Your garden

It was the drenching time when steam rises from the forest and, at night, purple clouds shudder white and rumble out to sea. You knocked at my door, your rapping barely discernible among the banging of vines on walls.

‘I need somewhere to sleep,’ you said.

‘My floor is all I have,’ I said. ‘My guest things are packed away.’

‘You didn’t expect me so early?’

‘I didn’t expect you, I’m afraid, at all. But you’re here. Come in.’

You stepped inside and removed your coat, which you hung over a chair.

‘Can I get you tea,’ I asked.

‘You don’t know me?’ You looked disappointed.

‘I don’t believe so.’

‘I’ve come to the wrong house.’

‘It’s the only one.’

‘I was told to come.’

‘Who by?’

‘A swan. In a dream.’

‘Did it have a name?’

‘Oliver.’ You sat on the rug by the open window, smelling of nutmeg and frangipani.

I offered you fruit. ‘How far have you come? How did you get here?’

But you didn’t answer. You lay your head on a cushion and fell asleep.

In the morning, when I woke, the rain had stopped. You were clearing a garden in my yard. Every weed you pulled was a thread of my loneliness plucked and tossed aside.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (