by Elizabeth Grierson
The Double Delight has grown through the old picket fence, its thorns clinging fiercely to the faded paint. Once full of promise, this treasured rose bush – your child – is now compromised by a disease which a mother’s love was not able to cure. Whatever chemistry is flowing through the xylem is killing this plant you’ve nurtured for many seasons and without drastic intervention, it will die.
There is one fading blossom at the very top. Tenderly, you hold it by the pedicel and stick your nose deep into the velvet folds, searching hopefully for a trace of its summer fragrance, but perhaps the plant is not capable of beauty at this moment, its sweetness eaten by craving. The weight of your breath is enough to make the last of the blood and ivory petals tremble before they drop listlessly to the ground. The stamen droops in shame and something sacred in you shatters.
But grieving will not save this precious rose, so you stifle your tears and commit to this act of denial, your last resort, knowing it is the hardest thing you will ever do. As you pull on the heavy leather gloves, you study the rose bush, deciphering the confusion of crossed branches, and note the needle-like thorns that will likely taste your blood even through the leather.
You incline the shears at a 45-degree angle to make the first cut. It’s clean and smooth yet there is a price to be paid because the rose has teeth and it is desperate. Lift the amputated branch out carefully and lay it gently on the ground next to your feet. You barely notice the blood running down your forearms from the stinging lacerations as you sever every one of the diseased canes until your child is pried from the fence.
The heart of the rose surrenders.
There is so little of him left and such devastation in his eyes. Can he see the despair in yours? Where will he go? Will he heal on his own or succumb to his cravings and die by a different needle, nameless, without you there, leaving you with nothing but these livid scars and the longing for his sweetness? It’s the waiting without knowing that may do you in.
But if you don’t interfere, there’s a chance he may return to you. You cling to that hope as you tell him to leave.
Elizabeth Grierson is an emerging writer from Arizona. Also a performer, she has appeared in music theater and straight drama, and vows that one of these days she’ll get back to tap-dancing. She is a first-generation American with a Canadian-Polish background and the mother of three boys. She and her husband live in the desert with their three-legged dog, May.