Like The Tulips

By: Renee Merke

Tags: No Eye Has Seen Winter 2023

July 10

Dear Lucas, 

The article on the front page had your face on it — along with the faces of the people who ran the company you worked at. Mother and I sat down in silence, reading the entire article which explained how you had assisted the CEO in funneling millions of dollars from your rival to off-shore accounts. Was this your twisted sense of justice? Charity? Getting something back?  “Police are unsure of his whereabouts at this moment,” that is what the article said. You were supposed to fly back today. I watched the tulips grow and fade in Mother’s garden without you, but still you have not come. You said you would be home today. 

“There’s something you need to know.” That’s what dear, neighborly Bill said when he handed us the Gazette at the door this morning. Mother and I had tried to ask him what was wrong. He gave us the paper and left without another word.

So, brother, what can I say? Why bother writing to you, knowing that you may never read it? Why bother writing, when you have not replied all spring, all summer? If you were to run away from this life you have joined, and knock on the front door, I would let you in. I would clear off the clutter that has piled up on your bed. I would bring you to the bakery to buy you a double chocolate cookie. Perhaps you are worried that the police would hurt us if you returned, and so you stay away as an attempt to keep us safe. I do not know what to believe. Even if you returned right now, could we forget everything that happened? Could I forgive the months of silence? Could we return to how we were as children? I cannot be sure. But baring my sorrow through ink, I know that the broken pieces of my heart would at least accept you into our home, if you showed up at the front door. Aside from that, I am certain about nothing. 

Usually it’s difficult for me to recollect my past, but since you left memories play in my mind like lucid dreams. In springtime I thought of us giggling over giant, thick worms; the image was so vivid, I often wandered back out into Mother’s garden expecting to find them. Disappointment waited there to meet me, revealing the garden’s unkempt state. Stark yellow dandelions overtook the lawn and plots of flowers, but the tulips did surprisingly well, remaining untouched by the weeds.  I did not find any worms. 

A month ago the world seemed to grow brighter and more beautiful with the thought of our reunion. The roses were blooming, and the garden was recovering like an illness fading away with Mother’s ability to work in the garden more.I would join her to help now and then. Although, a more accurate description would be that she would garden, and I’d draw the plants within the space she tended, sometimes sketching her into the scene.  I managed to sketch a drawing of the tulips before they inevitably wilted. Watching their petals lose saturation and fall made for quite a depressing drawing. Now there is just the empty plot, waiting for new beginnings. 

Today the scene that plays in my head like a movie on an old roll of film is the day that you left. I remember the long hug you gave me, and the smell of your freshly pressed shirt. It smelled like the laundry detergent Mother used to buy. A faint floral scent that brought me back to worm-hunting in the garden. You seemed to hug me more tightly than usual, than you ever did before. For a moment I was convinced that you were going to stay home forever, but instead you pulled away. I remember the look you gave me before you entered the cab. So many emotions in just those two eyes. I should’ve tried to comfort you then, but all I could do was stand there and watch. You entered the cab for your flight and disappeared when it turned the corner. Do you regret leaving? Have you ever read my letters?

I’ve been thinking about Mrs. Crowfield’s class again. When we were around middle school age and finally ended up in the same class. I thought it would be the best, but it was a disaster: the Robinsons were there, and the twins, and that group of girls that never stopped chatting. Then, Mrs. Crowfield put all of us in after-school detention as a result of the chaos. I remember being so frustrated at myself, despite being the most quiet and well behaved student in class. I sat there for the entire hour, focusing on making sure that I didn’t cry in front of the whole class. I would have died of embarrassment if I cried in front of them. When the teacher let us go home, I thought I had succeeded in hiding my true emotions. But, as we were walking home together, you took my hand and said, “Don’t feel bad, you weren’t in trouble.” You hesitated as you said it, not being used to comforting people. And yet, that was enough for me to sob into your shirt. You didn’t complain, although you did instinctually lean away from me. That hesitance was fruitless, however; I kept on crying. You gave in fairly quickly, guiding me to a nearby bench so that we could sit down. After I had cried, I vented about how I really felt. You remained silent throughout, and a part of me was sure you were zoned out. Then you gave me an awkward pat on my back, and I believed that you had listened. You never liked hugs or physical affection of the sort, so I was touched beyond measure. 

You got me up and took me to the bakery on the next street. You spent your allowance on two cookies, one for each of us. You got a double chocolate cookie for yourself, and I had a white macadamia nut. 

“Don’t tell Mom about this, okay?” you said. I happily complied, my spirits lifted up to the sky. Even now my chest overflows with gratitude for having someone like you. Was I wrong to be so confident? With all these unanswered letters, I begin to think that you may never have heard me. 

After I write this letter, I will go through the trouble of sealing it in an envelope, and walk to the mailbox at the end of our street for the last time. I will take a walk in the garden, to try and clear my head. I do not know what will happen past this point. I will most likely look at the empty plot of soil, where the seeds of the tulips wait for next spring just like last year. 

Perhaps, through some miracle I could forgive you. You could return with a new season, just like the tulips.