"There just are a few things," said the good farmer with a knowing smile, "that will make your garden grow. First, plant lovingly. Give your sprouts room to grow -- to stretch out and take root."
"Second," he said, as he took off his dusty cap and leaned in closely to my bare shoulder, dusting it gently with Beam-laced breath that spoke of a thousand sunrises.
"Don't ever bullshit what you put into the ground. You gotta do it with all of the love and trust and water and honesty that you can muster. Ain't no other way. You don't plant roses and treat 'em like they was corn."
"To plant," he continued, "is to forget what happened last season. And, my young friend, to harvest is to remember what life has yet to offer."
I could smell the sotto voce -- taste the whiskey in the air that separated us by 30 years and a million different choices in life except the one that brought us together in this moment to speak as if we had known each other all our lives.
"Love what you grow, hon," he said. "And give it what it needs. Don't worry if you don't know what you don't know. You'll figure it out. But don't try to grow too many things at once. Focus on what's in the ground, child, or you risk losing it all. Take it from an old man. This advice -- it's all I got."
He put a peach into my hand without saying a word, and he turned toward the field. He walked away with his head down, his eyes studying the ground, his tall frame bent slightly like a sapling that once competed with mightier trees for the rays of sunshine that it needed to grow and thrived despite the odds.
He turned to me one last time, winked, and smiled. "Your garden will grow, child. Just remember to pull 'dem weeds ... even the ones that look like flowers. Don't be fooled, now."
And he was gone.
And I shuffled my bare feet in the dust and dirt as I meandered back to the car.
My notebook in my lap, my pen uncapped, and my mind rocky ... an untilled plot of possibility.
I bit into his peach with a fervent hunger.
Juice ran down my face and stained my cheeks like the sweet tears of love's labor lost and found once more.
We eat and devour each other, sometimes carnivorously, sometimes carnally, sometimes with carnivalesque outcomes. And the carnage of others' catastrophes. Others' cuts.
The butchery of beauty and bonhomie brought down with the blunt, melancholic bliss of a soldier defending the last of his battalion in a war that exists only in his own imagination.
I devoured his peach and pocketed the pit, satiated and full with knowledge learned by speaking in tongues and charming snakes while eating his strange fruit.
And this nomad drove home, past the suburbs and the train yard and the burnt out buildings until the horizon met the silhouettes of barren trees lined up in perfect formation, waiting patiently, one to a match, for their next foray.
And I put the pit into the ground.
And I waited, patiently, with them -- with sticky cheeks and dirty feet -- for the next season to begin.
Exhaustion soon came to call, and she quelled my weary words with her stories of sorrow, sticks, and stones.
And so I slumbered in the summer swelter without a sound as she sang me to sleep with her sweet, sweet song.
"Remember, " she whispered, "what it tastes like to forget."