They met at a party. Already drinking when they crossed paths. He was nervous to lose her when he excused himself to use the bathroom. He returned to her in the same place, waiting. He’d only worn a suit a few times before this, was nervous about his appearance until she threw her head back when she laughed the way that she did.
She liked bikes and had brothers and a mom and a dad. His family was mostly gone and his hands were like her father’s – calloused, strong, lived in. She couldn’t remember where she’d seen him first but it was somewhere in town. He said he would have remembered having seen her. Hours later they stood close in a quiet room, away from the other guests, and talked in whispers, and shared a very polite first kiss. They sat close on a small couch and talked about seeing the world. He saw it from a truck, or behind a tool. She dreamed of boats. He forgot about being tough. She forgot about being cautious. They left together. She was forward. He was shy. He made breakfast in the morning and she stuck around for it. They ate. Quiet, comfortable.
She left him her number. He’d taken work on a farm several counties away. He told her only that he’d be gone a while, and that he’d like to see her upon his return. He got back, placed a bag of fresh vegetables on the table, slid his fingertip beneath the tab of a beer can and picked up the phone from the line in the kitchen. Her number was on the napkin where she’d left it, prominently displayed over a calendar reading the wrong month – its squares filled with doodles but no appointments. She picked up after a ring, attempted indifference to his call, and eventually let out a long laugh at something he said, and he relaxed into asking. She agreed that a picnic in the field would be nice.
Over a six-pack under a tree they blew dandelion seeds and walked the paths they were mapping for themselves, filling in the gaps of what’s already been done. He talked about the tree they were beneath, about climbing it when he was young. She talked about her brothers and the early lessons of knowing how to get what you want in a house of boys. She wore a sweater around her neck, as she had at the party. She reminded him of Rita Hayworth.
He went to see a movie once with his dad. Rita Hayworth popped onto the screen and he could hear, in that moment, an absence of breath in the theatre, between he and his father. The room stopped breathing. He looked at his dad that day, at his raised eyebrows, at a man who was once a boy like him.
In the grass under the tree she asked him, “what would you do if I didn’t have eyes?” He barely paused before answering, “I’d hold your hand when you asked for it.”
“And if I didn’t want you to guide me?”
“Well, I suppose I would let go, but I’d let my facilities be known.”
“I’d let you know I’d be there, should you need me.”
“That’s very kind.”
“You worried about your eyes?”
“I’m worried about every single thing.”
“And if I told you there’s no need to worry.”
“Then I’d tell you you’re not paying close enough attention.” She smiled having said this, her eyes drifting past him and out again, across the meadow. He watched her smile fade, clouds rolled in from the distance.
Then she said what he is remembering now, in his empty home: “if I ever leave you, I’ll take everything.” He held his breath there in the meadow when she said it, her eyebrows raised high and her head tilted down so she was looking up at him. He believed her but he couldn’t escape the feeling he had when he first saw Rita Hayworth. She let out a long laugh after and they made love in a thunderstorm.
And now, on the center of their kitchen floor, at the cross section of four tiles sits this onion. Not a note, just the root vegetable with the glossy white heart in its center. He picks it up. He buries it in the dirt.