And the seasons don't change. Flowers hang like prisoners from the fuchsia shrubs along his road, and his road is a garden pond of leaves, a trick of light. Earthworms mill the herb bed smooth and even. Down in the harbour fish fall in love with fishermen and leap into their arms, a hundred glittering hugs. The fishermen blind my eyes when they stand in direct sunlight. Along the road vendors set up fruit stalls, desperate; there is always more fruit, blistering at the vines down in those valleys we've never seen, a river of it, a swell, and we could pave our streets with strawberries and apricots and sweet black cherries.
He has a peach tree in his garden named Elsinore. It sprouted one tentative peach in June. He praised it and called the fruit his daughter, so the tree tried again, more confidently. Another peach, and another and another, and now the peaches have taken over his garden, and grow there like bubbles. He has given up praising Elsinore. He has started making jam.
The winds stopped blowing. It seemed, for a long time, that we were in the middle of one great inhale, and that sooner or later we would be blown out like candles, but no breath came. The tides have stilled. The seas are goldfish bowls now. At night we sit in the garden, cradling peaches, and look up at the hunter's-bow moon. That perfect thumbnail. Our measuring tape for stasis. We must conclude that the moon has stopped orbiting, has gathered up the tides and the winds and is sitting, waiting. We are afraid of the day when the earth stops spinning. When sun will be followed by more sun until even that big kaleidoscope is smudged out by our stillness.
In this weather we find it easy to be graceful. I sleep in his bed, and train vines to wind around my car. He teaches me to make preserves. We walk slowly to the harbour and slowly back. There is no need to hurry. For hours we sit and watch each other; even love is a still pool, sometimes, and I am flooded, but my lungs pause, my heart pauses, I am one comma in a sea of punctuation. Other times we want to fight it. Passion! we say, We will make our own breezes! No more living silently! We build bonfires in the garden and spend all day naked in the grass, until we are nestled up tired with soft peaches like a hundred circular babies. And we have to get up and make jam, and we see that the bonfire stands to attention like a doomed soldier, and the smoke rises straight as ribbon.
I don't love you anymore, I tell him, to see what he will do.
He says, I don't love you either, and we laugh. Another private joke.
The world bends under the weight of such a stillness. It is a dead weight. Eventually, the world stops trying. Things begin to trickle backwards.
Fish gently pull themselves away from fishermen and arc backwards into the sea. Birds fly blind, facing the wrong way, but never collide. This is a slow retraction: fuchsia flowers tiptoe up the stalk, stamen, petals, and sepals. Leaves curl inwards. In his garden, the peaches grow younger, smaller, fist up tight and slide back into the branches they hung from.
The world gains momentum. Babies clamber back inside their mothers. Fires make forests out of ash and dust. And somewhere in the world, history runs backwards. Hitler crawls out of that bunker and erases Auschwitz, growing saner; Amelia Earhart skips home, dishevelled; the Titanic is constructed from flotsam in the North Atlantic.
We are not afraid of walking into history hand-in-hand. He says, right now you are a twinkle in your mother's eye. I say, you are a backwards glance.
The centuries slide over. Queen Victoria grows a smile like a flower. Heads in France hop off the guillotine step and onto waiting shoulders. Shakespeare twirls his quill over and over, word after word resettling itself inside of him, until he is left looking at a guttered candle, which lights itself and burns upwards. Conquered nations are freed. Columbus loses America. Jesus dies again and lives again, again, and we forget everything he ever taught us. The apple jumps back on the tree.
He teaches me how to make preserves. You start with a jar of jam, the red gingham under the lid and the handmade label. Dip the jar in a bath of water, boiling backwards. Unscrew the lid. Unwrite your careful letters. Empty the jam into the bowl. You will find the last of the sugar waiting for you to sift it out, back into the measuring cup. Remove the pectin; watch the white powder fly up into the plastic packet, seal itself up. Stir out the first of the sugar, that big sweet tooth. It's the measuring cups for you, too, and back from the measuring cups into the packet, the packet folded neatly into itself where your fingers tore it apart. Uncrush the peaches. Watch them resurrect like Jesus on the last day. Unmeasure them. Those little numbers: forget them all. Put the bad fruits back in with the good, the leaves back on the fruits, the fruits back on the branches. This is jam.
About the author:
Becca De La Rosa lives in Dublin, Ireland, and her fiction has appeared in various places. Read more of her work on her website: www.beccadelarosa.com.