I looked out the window of a Greyhound that was taking me somewhere up North. Trifling trees, probably freshly planted, stood hunched over black soil that contrasted the grass. After staring for long enough, the speed created an effect on the countryside and everything began looking like it was sown using wool. Little branches seemed full of lint, a blood orange sun’s sweetness seeped through them gently, kissing my irises until they no longer seemed brown. I closed my eyes but I was still in the atmosphere’s peels, seeing oranges, and reds, and yellows- and I smelled my aunt’s farm for a split second, and felt the tangerine’s misted cries burn my eyes, as they seduced the scent I inhaled. The bus halted, I nudged forward, and we were at the stop.
I ruffled for my bright lime bag, and shuffled out of the bus. My eyes glazed unfamiliar expressions, and picked at every face until they found one almost identical to mine. He stood muted, he wore the sky in his eyes, which were particularly bright that evening. We said hello briefly, and mentioned the weather, family, and some things about money. His eyebrows huddled over one another as he drove us to his house, his face expression puzzled for no good reason. In that moment I remembered what my mother said to me whenever I came back from camp: “a penny for your thoughts”. I would’ve given much more.
“We’re here.” He motioned towards a brick house with a red door and some rusty outside furniture that was red; both from oxidation, and paint I assumed once matched the door.
“Hey the place looks nice, I can help you clean up the paint if you want it can be like old times” I looked at him with a smile, and watched his hand already on the door as if to open in.
“I like it this way.”
“Yeah, of course, I love it too” He gave me a face, and I knew why. Every time I saw him I wanted to help him clean up his life, but he only likes walking with his feet in the mess he’s made over the years. He got out of the car.
My brother didn’t bother helping me with my luggage, he went inside, upset again, leaving the front door an inch open. I raised my eyebrows and inhaled, he was fine ten minutes ago, he was fine over the phone, he was fine, he was fine, he was fine until he wasn’t. I took in another breath and reminded myself that I couldn’t blame me every time he was having a fit. Yet, I could, and I did so effortlessly because it was partially my fault for reminding him of the past that he worked so hard to let go of. I swallowed my guilt unpleasantly, like I would the seeds of a tangerine, and went indoors.
I stood facing a wall of crooked boxes with sodden edges, all filled with little pieces of my brother he hadn’t managed to put together. I wanted to tell him something- that he should at least put them in the attic, but today he wasn’t him.
“Hey, Eric?” I waited. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi… “Eric?” I sighed heavy with the question of how I was supposed to spend the weekend with him. I made my way towards his kitchen, he had new bags of bagels, croissants, cookies, chocolate covered pomegranates, and I wondered if I could open them.
I crept out of there and went to find the guest room. He had a balloon tied to a bamboo colored bed post. I propped on the bed and hugged my knees as my eyes closed. I fell through to another dimension quickly, and we were thirteen again, at the same farm, wearing matching orange, blue, and white striped shirts. The sun beamed on our faces, causing little gleams of sweat to gather along our skin. At the time, we laughed about how we shone, about how we were bright, and potent, and beautiful. We ended our days lying on the pebbles by the pool that left our skin adorned.
I was awoken by three hollow knocks. I smiled assuming it was time we went to dinner and talked about everything that had been going on with our lives in the past few months. I opened the door and my brother silently passed me a tiny tangerine.
“Here, I didn’t know if you were hungry. You can borrow the car if you want”. He said this then preceded further into the hallway into a room I’d never been allowed in before. The door looked like spring- bright, and lively. It looked just like the one in his previous apartment except the doorknob on this one was gold and antique looking. I wondered why he had time to paint a door but hadn’t had any time to unpack the downstairs.
I turned towards my luggage, sleeves were dripping out of its sides and I thought of whether or not I should unpack or if it would be a waste of time. I dropped my thoughts as my stomach anguished. I was satisfied with leaving it as it was for today. I decided to go get something to eat. I grabbed the keys, and sprinkled my steps with little chimes from the keychain. I turned the car on and put on my GPS to a near sushi restaurant. I got some miso soup, paired it with a dragon roll and ate it rapidly before heading out again. This city was nothing like Miami; here, the air was foggy and ornamented the trees. It smelled like damp bark and tasted like lemon. Whenever I walked outside, the air was so dense it almost felt like a tide that could carry me into nihility. I pressed the breaks gradually until I came to a full stop at a red light. The cars swayed in front of me, going East and West, and I almost fell into a trance.
I was sixteen again, my brother and I returned to the farm. I remember how we used to bicker over little things, stupid things- none of which really mattered, none of which, we even cared about. We always argued metaphorically, I suppose that’s what happens when parents raise children in book clubs. Green light.
I sped up and made a right on Sterling Road, which was around three miles of a straight road that eventually featured my brother’s place. On the way, I saw a lady selling some flowers she grew right there in her front yard. I must’ve been looking elsewhere on my way to my brother’s house originally because I wouldn’t have forgotten these colors in a million years. The sunset was on their petals and it was saturated at its most. They seemed as if they held one more droplet of color, they might just burst and leave the town painted with something that for once isn’t the blues. I couldn’t resist, I pulled over in their driveway and hopped out of the car. A young woman, around her late 20’s, wearing a pretty white shirt and jeans, covered by a green apron stained with dirt, came out form behind the streets with a smile that went ear to ear.
“Hi! How are you, welcome!”
I greeted her back, and complimented the flowers.
“Thank you, it took a while before I was able to get the perfect set up for the different kinds of flowers, you know, you have to adjust to their needs, each type has different amounts of water, and sunlight, and air- and I’m rambling” She laughed at herself, which was contagious.
“That’s alright. I was just driving by and the colors of this place drew me in.”
“Well, thank you! I’m glad you came across here. I’ve never seen you before.”
“Oh, I don’t live here”
“We barely get any visitors, are you just stopping by?”
“Something like that. I came to help my brother get settled in this new house, he lives down the street.”
“What’s his name, maybe I know him.”
“Uh, Eric, he is about that tall” I motioned upwards with my hands, “he has, uh, brown hair and lighter eyes.”
“Yeah, how do you know him?”
“He’s the one that helped me set up the gardens when I first opened up.”
I was confused. The last time my brother did anything relating to nature we were thirteen, he hated flowers and pollen and definitely did not have the patience to get the lighting and watering process down.
“He’s the gardening genius. I take him flowers every week, they’re on me of course, it’s like a reminder that I’m thankful. He stops by every once in a while and we chat, he’s a great guy.”
“You guys chat?” My brother hadn’t even bothered to metaphorically discuss any aspect of his life with me since the last time we went to the farm.
“All the time, he won’t shut up, it’s quite refreshing actually, to feel like I’m not the only one talking for once.”
“What do you guys talk about?” I was hurt, and spring died inside of me because my brother didn’t look at me, or talk to me, I didn’t know his favorite color. I didn’t know if he had girlfriends or if he drank or what he ate, and this girl- a gardener seemed to know him inside out?
“We talk about pretty much anything, I don’t really know much about his past, he tends to avoid it or curve my questions, but, I mean, you were there so I’m sure you’re not curious about that.”
“Yeah.” I forced a grin and felt my eyes start to burn, a wave of heat poured itself from the top of my head to the sole of my feet, and I felt my skin sizzle under the sun.
“What are those flowers called?” I changed the subject and pointed at these white flowers that had an intricate texture and just a hint of color in the center, they looked like regular orchids only not quite.
“That’s a Cattleya. They’re native to Colombia.”
“I think I’ll take one of those home.”
“Your brother’s favorite, great choice.”
She was honey, so why did her words taste so bitter? It was as if I had fallen on a bed of thorns, and guilt flew through me. What had I done? Did he hate me?
“Make sure to stop by with Eric before you leave town again! It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“Likewise.” I went on the road again driving slowly, letting the fog take me to my destination. I mapped our childhood and late adolescence into the stars that began poking out through the setting sky, and tried to pinpoint the exact moment things had turned but constellations always had confused me. I should have shared my treats, I shouldn’t have kicked him out when my boyfriends were over, I should’ve approved of his first girlfriend. Ellie, was it? Emma? I should’ve remembered.
I opened the door, and he was sitting on the kitchen counter, eating pieces of the pomegranate chocolate. I looked down by his feet where a can of red paint sat with two brushes. He saw the orchid I was holding, and he ran up to me, tears rained out of his eyes, his home became a hurricane.
“I’m sorry, Bea, I’m so sorry.”
“Hey, it’s okay” I tried to comfort him.
“I asked you to come, then you got here and I freaked out because, god, you look just like her, and it’s not fair to you because you keep trying and I keep pushing you away- I’m sorry”.
“It’s fine, hey, really, it’s fine. I’m sorry too for not giving you any space. And for not being a better sister when we were younger”.
“No, no, don’t be. It’s not that, it’s not you.”
And we were at the farm again dripping in black and for once the fruits didn’t blossom, and the flowers had wilted, and the sky poured grey- poured blue, we were drenched in mourning and sorrow and we had lost our mother but at least we had kept each other, only we hadn’t. I had kept a hollow porcelain doll with no back stand, I had kept a ghost, someone who wouldn’t look at me or talk to me. Who grieves alone? I mourned over two people at the same time. I had mourned for years, and finally, I had company. So his house bloomed reds, and the orchid rose outside, we grew flowers and built up his spine and he talked to me for the first time since the farm. And I was no longer grieving, at least not alone, because after years of waiting- my best friend had started coming back.