by Conor O’Rourke
photo by Sean David Bradley
I had planted the cilantro on a whim a few weeks before and been surprised at how quickly it had grown. Barely three weeks had passed since I had pressed the seeds into the damp earth of the pot on my windowsill; for me, a new haircut, for this plant, a whole lifetime. Harvesting it was harder than I thought it would be. You have to be careful when you touch the silky green leaves, so tiny and impossibly soft, for fear of marring their perfectly mint-colored surfaces with dark, blackish bruises. I have never been so gentle with a plant before.
She looked at me as I gingerly washed the herbs in a water-filled sink, gently stirring the leaves and stems, taking care not to tangle them. I wondered why I took such care to protect something I intended to attack with a knife so soon.
“Why do you do that?” she asked, reading my mind.
“Do what?” I played dumb.
“Why are you being so careful with that stuff?” I wanted to explain about the tangles and dark bruises, but hesitated. “Are you avoiding something?”
I didn’t answer. No one would know if the leaves had been bruised or not, not after I chopped them. I didn’t know how to tell her about it.
I blinked and didn’t say the words. It didn’t feel right to say, even now, even though I had always known that I wouldn’t go with her. And that she wouldn’t come with me. The reality was that I couldn’t ask her to. I felt that I had lost my chance, and now her life there was moving, she had healed and started something, and it was in a place I could not go. How could I tear her away from that? Better to stay here at the sink, washing stalks, waiting.
There had been one moment, two years ago, but I hadn’t seen it then, hadn’t even wanted it really. Did I even want it now? Was I really in love with her, or just with the idea that I had lost my chance with her? If she did want to come with me, would I even want her to?
I looked at the bird’s nest of plant matter in the now empty sink. The tender stalks would surely be damaged in the act of untangling. It didn’t matter anyway. I roughly gathered and chopped the herbs, ignoring darkening bruises left by my frustrated fingertips. This was easy enough to do. I still hadn’t answered her question. ◥
Conor O’Rourke is an American writer and editor living in Berlin. He likes rap music, bikes and Mexican food. Visit his rarely-updated blog at conororourke.tumblr.com.
Sean David Bradley was born in 1987 and studied film at Whitman College. He currently lives and works in Oakland, California. His photographs explore the profundity of the everyday and seek to convey the potency of such through personal reflections and subjective memories. The bulk of his work was created in Houston, Cairo, Beirut and Oakland.