By the look of the sun and the sound of the birds, it must be about nine in the morning. The last drops of dew are still lingering on the grass, and the air feels like it’s holding its breath. A lone man stands so still next to his brother in the middle of the freshly mowed green that the rowdy sparrows look tempted to build a nest on his shoulders. Finally, he moves, shifting his weight around his feet a couple times and swallowing the mass of saliva and anxiety that had been building up in the back of his mouth.
“Hey,” he says. The birds stop chirping, or at the least, he stops hearing them. “I haven’t seen you in years, man.”
He takes his brother’s silence as a cue to keep talking.
“I heard you had a grand party last month, even invited Aunt Mary. And Aunt Mary hates family gatherings. I guess it would’ve been rude of her if she didn’t attend this time, I guess.”
The talkative man chuckles.
“Sorry I couldn’t go. I was in Budapest on assignment when I heard the news, and by that time I figured I’d rather drop you a visit on my own accord and not on Mom’s. So here I am, look! I even bought flowers. And I never buy anyone flowers. The florist told me white lilies would be best, but I thought some daffodils would be nicer. I mean, who likes colorless flowers? Tasteless, don’t you think?”
“Thought so. You were always the quiet type. Remember that time you stole my favorite action figure from me and when I told Mom and she asked you about it you just said nothing so she believed you were innocent? I never got that back, you know. Mom’s probably already cleaned out your old room by now, huh. Maybe she managed to dig it out of the closet. That’d prove you guilty for sure.”
The man pauses, thinking. He takes a long, deep breath, a wistful smile appearing on his face.
“Do you like the daffodils?” he asks his mute friend. “The florist said that they’re supposed to represent fresh starts. Renewal. I thought it’d make for a good irony. Though to be completely honest, I don’t care about all that meaningless bullshit. I just didn’t want to get you lilies. After all, it’s not like you’re―”
He stops abruptly, as if he’s run out of breath. After the sudden, fleeting silence, he sighs, turning his head up to the endless blue sky, only interrupted by half-transparent clouds shaped like the wispy tails of torn cotton balls.
He continues, a little quieter than before. “I was so caught up with work that I almost forgot I missed you. And mom and dad. And this goddamn town that smells like coffee until one in the afternoon and beer until one in the morning. I always told myself I was going to come back to visit, and then just pushed it further down the calendar every single time. Half-assed, right? Now I’m going to have to wait another lifetime to see you, like for real. I just wanted to talk, you know, kind of have a heart to heart. We could’ve taken a day to catch up with our lives―had a couple good laughs and gone out for drinks afterwards if your wife let you. I could’ve told you all the stories behind those postcards I’ve been sending―trust me, there’s a good one behind each of them. The other day, your wife told me you had kept all of them in a drawer because your son―how old is he now, eight?―loved to see them. And, wait, by now your daughter must be at least thirteen, right? You’re going to have to watch out if the boys start to come crawling, haha. I guess I wouldn’t know, though. I don’t have a family to call my own. Mom and Dad are getting older, and I’m just standing here alone, holding a bunch of dumb flowers, talking to―talking to a―,” his voice cracked mid sentence. “Nevermind. This is the best I can do for now.”
He stops his chatter, hesitant about what to say next. He’s sure the silence must’ve lasted for a whole day, but when he glances back up at the old yew tree watching from across the green, it’s still staring at him with the same pity it had when he came.
“I want,” the man starts, speaking barely above a whisper, “to tell you everything I’ve done since we last saw each other. But what I want even more―”
He can sense a choking feeling welling up at the back of his throat, like he’s being strangled by his own voice.
“―I want you to tell me everything you’ve done since then too. I don’t want it to be like this―a guy standing alone talking nonsense to a slab of rock with his brother’s name etched on it. I...”
By now, he’s not sure if he’s crying or if his vision is just refusing to focus.
“...I just want to see you. But I can’t because you’re six feet underground, and my head’s still stuck in the clouds. The next time we meet...well don’t be surprised if I’m a shriveled old man by then. I’ll make sure to have more than enough good tales to tell you, so you better make sure you don’t forget any on your end either.”
He knows for sure he’s crying now.
“I’m definitely going to see you again,” he says to the tombstone that refuses to talk back. “It might take a while, but if you’re not too impatient, please wait for me.”
The lonely man looks down at the bouquet of tearstained yellow flowers in his hands. “There’s just so much more I want to say.”
He stays quiet for a bit, messily wiping at his tears with his sleeve every once in a while. Slowly, as the tide in his eyes ebbs, the sound of the chattering birds filters back into his ears.
“Hey,” he says a couple eternities later, so softly that the talkative robins regard it as silence altogether.
“Do you like daffodils?”