She wore dandelions in her hair. I told her, “You know, people eat that” and she spent ten minutes explaining how unhealthy it is to chew on hair before she realized I was talking about the weed instead. She had a cute little button nose that she scrunched up then, and she asked, “Why would anyone eat dandelions?” and I asked, “Why would anyone eat snails?” right back. She didn’t answer. She liked escargot.
I asked her once, a month or two later, why she chose dandelions. It was always dandelions. She said it was a personal preference, just because they were everywhere and nobody was doing anything with them but complaining. Girls wanted posies and lilies and daffodils. Well, she liked yellow and sunflowers were too big, so dandelions it was.
“It’s a weed,” I told her. “It’s bad for gardens.”
“We’re bad for the planet,” she said, and though I wasn’t a hippie (and she wasn’t exactly, either), I couldn’t disagree.
She liked things that were a little different, a little off the beaten path. She didn’t mind flinging a little mud around when we tramped through the woods and found a dying riverbed. She always ordered a hot chocolate at the coffee shop and pushed down all of the little plastic tabs on her soda lids except the kind she was drinking, which is the exact opposite of what is supposed to be done (and which is exactly what nobody does anyway).
She liked long walks and longer drives down trails and roads where the trees lined up like soldiers and the businesses, if there were any, were all locally owned. She liked to hear the birds sing and she wondered out loud to me once if birds named their children like humans did, and if those names were sometimes just as stupid as ours.
She liked me. She liked sitting next to me on the couch, sitting upright in a fetal position, knees tucked up against her chest, her back against my chest, a bowl of popcorn in my lap that she used to reach back and grab from and spill from, and she would tell me not to worry, the Roomba would get it, and we’d both laugh because we didn’t own a Roomba and we never would. Call it a misplaced fear of robots if you want, but we valued our feet and refused to let them be the first casualties when the uprising began.
She liked watching those horror movies that are a special kind of bad, full of schlock and dialogue so cardboard an action figure should have come packaged with it. We would pick a character just to see how long “we” survived and whoever lasted the longest had to do the dishes. She was good. I lost a lot.
She liked me and I liked her and we had a good thing for two winters and two summers. We met in the snowpants section of a chain store and I muttered something disparaging about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and she piped up an agreement, and we went out for coffee. Well, I got a coffee. She got a hot chocolate.
We curled up in front of a space heater and pretended it was a fireplace until the next winter when I moved into a bigger place with a real fireplace. She insisted I cut my own wood. I bought wood and pantomimed and she rolled her eyes, but she liked that, too.
She never got mad. I did. Never at her, but I could get mad. I could get moody and lethargic and sullen. She would go on her walk and I’d stay and I’d sleep and I’d wait and when she came back, I would smile a wistful little smile because it was all I could muster, but I loved her and she deserved something from me.
I could hold grudges. I was really good at losing. Losing friends, losing jobs, losing arguments, and I would be resentful because I felt there was something else I could do, some words I could have said that would have changed everything. Did I hold grudges against them or myself? I couldn’t be sure. She would ask me to let it go and I’d nod and I’d smile and I would hug her and stare at the wall behind her, a pit in my stomach turning over.
She loved to travel, to meet new people, to taste new foods. She liked culture and history, and the way the cars were small in France and the “medusa” warnings on Spanish beaches when the jellyfish clusters grew large.
I used to like that, too, but I grew tired and restless and grumpy and conflicted, and it’s difficult to plan an itinerary around a mood swing like that.
We liked to talk to each other. It was easy, too easy, too funny, too real. It was easy for two winters and two summers, from inside our snowpants in that first café to inside my arms that last night in bed. But that third winter started around and I couldn’t be happy for her, and it wasn’t as easy to talk about it, and I didn’t want to bring her energy down. I shut her out, and she didn’t like that. I didn’t either. It wasn’t a game for two, anymore, but the sky trying to carry on with a wall, and the door that led through it stayed locked.
I came home one day, close to spring, the snow melting on the sidewalk and me slipping through it because the sneakers I bought had no treads on the bottom for traction. There had been signs for weeks. I knew that. I had seen them and looked through them and practiced smiling in the mirror.
I saw this sign, though, the purple pair of lips pressed against the outside wall of my apartment, just next to the door. The door would have been easier to hold it. I don’t know why she chose the wall or how hard she would have had to press her lips into the scratchy wood to keep the prints there. I hoped she hadn’t hurt her lips.
There was no note inside. Her stuff wasn’t there, either. She cleaned before she left, though. Did the dishes even though my character had died first in the last film we watched and did my clothes, because…because she was sweet, and she liked me once.
She left one thing behind, though. I found a dandelion on the kitchen counter, next to the stove we took turns cooking each other breakfast on. I don’t know where she found a fresh dandelion. I just know she liked to wear them in her hair.