Our elbows were resting on the porch railing, looking out over dry tumbles of foothills, mere ankles to the great granite thighs of the Sierras. He said it and I felt the molasses start heating and moving out my arms and down my legs, gagging each nerve with lava. “A fig is not a fruit, it is a swollen stem,” He has been saying, and the boundaries of my reality shrink to shape of his body. “The flower doesn’t get pollinated, but it still bears fruit. It’s called “parthenocarpic.” Time unwinds and stops. Beat, beat.
I close my eyes and explosions pepper my eyelids. How many men can explain five syllable scientific words in the heat of a summer evening and pretend to not see the butterflies batting against the glass? Above the surface, this moment is growing nothing, leading to no climax, but down below but it’s taproot has been working furiously, and it has found a vein that is mapped straight to the magma of my heart. This is the end of summers gathering flowers for him and watching them wilt, unseen. Of checking the battered weather notebook every cold morning and breathing in his clunky handwriting before noting the temperature in today’s column. Of the night of fairy tales that led to an empty basement when I was expecting a magic carpet ride.
I understand the fig tree. It waits for that certain insect to pollinate its open flower, but the tree doesn’t know that the insect is dead. Extinct. And yet in its ever hopefulness, the flower overloooks its unrequited love and bears fruit anyway. I look at his profile in the dry evening light, and for a moment, I feel closer to the fig tree.