She placed her blue-beaded rosary, the one she was given when her mother died, on his chest and then walked over his lifeless body. Blue was her favorite color. Any shade of blue, cornflower blue or slate blue #3 in the Home catalogue, but periwinkle was the front-runner. Periwinkle was a color that would appear in a dusky sky, the most tranquil time of day, and it contained the feeling that anything was possible. Periwinkle was a perennial, evergreen herb in the Dogbane family, native to Madagascar, containing a motherload of useful alkaloids, with glossy dark green leaves and five-petaled flowers that came in a variety of shades, none as lovely as the deep purple-blue kind.
She walked towards her white Honda Element and reached into the open back and grabbed a rag and the brand new shovel. A $9.53 special at Mr. K's hardware on Washington Boulevard. She felt thrifty. She also put on her best gloves, wrist-strapped, ergonomic, form-fitting goat-skinned, washable and breathable, that she bought online for $38.95. They were worth every penny. Digging was going to take some time and she didn't want to get painful blisters on her palms like the time when she was nine years old and she helped her dad plant small lemon trees in the backyard.
"The best lemons you'll ever taste," her dad said. "We'll make our own lemonade from scratch. No more crap in a can, Violet."
She hated her name while she was in grade school. Kids in school would call her Vomit Violet. No one had empathy or knowledge about lactose intolerance in Fresno, California circa 1980. And girls named Ashley or Kerry or Cindy, just about any name ending in the letter Y, were more popular and had better hair. But she comforted herself by helping her father tend his garden and greenhouse and care for the most esteemed plants in his collection, the African violet. His violets were tender compact growths with fuzzy leaves and lovely blue blooms with hints of purple in them. There were worse things to be named after.
She moved back towards Tim's body. She bent over his face with the rag and wiped the beads of sweat, the mucus from his nostrils and the saliva that had flowed from his mouth down the sides of his face to the back of his red swollen neck. He looked so peaceful, like he was sleeping. She loved watching him sleep. Whenever she stayed over at his place, she would wake up early, go pee, and then quietly slip back into bed and listen to him breathe and stare at his face. He had hair on his ears, but she didn't mind that so much. He had bad teeth as well, just a few crooked and discolored ones in the front of his mouth, and he was too busy and too afraid to visit a dentist. She imagined he was Greek, living on a small island, and didn't have access to fluoride and toothbrushes and running water. And nobody's perfect. She had straight white teeth and long, shiny black hair, but her skin was oily and acne prone. Bad skin was a far more traumatic thing to deal with than funny teeth, she thought to herself. She couldn't hide her skin, but he could just stop smiling.
He did smile sometimes. And when he laughed, his green eyes would sparkle. She would miss that about him. Green was her second favorite color. It was the color of life and every leaf had its own hue. She had a green emerald velvet dress, fitted and cut just below the knee, that contrasted well against her fair skin and dark hair. The dress made her hazel eyes appear brighter. She hadn't worn it in a long time. Not since she moved to Culver City, California four years prior. There wasn't much use for a velvet dress when it was always warm out.
The sun was bright and it was hot outside. Hot and dusty. She stuffed the used rag into the left front pocket in his pants. She began digging a hole about four feet from his body and she remembered the first conversation Tim and her ever had about death.
"There's no point in worrying about it, "Tim told her. " We all die and we will end up in a better place. Have faith in that."
"But how is not living better," Violet said. "I don't know where I will end up. I don't know if I believe in heaven and hell. My dad says we all end up worm food anyway which is a good thing when planting hibiscus or summer squash."
"Don't be creepy, Violet," Tim responded. "Well, I know where I will be."
She felt the sweat begin to run down the sides of her face and the back of her neck. She put the shovel down, walked back to the car, and grabbed some tissue from the glove compartment. She glanced over at Tim's body again, wiped her face, and thought about the last time they had made love.
He had gone on a five day trip to Las Vegas for a friend's bachelor party. She had driven him to LAX and picked him up when he returned. She took him home, he took a shower and then they made love. Afterwards they watched a basketball game, ate some Mexican food, watched a couple of movies and went to bed. The next morning, after they had both woken up, she rubbed the hair on his chest and they talked for hours about sexual proclivities, his adulation for Bruce Springsteen and his trip. He left out the part about the other girl. Then they had more sex. This time it was one of their steamy wet hour-plus marathon fucking sessions. They had broken the frame on his previous bed and the new one was on its way out. She faked an orgasm, he didn't, and then she cleaned up before heading off to work.
"Talk to you soon, sweetie," she cooed as they hugged.
"Later, babe," he said.
She put the used tissue in a plastic bag and grabbed a water bottle laying on the floor in front of the passenger seat, next to the Dimethyl Sulfoxide roll-on she bought at Nature's Goodness for $8.49. Three fluid ounces of 99.9% DMSO mixed with aloe vera and the sap of Dieffenbachia or dumbcane.
"We got to replant that Paradise dumbcane in your kitchen, Violet," her dad had said to her last March. "It's outgrown the pot. Don't forget to put your gloves on this time. I don't want to see those little hands all swollen up."
The water had been sitting for awhile, but her mouth was dry so she didn't mind the tepidness. She drank all sixteen ounces in three quick gulps, put the empty bottle in the bag with the tissues, and walked back to the hole.
Ants were crawling around his body. She picked up the shovel and picked up her pace. She didn't want her peaceful image of him to be marred with bugs and unpleasantness. She figured she would need another two hours to dig down deep enough. The hole wouldn't be as deep as her mother's grave and the earth wasn't as moist, but she wasn't a professional gravedigger and she would make up for the crudeness of this resting place with her love and compassion.
Six days after the last time they made love, Violet called Tim to say hello. She had just finished a shift at the nursery and she wanted to hear his voice and make plans for Sunday. Sunday was the day they typically spent together. He was at a friend's house and he told her he had something important to tell her when they met up the next day.
"What is it?" she insisted.
"I don't want to do this now, over the phone," he whimpered. "I'm at my friend Joey's house. Can't we talk tomorrow?"
There was silence on the line. She waited. She felt a cramp in her stomach.
"Are you breaking up with me?" she asked.
"I told you I don't want to do this over the phone," he answered.
"Did you meet someone else?"
There was a long pause. "Uh.... uh.... yeah," he said.
Violet dug deeper and deeper, sweat staining her tank top in her armpits, the small of her back and her chest between her breasts. Tim had met the other girl at his work. Tim did technical support for a software company. The girl had only been there a few months, a receptionist, a temp, and then she moved back to her hometown of Boston. Violet remembered meeting the girl at Tim's office Christmas party, but didn't think much of it. She sensed that the girl liked him, but he was with Violet so there was no need to feel jealous. Since the girl moved, she kept in contact with Tim and they agreed to meet up during his trip to Las Vegas. Tim and the girl discovered after a few hours they had a deep connection, something that transcended his three year friendship and one year relationship with Violet, so he made plans to visit the girl in Boston. And then after Boston, the girl would stay with him for a week and they would have a romantic weekend in San Francisco. Violet was born in San Francisco.
Violet felt a surge of energy pulse through her arms as she thought about the airport and the Mexican food and her naked body on top of his and his secret plans. She thought about how she had begged him for months to go away for a weekend to Santa Barbara to check out the orchid growers and the vineyards and he always told her he couldn't afford the time off from work. Now he had planned time off to spend with a girl he barely knew. Now he would give her what he couldn't or wouldn't give Violet.
The girl wasn't there for him when his car broke down. The girl didn't bring him soup and Gatorade when he was sick. The girl didn't give up her birthday plans and a week's vacation to take care of him when he was injured in a car accident. The girl never had his mother and sister tell her how lucky Tim was to have a woman like her in his life. The girl didn't cook him dinner or bring him towels and candles and utensils when he moved into his new apartment. The girl hadn't given him the best sex he had ever had, according to him. The girl didn't appreciate his strong straight member. The girl didn't sit for hours listening to him talk about himself and his work and his dreams. The girl hadn't invested three years into a friendship that he said meant more to him than anything.
Tears streamed down Violet's sweaty, dirty face. The ground was almost at her shoulders. There was a light wind swirling the dust around her and his body and the ants. She thought of their last conversation in the car while they were driving east on the 10 freeway. She told him she felt betrayed and used. How could he abandon her and their time together? If they truly had a relationship that meant more to him than sex, then why did he use her body while he was making plans to break up with her? Why did he choose some unproven girl over her? Why couldn't he accept her love anymore?
"It's not about this other girl," Tim said. "It's been on my mind. I should have told you sooner."
"But you used me. You know how I feel about you and you slept with me," Violet said.
"I know, I'm selfish. There must be something wrong with me. I'm just not able to feel love, I guess. I'm sorry. It doesn't sound like much now but I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just don't feel that way about you. We have a great friendship. I don't want to lose the friendship."
Violet was finished. She threw the shovel out of the hole, climbed out, pulled off her gloves and sat down on the ground next to Tim. She touched his face and it didn't feel as warm as before. The redness on his neck was a light pink color. She felt her stomach grumble. She looked at her watch. Three hours had past. The sun was low on the horizon.
She grabbed the rosary and put it in her pants pocket. She got on her knees and rolled his body towards the hole. When his body was at the edge she pushed hard and he disappeared. She looked into the hole and he was on his side, his limbs askew. She slid back down inside and arranged him on his back, arms by his sides, legs straight. She rubbed the dirt off of his cheek and temple. She took out the rosary and neatly placed it on his chest again. She pulled a white handkerchief from her other pocket and softly placed it over his face. She leaned down and kissed his lips through the cloth. She left a mark of perspiration, an outline of her lips. She dragged herself up out of the hole. She was tired now.
She went to the car and grabbed a book. She brushed her hand over the cover of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch and tossed it down into the hole by Tim's feet. He wanted her to read his favorite author but she couldn't bear to look at it again. She looked past the Joshua trees, over the rock formations towards the fading sun. The wind was stronger and the air was still warm. She was in a giant blow-dryer. Suffocating and arid and no water to grow jasmine or ficus or tomatoes. But the rains were late this year and this vast dry land was alive with the blooms that matched the evening sky. The blooms of the Century Plant, the creamy white Mojave Yucca, the yellow Desert Marigold and Dandelion, the pink-magenta Beavertail Cactus, and the orange Barrel Cactus.
She realized that Tim never took an interest in her love for plants. He didn't seem interested in her life or anything that wasn't his idea first. She was always involving herself in his hobbies, like golf, trying to be a part of his world, and he didn't care to see hers. He had never met her dad. Another reason she had wanted to go to Santa Barbara with him. But he was interested enough to check out her new car.
She asked him to drive to the desert and accompany her to search out the rare once-a-year blooming of the Nuttall's Larkspur. Her favorite wildflower. It was part of the buttercup family with long-stalked leaves, and one-inch blooms of five large deep blue petals surrounding four smaller blue or white petals and a yellow stamen. She had told him about this flower at least a dozen times. He should have known that it grew on gravelly slopes in the Sierras or the Cascades and bloomed for five months out of the year.
She picked up the shovel, scooped up some soil from the mound and tossed it into the hole. She hummed the Four Seasons. Her eyes were wet and locks of her hair kept whipping across her face. She bit her lip and tasted salt and grit. When the hole was filled, her face was stale and dry and she stamped the ground with the flat underside of her shovel. She stood very still.
"I didn't get to say I love you one last time. I didn't get to say have a nice trip. I didn't get to say and do so many things. Goodbye, Timothy." Violet whispered.
She looked at her firm calloused hands and saw a couple of blisters in the middle of her palms. She had forgotten to put the gloves back on. She gathered up her shovel and gloves and pitched them into back. There was dust and dirt on the rubber flooring, easy to rinse out or wipe down once she returned home. She slammed the back door shut. She sat in her car and closed the door. She turned the keys in the ignition, turned on the headlights and looked up. Stars consumed the midnight blue sky. A perfectly warm summer night sky in the desert. Not a hint of moisture touched her nostrils as she breathed in deep. She exhaled and smiled at the starlight as tears rolled down her cheeks. Her car slowly drifted towards the highway.