I don’t know why I chose this house with its garden of unmanageable vines, irrepressible weeds, and fulsome wildflowers. There might have been an arrangement at one point; a plot or a pattern. A rhyme or a reason. But I watch the flowers bloom in the springtime, a chaotic mess of colors bleeding into the next, and by fall, their beds are a monochrome menagerie of brown stems, bulbs, brittle stocks, and seed pods, ungovernable and appearing to never have been.
I don’t garden.
The house itself is a split-level modern home, well maintained by its former occupant, the house’s only other owner. Modern appliances, flooring, lighting. The house is nothing much to look at— basic to the point of blandness. A house you wouldn’t look twice at because of how well it fits into the surrounding suburbia. All new. Except the fence and its gate. Except the garden that had been untouched long before I laid eyes on the house. Perhaps it had been there before the house was built. Before the neighborhood.
Silly, but I sometimes wonder how this lot looked before this house landed on it. I’ve never once imagined what the house would look like if the garden wasn’t there, though. If I suddenly had the courage to go out there and rip up the weeds, reset the fence and replace the gate. If I had the money to hire a landscaper to turn it into something out of a catalog.
I watch the gate swing on rusted hinges in the wind and listen to its creaking whine. The wood is old and rotted, stained green with moss and lighter lichen. I don’t believe in ghosts. There is always a rational explanation for events. Always. This is what I tell myself so every thump, skitter, or whisper doesn’t send me bolting beneath my bed. All that to say, I don’t scare easily.
But I’m afraid of the garden and its gate.
Afraid of what lies beyond the creaking wood and beneath the bed of Black-Eyed Susans. Of what might have opened it and what the garden might have invited in.
A light shower has fallen, and the fog rises like spirits from their graves. Rust runs like tears from where the stubborn latch still clings, adding to the watercolor-mix that decorates the gate. I sigh and step down from the porch to trudge across the wet grass. I tiptoe through the thick garden brush toward the waving gate that beckons me out into the foggy beyond. Nothing but trees. Dense forest. Quiet wood. A dark tunnel into…
I shut the gate, my fingers coating with rust as I slide the latch into place, locking it.
In the morning, it will be swinging. Waving to me like an old friend with a secret, its creak, a low whisper.