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The Yard

by Miriam Weiner, '15

The yard is the kind of place that fairies live.  Not literally, of course, but if one looks at the sun-dappled ferns behind the house, it is easy to imagine them fluttering from plant to prehistoric plant.

Two women sit together in wooden lawn furniture with peeling white paint, as a huge black and white cat basks in the sun a few yards away.  Patricia sips peppermint tea from a tall mug, and her few remaining wisps of hair blow about wildly even in the light spring breeze.  A beige bandage covers the central line that has dripped seemingly infinite bags of poisonous chemotherapy into her veins. Ruth sits to her right, absent-mindedly picking at the paint on the arm of her chair, her head tilted back to enjoy the feeling of the spring sun on her closed eyelids.  The silence they share is filled with a rare emotional intimacy that has spanned age and adversity.

While they are still, the yard around the women is full of movement.  Squirrels sprint across the lawn and up trees, their bushy tails following them with a life almost their own.  A small black and white bird hops around an untended garden and taunts the cat with its chick-a-dee-dee-dee song.  Bulbs quietly push sprouts through the soil and into the light.

Ruth’s cell phone beeps offensively, reminding her of the world outside this tiny personal Eden.  Her friend turns her head and slowly smiles.  The movement reinvigorates her nausea, and Patricia closes her eyes to take a slow and deliberate sip of her tea.  Ruth picks up her phone from the grass beside her chair and responds to a text message – most likely from one of her grown children, with a question about something they should have learned the answer to years ago.  She mutes the phone and drops it back into the grass with a sigh.

“It’s time for this to go,” Patricia says, gesturing toward the strands of hair that have endured the ravages of the most recent round of chemotherapy.  Ruth nods and walks into the house, emerging a few minutes later with a pair of metal scissors.  Patricia holds up a finger, takes another sip from her mug, then nods and closes her eyes as Ruth begins lifting the wispy hair and cutting it near the roots.

As the two women share the quiet catharsis of shedding the remaining hair and releasing it to the wind, the ancient trees rustle with blissful ignorance.  The birds celebrate discovering strands of hair and hurry to add them to their nests.  The cat stands up and walks away, irritated by the sudden activity.  A truck crunches its way down the gravel drive.

When they are done, Patricia runs her hand over her fuzzy head and nods.  Ruth returns to her chair and the friends spend a few more precious minutes with their thoughts, absorbing the fresh feeling of the spring.

Then it is time to return to the world.  Needy husbands and children, bills to pay, e-mails to answer, groceries to pick up.  Patricia sets her mug on the ground and slowly stands up to walk into the house.  Ruth takes the cue and rises, briefly grasping Patricia’s hand before turning the opposite direction and walking to her car.

The squirrels rummage through leaves, searching for nuts that they remember fondly from the fall.   The cat searches for the chickadee.  The breeze jostles the branches of the trees over the ferns and the splotches of light flicker.  The paint on the shingles of the house considers peeling.  Time refuses to take notice of the significance of these moments.  It does not pause or slow, it arrogantly carries on, utterly unconcerned with the consequences.