He grew a different sort of rose. His bushes were small and round and curated. Perfectly behaved. Manicured and delicate in appearance, but obstinate enough to withstand the Arizona sun. They had their own kind of defiance, one of silent dignity and restraint. Just like him, they stood erect and dense and self-contained, surveying a garden otherwise filled with native species. Native species and me.
When he left, he left his roses behind. I kept them alive as long as I could in case he came back, but without him they wilted. I wilted. So I moved back to Maine. I tried to take his roses with me, but they died in the move. I cried about it for a time, but came round to thinking it was for the best.
I inherited my rose bushes with the house. I’d had enough of thorns, so that first year, I left them to their unruliness. They climbed up my walls, smothered anything I tried to grow in their shadow. Occasionally, they grew so heavy that they’d crumble brick or pull down a fence. Then I had no choice but to reply with an intervention of secateurs, a chopping back, a violence. But they are resilient, these roses. No matter what I do to them, they recover, strengthen, spread. Their roots run deep.
Whenever I look at my roses, I feel his eyes on me. I feel him watching steadily from the long canes as I prune, deadhead, cut back. But it’s never enough. In summer, his unflinching red blossoms creep through my open windows, and, if I don’t close them in time, he drops his lingering petals on my floor.