by Sara Peterson

Bleached grass hugs the edges of the garden bed, which is ashy brown, like the naked nub of a child’s Raw Sienna Crayola crayon. A crusty cover of mulch hides inches of dark, loamy soil, layers of sandy fill piled by a developer’s excavator, earthworms burrowing deeper, deeper down. I wonder how far they go.

I watch I Love Dick on Amazon. A female character tosses her lovely limbs around her body as she dances along to another female character chanting the words female monster female monster female monster. I note the actress’s thin arms. She is fair, light, angelic. Her monster is something no one can see. When the closing credits roll down the screen, I sit, glad I’m alone, in the dark. Finally, I turn off the TV, heat up a jar of wax in the microwave, and bend my body into a pretzel, ripping hairs from their follicles. I do not flinch.

I stand at the edge of the garden, digging my toes into the needle-like grass. The grass is thirsty, but not a priority.

Less of a priority than the clogged milk duct in my left boob, which is hot to the touch, which burns and stings and prompts me to bite my lip against the sharp pain when my daughter latches on to nurse. Less a priority than ensuring my son understands that long hair is not just for girls. Less a priority than Pinterest-ing “dinosaur crafts” to make myself look like a real life grown-up at my toddler’s birthday party. Mothers must Pinterest. Fathers might not have a Pinterest account. They needn’t.

The grass is thirsty, but less of a priority than being a good girl and staying quiet when my brother-in-law mentions the president with anything less than horror, less of a priority than tamping my rage when called adorable by a friend’s boyfriend, his hand heavy on my waist, less of a priority than an erstwhile friend who wants to challenge my assumptions about white male privilege over plates of pasta, his Ivy League-educated eyes confidently looking through me. Less of a priority than finding time to hide under the covers, in the dark, behind a locked door, alone with my Female Monster. I am small, blonde, nice. I am enormous, scarlet, horrible. I want to be someone’s girl. I want to be my own woman.

The garden is brown and dry—it is not something for others to Pinterest. On the precipice of the garden bed, I crouch down to cradle geranium blossoms in my hand, their rosy petals blackening at the edges, like they were gently kissed by a lit match. The wilted smudges of bloom are sapping the plant of energy it can’t afford to expend on blossoms past their prime. I snap them off at the base of their stems, red pigment staining my fingertips.

And when I crank the rusty knob to wake the water up, when the starburst of water reaches the garden bed, when it spills over the desiccated crunch of earth in little rivulets, I tighten my grip on the hose. And when the shower finds footholds around the succulents, when it colors and cools the Raw Sienna into life, I let go of my breath. And when I close my eyes and listen to the barely audible pops of the gulping ground, the lush whispers of wet, when the clouds of heat steam rise—finally—the water reaches me, cooling, dampening, softening, soothing. Almost quenching my thirst.