If the soul and the ego were objects we could look at, the soul would be a translucent heart beating.
I have pleasant dreams in my moon garden. Serenity is key. When I’m sitting on that stone bench beneath the morning glories, nothing stresses me out. My dog’s red fur glows like heated copper in the moonlight. He’s a buff metal smith protecting me from worldly harm. He wears a shredded shirt, and beads of sweat dangle off the tips of his red-orange beard as he pounds on his anvil. He has a sword tattooed on his upper arm. He’s the perfect bodyguard, the kind of man who will linger in the background and jump out with a machete if anything sketchy happens to me. My dog is the best.
Planting a moon garden isn’t difficult. I started when my dog was a puppy and kept me up all night. I needed to occupy myself during the wee hours. Before I got my dog, I didn’t sleep well either because in silence my mind takes over. I think too much. Planting datura and nicotiana seemed like the answer. Thus, I dig and weed in my pajamas. When I’m exhausted from gardening and my sweat is dirty, I can get some rest. Commitment to the plants is the closest I’ve come to putting down roots. It’s like we’re married because they depend on me.
“Your garden looks good,” my neighbor calls over the fence. I’m gardening and the moon’s coming up. Not just good, lady, magical, I think. That neighbor bugs me. She’s a squat, pudgy troll. She thinks something’s wrong because I spend so much time outside at night. My house is tiny. I use the yard as another room. I wear my pajamas because they’re comfortable. There’s nothing weird about that. I’m nocturnal. This woman looks like an ex-boyfriend I broke up with because he reminded me of Grumpy.
I lie on the stone bench beside my garden like I’m Snow White in a glass coffin. I pretend that dwarves stand around tossing roses at me in mourning. Envisioning myself as Snow White makes me super horny, and lying in my imaginary coffin out in the moon garden is as good as or better than having sex. To be quite frank, my moon garden is the horniest place on Earth. I love going there, and so does my dog. If only I had a Prince Charming.
My mom came over for lunch a few weekends ago. She’s clueless. She doesn’t understand why I like to work at night.
“What’s new, dear?” she asks.
“I found this new variety of Artemisia,” I say.
“Very nice,” she says. “Does it smell good?”
“No, it’s more for color. It’s in the silver section.” I point out how all the plants surrounding it have silvery leaves.
“Do you want to go shopping?” she asks.
“Is that a hint?” I ask.
“You need some new clothes, you don’t have to wear pajamas all the time,” she says. “Are you depressed, sweetie?”
“No,” I say. “I just like gardening. Does it mean I’m depressed just because I have a beautiful garden?”
“You should date boys,” she says. “Instead of working out in the yard all night in an old nightshirt.”
She’ll never understand. The whole reason I’m designing this yard is to attract the right man.
Lou Reed’s Transformer plays in the background. Oh, it’s such a perfect day / I’m glad I spent it with you. Cheerfully sad, the way only Lou can do. I lie in my glass coffin waiting for the scents of roses, jasmine, and honeysuckle to permeate that crack where the glass top meets the tomb’s marble bottom. My name, Snow White, inscribed in cursive upon the marble, is obscured by moss. I’ve been lying sedately in this greenhouse for a long time. Since I’ve been unconscious for seasons, I temporarily forget what my name is, then remember it again as I clean the letters. Venus flytraps and other swamp plants grow in here with me, and I’d be eaten alive if it weren’t for the most generous sweet peas creeping in. Their curly stems protect me, blooming around my hands folded over my torso. Only once have I felt the flytrap’s dewy tendrils snapping closed on a finger. I involuntarily flicked it away.
Besides the plants, there are several flies buzzing around me. They’ve been trapped in here for ages. They started families in the creases of my dress. Blue velvet serves the maggots well. They build little cocoons; their sticky silk adheres to the dusty fabric. A fairy gave me this dress, and I have no intention of letting a few flies ruin it. I’ve spit bits of that poisonous apple down there to distract them for months at a time. It’s funny, I only took one bite but I’ve spit up perhaps 70 apples’ worth of fruit. I can’t wait until springtime so the glass won’t fog up where I breathe.
Even the Prince in Snow White doesn’t interest me as much as the sparkling gemstones that the dwarves mine. When I do sleep, I dream of rubies, sapphires, and emeralds lining my bedroom walls. That’s more comforting to me than having a man in bed beside me. I’m happy to know I can equally love a glamorous cave and a human. Only once did I put the moves on a man in my garden. It was during an intimate dinner party.
I cooked pasta for four friends. Three girlfriends came, and one had a male friend with her who was a motorcycle racer. His name was Pat. He had on a leather jacket. He asked me for a tour of my garden, but I suspected he’d never had respect for plants. He was the kind of guy who would ride his bike through the forest, brutally crushing and killing all the greenery. I found this disturbing but exciting.
The moon was full. We’d just finished another bottle of merlot. Pat didn’t seem affected by this but I felt drunk since I hadn’t slept well the previous night. I was yawning a lot, and stumbled a couple times.
“This is Angel’s Trumpet,” I said. “And those are moonflowers.”
“Why are you so woozy?” Pat asked.
“I’m just tired,” I said. “Let’s sit on the bench.”
I leaned toward him to see if he smelled good. He smelled delicious in combination with the night-scented flowers that grew on the trellis above us. I invited him to sleep over since he’d been staying at my friend’s house for so long. She was getting sick of having a houseguest. They were old friends from back in the day, when she used to own a motorcycle herself. One time she’d beat him in a race. So it wasn’t weird when he announced as everyone was about to leave that he’d be crashing on the couch at my house. The girls were like, “Good night, Snow White.”
The air was crisp and I felt like a moth fluttering around a flower. It was early summer, but I heard the opening sentence of Snow White in my head: “It was the middle of winter, and the snowflakes were falling like feathers from the sky.” To make myself come, I thought about my bejeweled room. I envisioned lying in a glass coffin. “Satellite of Love”‘s piano parts played in my head, and Bowie’s background vocals transported me into deep space. I looked at my white fingertips coldly burning from gripping my stone bench so hard. I thought of Snow White, icily dormant, cursed with the Sleeping Death. I pretended I had chipmunk friends to sing to. I saw white stripes lining their backs, fuzzy little landing strips. I saw baby chipmunks running in and out of their hole, each one pausing to rub noses with the next one as in some cozy mountain love film. Bluebirds whistled to me and I whistled back. When I opened my eyes all the flowers seemed pointed right at us; there were bright blooms everywhere. The garden looked incandescent glowing with moonlight. Everything went white as I came, as if the moon suddenly got brighter.
Pat slept on the couch. I woke him up and gave him coffee. I thought a lot about hearts. I wondered why they’re associated with love, and wondered why mine didn’t seem either elated or broken. I cooked bacon for breakfast, started thinking about eating pigs, and realized the link between pigs and hearts: the evil queen. “It was salted and cooked,” Snow Whitegoes, “and the wicked woman ate it up, thinking that there was an end of Snow White.” What would possess somebody to eat a heart? If I hated someone I still wouldn’t eat their heart. It’s bad enough to eat a pig’s hind legs. My mom used to feed chicken hearts to our dogs. The heart symbolizes the place love comes from, but biologically it functions as a pump for blood. When I consider blood and love commingling, I think of an aroused man. The plants’ stems get hard as I water them. Watering plants is a feminine thing to do. Consuming another person’s organ is a female idea. I got horny as I ate the bacon.
My mother works full-time as an accountant, and sometimes I wonder if she’s jealous of the satisfaction I get from gardening in my pjs. Everything she says to me sounds like criticism. You’re too old to be lounging around all day, she tells me. Dress up, she says. Get out there and earn some money. Stop looking like a peasant so you can meet a man. It’s unhealthy to socialize with plants, she says. She’s required to wear suits and nylons to work, and she never leaves the house without first applying lipstick. Since she’s single, pretty, and in her fifties, lots of older men ask her out. She goes to see movies with them but rarely finds them interesting enough to continue dating. That’s where we see eye to eye.
“How was your evening with Lee?” I ask her on the phone.
“He took me out for Italian,” she says. “He ordered one big plate of spaghetti and wanted us to share it. So corny. Did you do anything fun this week?”
“I mulched,” I tell her. “That guy Pat called, but I didn’t call him back.”
“I don’t want you going out with men who ride motorcycles,” she says. “They’re too dangerous.”
“I don’t want you dating men who make you share spaghetti,” I say.
It’s unclear to me what benefits come from working all the time in a lousy office and dating nerdy bachelors. I’d rather be broke and stay home with the plants. During the daytime, I occasionally write articles for gardening magazines; I slide by on that meager income. One time I was hired as a hostess at a restaurant, but when the manager asked me to put on makeup and a shorter skirt for my next shift, I quit. Plants don’t care what I wear. I aim to sleep all day and wake up around sunset. My dog and I will wait for Lou. I’ll invite him over on a full-moon night. Lou will pet the dog as he walks out to my backyard. As I hand him a glass of wine, he’ll notice my gown, feeling the soft yellow ribbon tied around my waist. All the white flowers will open up and face us. A bunny will jump into Lou’s lap as he sits down on the bench with me. A doe will trot up and lick my hair smooth again after Lou puts his hands all through it. We’ll tie the knot, then Lou will take me to the castle he bought 30 years ago after he had a drug-induced vision of Snow White loving him.
—Trinie Dalton lives in Los Angeles. She recently completed her MFA at Bennington Writing Seminars. Her book, Wide Eyed, is forthcoming from the Akashic Books/Little House on the Bowery series edited by Dennis Cooper in fall of this year. She also co-edited an art book, Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is, with Lisa Wagner-Holley and Eli Horowitz, based on a collection of confiscated notes she acquired while working as a substitute high school teacher, to be published this summer by McSweeney’s.
Originally published in
Featuring interviews with Constant Nieuwenhuys and Linda Boersma, Julie Mehretu, Alexi Worth, Pearl Abraham and Aryeh Lev Stollman, Robert Antoni and Lawrence Scott, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Jim O’Rourke, Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Coleman, Brad Cloepfil and Stuart Horodner, and Bruce Mau and Kathryn Simon.
If the soul and the ego were objects we could look at, the soul would be a translucent heart beating.