For Patrice, Saturday mornings in Atlanta were for gardening. Not the kind of gardening that her grandfather did that required a tractor and fed four growing boys, but her tiny patio container garden.
She grew enough on the back patio of her little ranch house to pull together salads a couple of times a week, and that was enough. Arugula. Cucumbers that she ran up a trellis to save space. Cherry tomatoes, since birds would peck the larger ones.
She did it mostly for the pleasure of seeing something grow. Especially during the middle of the summer when it was time to put in summer’s second crop and start planning for the fall.
She’d just dragged the self-watering container she’d bought on clearance out of her garage and sat it in the middle of her concrete patio. It was a gorgeous day: that time before the sun beat down and the humidity slid in to drive everyone inside under air conditioners.
She looked up.
Her neighbor Natalie waved from the alley that backed their houses. They were very similar on paper – late thirties, single professional Black women who had bought homes. They would sip tea, sometimes, sitting by the front window of Nat’s house. Patrice supplied the mint tea leaves and the snicker doodles.
“Come on down,” Patrice said. “I just need to get this done today.”
Nat walked across the grass since Patrice did not have a path from the alley to the patio and sat in one of the chairs of the white patio set. Patrice’d bought it because it reminded her of a French bistro. Not that she had ever been to France. The furniture just reminded her of what she thought a French bistro set would look like —small table and two chairs that looked as if they were made of lace, if lace were made of white plastic.
Patrice tore into the potting mix. She liked Miracle Gro potting mix with Moisture Control because of the hot Southern sun.
“I’m getting married,” Nat said.
Patrice stopped mid-tear, then continued until she ripped open the bag. “Wow. I didn’t know you were dating anyone. Who’s the guy?”
Patrice set the bag aside. That was the worst part of setting up the container. Then she would be good for most of the summer, hot Georgia sun and all. She stuck the perforated platform at the bottom of the container.
It took a while for Patrice to register the name. An image popped in her head—thin, nice guy, kinda sweet. Patrice dumped the soil in the container and packed it down.
Then the rest came to her. “You’re not talking about the Stefan from church? I thought y’all were just friends.”
“Well, things change, you know? You start seeing each other as something else. Do you need anything help?”
“No, I got this.” She dumped in the 10-10-10 fertilizer, which she’sd already measured out in a cup, and an equal amount of dolomite. “So, when did this happen?”
“Just yesterday. We had this big dinner and then we, well, we just decided. You know he was there when I went through my divorce and I was with him through Genesis Recovery.”
Patrice dumped the rest of the soil in to fill it right up to the lip of the container. “Could you remind me what Genesis Recovery is again?”
“They deliver gay people.”
“You know,” Nat said.
Patrice mixed in the soil with the dolomite and the fertilizer with her hands. “Uh, no. I don’t know.”
“From being gay.”
“There’s a place in Atlanta like that? It’s kind of like the rainbow city around Piedmont Park.”
“No,” Nat said. “He had to go to Mississippi.”
“Oh. That explains it. Could you hand me that baggie with the wet paper towels, please?”
Patrice took the baggie, opened it, and placed the paper towel squares with germinated seeds in the dirt. “So, uh, have y’all started talking about a date?”
“I don’t know when, but I know where. Midtown. Piedmont. You know the place where they shoot that show on VH1? Dress is formal and they’ll be security.”
“Security, as in security guards?”
Patrice wanted to be sure that she heard Nat correctly. “You’ve hired security guards for your wedding.”
“Just to make sure that no one is there who shouldn’t be there.”
“Nat. Y’all just got engaged yesterday,” Patrice said.
“A girl’s got to be prepared.” She leaned over to point at the container Patrice was planting. “Why are you planting paper towel squares?”
Patrice watered the seeds. “They’re seeds from a couple of years ago so I germinated them in my kitchen’s windowsill on a wet paper towel square in a plastic baggie. I wanted to make sure that they were still good before planting. It’s a waste to put in all your time into something that’s never going to grow. You know what I mean?”
Nat said, “So are you coming to the wedding?”
“Sure.” Patrice said. “I mean, yes. Of course I’ll be there.”
Copyright © 2015 Irette Y Patterson