Timber came to him, expectant, as if to say “What do you want from me, human? What would you have me do, where would you have me be?”

“Did a snake bite you?” he asked Timber, as though it could understand him. He put his hands behind its ears, let his hands trail Timber’s limbs, its entire body, looking for what was wrong. He found nothing, but kept staring at Timber.

“We don’t have to walk today. We’ll go to the vet tomorrow,” he said to Timber, then turned to Kanyinsola, “Did you notice anything funny?”

“No.”

The dog seemed fine the next day, ate well, barked, ran for a bit. In the evening, it slipped while walking, slipped and lay there. Its mouth hung open, tongue out, saliva pooled at the edges of its jaw.

“Did you feed it anything new?” he asked her. It was a Sunday. Neither of them went out. They did laundry in the morning, ate breakfast and spread out on the sofa together.

“I didn’t.”

He stared at the dog for a long time, did not know when the words left his mouth, “Why are you trying to kill my dog?”

He had no proof, nothing that could hold. Nothing in the way of logic, only in feeling, and this was what made it potent, the fullness of this feeling, tethered to nothing. It made it whole. She rose up in a fit of rage, said she couldn’t believe he would say that to her. “How dare you?” she said.

 

Later, he would think about it: how Timber died, wincing and wincing with great solemnity even after its stomach was pumped for good measure, moving away from even the lightest of consolations, up all night, the veterinarian unsure of what was wrong with Timber. The night they had finished with the compound and they had washed all the tools, all the shovels and trowels, and even the wheelbarrow, scratching out concrete from its edges and underbelly, they had bathed the dog together. He had poured insecticide fluid in the dog’s bath water, to kill off ticks and any other insects that may have been lurking, given how Timber had been rolling around the dirt with them, digging, chasing lizards, watching. The insecticide fluid held in the bath water, reluctant to swirl till he mixed it into a milky consistency. He poured the mixture over Timber till the bucket was empty, then toweled Timber. That was when she asked him, “What’s that?”

“Amitraz. It kills the fleas on its body,” he said. “I just need a capful. Too much is bad for Timber. Imagine if he drinks it.”

This was what he held onto: he had told her how to kill his dog.

“You are tender with him.” she said that day as he toweled Timber, just before Timber ran away. “It’s attractive.”

He had sat heavily on the bathroom floor with a big sigh, a big smile, exhausted, had said, “Is it now?”

He asked her to leave his house. He pulled up what they had planted together, held the plants from their base and tugged hard, stopped when he tore through his fingers pulling sleek weed. He dug a hole in the ground, but could not find it in him to retrieve Timber, he let the veterinarian take care of it. She denied it again and again. Asked him how he could think that. And he had nothing to say.

It was a few years later before she brought it up. She had fixed his compound again, planted a tangerine tree in the hole he had dug open, and when it began to produce little unripe fruits, she took pictures and sent them to him while he was at work. The first real fruit came months later, and by then they had gotten married. She told him how she had done it, how she had poured insecticide in its drinking water day after day. Why, she did not know, but she had done it.

In the weeks after Timber passed, she had gotten contractors and laborers, and started a small landscaping business. She was good at it, and soon became successful. She had found something she loved, to hold onto.

 

“Why?” he asked again, several months later. The thing so strange, so sinister. “Why did you do it?” She was pregnant then, and tired. He knew she was tired because of the way she spread her legs, her shirt, his shirt which she had colonized, unbuttoned all the way down. There was no power. She was hot, tired and hot, irritated even. She did not know, she said.

They moved from Ogudu, leaving Lagos for Abuja where he was transferred to for work. She planned the landscape of the compound they moved into. They had more money, they could splurge. She introduced a fountain, supervising her laborers as they worked. She had them break and redo the stones at the base of the fountain until the stones aligned the way she wanted. She planted Jacarandas out in the backyard, a line of lilies, then a row of tulips, and dumb canes, always dumb canes for how pure they looked, as though they could heal wounds. Then ixoras and crotons. Hibiscuses came later, and so did cacti, and some aloe vera. They had no maids; she wanted the house all to herself, wanted a space to own without intrusion. She wouldn’t have married him if she could not have that. She told him that herself.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. Leave me alone. We can get another dog if you want.”

The night just before their first child was born, she woke him up from his sleep. “I’m sorry,” she said. He did not know what she meant. “About Timber. Sorry, Bode.”

It was the middle of the night. “Is that why you woke me?” he asked.

“No,” she said, “I think our baby is coming. I’m going into labor.” He sprang up from the bed. Sprang up. He was surprised by his leap, the immediate fear he felt, by all the adrenaline that rushed in and took over. He wanted to lift her and carry her into the vehicle, as though he could, as though his back would not snap from all her new weight. She swiped his hands away, pointing at the things they had to take along with them: pre packed bags, car keys, their phones. He did everything as she asked him, moved with her slowly till they got into the vehicle and drove off.

He loved her, he knew. And yet, that thing hung over them. Where to put it, he did not know. She had killed something he cared about. What did that say about her? What did it say about him for going back to her, for letting it go?

Years later, she would say that she had been spiraling, that life was taking a toll and she was in its throes. That it was for definiteness, for the feel of something momentous. She did not mean to kill Timber, only to maim it. She wanted only to orchestrate a real crisis, to have that power, to see what it was like to hurt a beloved. He did not know if she meant Timber or if she meant him.

The compound in Abuja, he thought, buzzed with even more graceful energy. At night, the fountain she had insisted upon reflected the moon and the stars, water bobbed gently over the big bowl and curved smoothly into the reservoir beneath it. She had asked him once before to imagine how Adam and Eve felt in their garden, and by God, she was right. Here, he was Adam.

She had installed benches, tiny bird baths, low garden lights, a rubber swing, and at night when he could not sleep, he would go to sit out there on the bench. Their fence was high enough, no one could see him in his nightwear, boxer shorts, a singlet, a pink robe with cartoon drawings, his feet bare over the coolness of the trimmed lawn. All the creatures; the birds, the lizards, the ants, all the leaves leaning into what they needed the most, taking what served them. Be it light, water, pollen. There was glory in the garden she had built. There was peace. There was a lesson here. He thought, if he was Adam, he did not know she was. He could not tell if she was Eve or God or serpent. There was a lesson here, and though he did not completely understand it, when he rose to head up towards his house to meet her and their baby that still slept in a cot next to them, that he had now been made aware of his unknowing.

 

Photo courtesy of Aslam Karachiwala; view more of their work on Flickr

Oluwabmabi Ige is a writer from Lagos, Nigeria. He is a MFA candidate at Rutgers University, and a winner of the Winter Tangerine Award for Prose.

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