The nectar is gone out of the stargazer lilies, Ezra. Their colorless, brittle petals dip toward the salt crust of the dry lakebed. A prophet preaches from the toppled ruins along the steep embankment where shallow tides used to deposit crabs and kelp and silty mud every evening. Now sundried, empty shells lie scattered where they crunch under my feet. And you, Ezra, threw yourself under a falling temple column the first chance you got. Left me to dig you out of the rubble only to bury you again.
I buried you far outside town in the desert beside the dry hollow husk that remains of the tallest tree in your family’s orchard. Where we would sit and drink apple wine and make love on summer evenings when the world was still green.
I returned to town and let the prophet take my head in his hands to look at me with eyes like the bulging ommateum of an insect. He said, “How lonely it must be to only see one thing at a time.” He touched my eyes as if scales might fall at the brush of his fingertips. “Now tell me what you see,” the prophet commanded.
I didn’t tell him, Ezra, that all I see is you—you surrounding me, the comfort of the smallness I felt in your arms. How I was in love with your sadness even more than I was in love with you.
So I said, “The past, prophet. I see only the past.”
The prophet banished me from the town, where the people no longer believe in a time that came before. They believe in a future filled with water and vineyards and nectar, living as if it is already happening and dying because it isn’t.
I live on the lakebed now, far from memories of life. I dig for water as if I might convince the lake to return if I find what’s left of it underground. But my hands are cracked and blistered, and my wells haven’t drawn a drop. I sleep in the earth every night to feel closer to you, Ezra, but nothing has grown in your place and even from my bed underground, I can hear the prophet speaking to the townspeople. His voice carries past the ruins of the temple and across the flat desert into the night.