It was a sweaty day, the clouds had scattered. The air shimmered and the concrete inched away. The leaves waved in sorry resignation, yearning for salvation.
I killed the tomato tree. I was the culpable suspect. It was beyond any redemption. In that sparse concrete backyard adorned only with washing line twine and faded Chinese lanterns, the tomato tree had provided a burst of something beautiful. A red against grey, cool even in this messy heat.
He lightly brushed his fingers over the withered branches and they crumbled to dust. There was no saving it, and there was no saving them either.
The sky was too blue to look into, so they looked at each other. Black eyes, he had black eyes. They laughed at the dying tomatoes.
They’d fish for sour pickles with a bent spoon, bodies pressed and the smell of brine bitter. It was futile, they knew, but they’d persevere until she would push him away and reach into the glass jar with cool fingers.
They ate pickles in the kitchen, pressed against the cold marble. He’d pause, sometimes, for just a beat, a crunch of the vegetable. They’d eat pickles and his mother’s avocado dip in the quiet of the night. A silent and dark house but a dimmed kitchen with hungry youth.