HANAHAKI ©Christina Maile 2019

Behind me the farm.   A yellow blue sky crackling in the heat. Range fencing crisscrossing fields of  alizarin crimson and green azurite. Under the dark medieval trees, I follow a path down to the shore’s edge. The water is a dark denim blue with threads of white in the late afternoon light.

 I stand there  wanting to live another life. Grow corn and tomatoes, ride the tractor, and wave every morning to the two horses grazing on the hill. No thoughts about the next painting, the next story, the next idea.. I would never ever again have to answer about what I am up to to neighbors waiting beside me at the elevator. Instead, I would have pancakes and homemade jam every morning, and a big shaggy dog would follow me into the barn. He would lay in the shade of the open door while I built my canoe.

But though I loved that farm, the farm didn’t love me. It didn’t ask me to stay. It let me go. And like so many times in my life, once again that summer, I felt my lungs slowly fill with flowers, the petals bursting from  my mouth whenever I spoke. I knew right away what this was, this ailment which has plagued me all my life –   a love which is not returned.

At first, the doctors told me that this time, unlike the others,  it was  probably a mild case. Whether deep or temporary, the initial symptoms are always the same -  a slight cough  caused by the tendrils of longing and hope that begin to flourish at the back of my  throat,  then the  first petal unfolding on my tongue. Softly. Bitterly. In the weeks that follow, pining for what will never be mine, I begin to  sputter and cough,  my lungs slowly congest with the flowers  born  of my longing. I cannot eat. I cannot sleep. Petals constantly expel from my mouth.  I am covered in them. I try to hold myself together in the company of others, silent and nodding in agreement to whatever they say. But sometimes the pressure of loving and not being loved causes the petals to become multitudes , filling my lungs and throat, spewing from my mouth like a thunder. And before I can tighten my lips, clamp my  teeth, I cough, and flowers by the thousands explode from my mouth, embroidering the air in blossoms. 

Thank god, you and no one else  can see them, these petals floating in the air between us …. honeysuckle, peony, jasmine, snapdragon, hibiscus, roses. You come and go completely oblivious to the garden that trails you. Through the years, I have managed to suppress my hopes and longings, the terrible ease that causes me to fall in love. Most people think I am unusually subject to colds or the flu. My constant coughing.  At times is really unbearable. Sometimes I wish I had a pet  or a woolen sweater so I can say I am allergic.  

But I have grown older, and now you have caused the worst symptoms. My  doctors now say  that my lungs have become weakened over time. Soon, the congestion of flowers in my lungs will be unsupportable, and I will be asphyxiated.

 But there is a solution. An operation. Somewhat like removing tonsils or an appendix. The doctors assure me  of their success with countless surgeries. There is only one side effect. By removing the tumor that causes the flowers of unrequited love to grow, removes forever the ability to love.

Oh, to be with you, alone, on a canoe traveling over the denim blue water, beneath the crackling yellow blue sky, your fingers trailing on the white thread of waves, glittering in the sun.