by Lorna Garano

I am a woman, but at my stage of decay that hardly matters. Sickness and advanced age have made me only a lump of undifferentiated life, and that makes even the professionals assigned to my care uncomfortable. Norma, the nurse who visits daily, brought me flowers last week.  A dozen roses. Some just buds as small as acorns.  “Don't be silly,” I said to her. “Don't be morbid,” she answered.  But what is morbidity at this point, but clear thinking?

I had Guy scatter the flowers on the ground outside my window. He always asks what he can do for his mother, and this time I had an answer—a specific task.  He was surprised: first because I had replied at all and then by the strangeness of the reply. I didn't tell him it was because I wanted to see the birds descend on them. I wanted to see them slice through the air, making food of our ornaments, our be-stemmed denial. Guy looked at me through the window while he scattered the roses. I waved my hand in a circular motion for him to continue, and a tendril of pain shot up my arm. He looked away before he could see me wince.

            The future is something I bang into instead of move through. The constant mind buzz of forecasting and planning is gone, replaced by an anxiety that quiets when I look at the feeding frenzy in my backyard. A hummingbird syringing nectar out of the bottlebrush that grows against the fence; a rabbit nibbling wild clover; once a cat tackling a hovering blackbird.

            When Guy returned I told him I wanted to be buried in the yard, to be devoured and then digested by the earth. I would never be fully dead otherwise. He asked if I wanted a Klonopin, but I wasn't anxious. I closed my eyes and saw my still body shredded by wolves, picked over by crows, chiseled away by beetles. Only a rib or a knucklebone left behind for the slow mastication of the dirt. Guy's father and I had bought burial plots when we turned 70, in a cemetery with willow trees and hedgerows and the dead laid out in a grid. I would be alongside my husband, our bodies forever encased, uselessly putrefying in the mahogany coffins we had chosen, our debts unpaid.