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Harvesting Herbs

It was my husband who suggested we have a garden. A vegetable garden. In the middle of a city.

It was my husband who did most of the work. I helped out a few times, fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there, maybe a total of two hours all summer, that was all, Andrei and I dug in the dirt, weeded, watered the tomato plants.

It is my husband who loves plants in that way, like they are people, or rather kids who require that unique combination of tenderness and deep understanding. It is my husband who has and tends to the violets on our kitchen windowsill, the same ones that I never, not one single time, remembered to water.

But last night it was me who stepped out into the garden late in the evening, after midnight, after I realized that my husband had fallen asleep while putting our son to bed. It was me who decided to save from the cold those herbs that we never got around to harvesting.

I found a big tray and a pair of scissors and went out into the cold. I cut fragrant bunches and piled them onto the tray. When I was finished, I decided I was going to play a game with myself: I was going to name the herbs. I looked, and touched, and buried my face into the tray. And I was clueless, so I quickly revised the rules of the games: I was just going to identify parsley, I owed at least that to my Serbian self, I decided, I owed it to my mother and my aunt and to all the soups and kitchens of my childhood.

So I buried my head back into the tray, and I tried to recover some random bit of memory that would give me a clue, I looked closely, I sniffed, and then left the tray on the table and went to bed.

The following morning my husband thanked me for harvesting the herbs, quite surprised I remembered them. I asked him to tell me which pile was the parsley. He said there was no parsley in the pile, our urban farm didn’t have any when he was planting the herbs.

There was no parsley in the pile, I repeated to myself. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? The fact that I didn’t fail to recognize it because there was none in the pile, or the fact that I didn’t even notice that there was nothing to recognize? I didn’t know.

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