My Mum is watering a small patch of vibrant lawn with a yellow hose that’s spitting and clogged. We take turns smoothing it out, but it wrinkles and sputters, so we pray for rain. Her garden is a constant work-in-progress: hedges grown and chopped, ceramic pots lined up along the borders, fences constructed around a kaleidoscope of jaggy plants and rounded blossoms.
After a breakup, I retreat to my Mum’s house. Always in summer, so I’ve grown to associate the smooth smell of sweet peas with the rasping pain of heartbreak. I stand in the garden late the night that Flint and I are over, letting the electric shocks of memories, fear and anxiety throb against the scent of freshly-cut grass and country air.
The night before, Flint and I have a really good evening. His local – our local, I thought – is open with social distancing measures, hand gel and caution. We laugh and talk and I feel utterly relaxed. He’s gorgeous with his first haircut in four months, and my heart is soft for him. I tell him about the films I’ve been watching that week – Candy Man, Das Experiment, Hereditary – and we bicker good-naturedly about our favourite drag queens (and why Ben dela Creme is the best). I’m so happy to be spending time with him: his wee face, his laugh, his easiness.
Earlier this week, however, I decided that tonight was the night I was going to broach some important questions about our situation. It’s been a year of good fun and affection; I need to know where we stand.
After a couple of drinks, we wander the few minutes to my flat and crack open some gin-in-a-tins. Bowie’s on the speaker. I kickstart the end by asking, ‘Can we talk about something vaguely serious?’
I want to keep things light; I’m not down with the kind of conversations that always end in an argument. I tell him this.
I won’t get into the details, because I’m still too raw. But the next morning, we were over.
I don’t like this part of heartbreak. Everything hurts. My throat is clogged with sobs, my appetite is gone, I am just so, so sad and tired.
I did everything I could.
Post-midnight, in the garden with still-damp grass prickling my feet, the pain jolts around my body. In my wrist, which is connected to somewhere in my right calf, then the tips of my toes and my aching knuckles. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be somewhere else, someone else, but sometimes I’m tricked into settling down, opening up, letting myself be.
The plants and flowers and hedges and fences and pots and shed and grass are blurred by night, and I watch my dim silhouette in the patio doors, see her move faintly with me and feel my heart fucking breaking and can’t think anything else but: is this it?