But about a week ago, a ball-like orange flower appeared atop the plant's bushy leaves. Like a spray of fireworks in the night sky.
Now there are twelve blooms on this plant.
A parting gift? This is what I'm thinking.
In late June I'll leave this place I love, Abu Dhabi, knowing full well I may never come back and that regardless, life will go on here after I'm gone. At the risk of sounding morbid, it reminds me a little of death: that's how it is for people who know they're not long for this world and are cognizant of the fact that their loved ones will get up the day after their demise. Their favorite people will move on, as they should, despite their absence.
What will happen to my flowers, I ask myself in the middle of the night. The petunias, which have outlasted most in the city, as well as the impatiens, I will toss lest they wither and become an eyesore for my neighbors. The bougainvillea and my cycads tree,"Jameel," (forgive spelling), which is Arabic for "beautiful," will go to my Emirati friend, Manaal (not her real name).
When I see Manaal lately she asks, "How is you jameel?" and I answer, "You mean how is your jameel," and we laugh. Other things, like hair dryers and kettles, I will just give away. I'm no good at garage sales and the like.
It's not all sad and bad, though. As we get closer to our leave date, my mind is full of the smells of home: the beginning of spring, with the air cool and clean and mild after a long winter, which always make me feel a surge of freedom and energy; the evergreen trees around my New Hampshire home; the dark, wet earth in my hands when I dig holes for news plants and move others around for the coming season; the fresh air coming through the window in the morning as I lay in bed or stand at the kitchen sink washing a pot.
I am distracted and unable to concentrate lately. I flit from task to task like a fly. I give away clothes the kids have outgrown, throw away unnecessary papers, and purchase things we cannot get anywhere but here. I trade recipes with ladies from other countries and try to see friends one more time before we go. I attend the children's school activities and shuttle them to social/academic events.
When I see Manaal, I say let's not talk about my imminent departure. This is chiefly because I don't know when and if I will ever see her again. (I have this feeling in general and all the time, that we don't know what tomorrow will bring and if the people we love will be with us/alive next year).
We touch on a variety of subjects, but naturally the conversation returns to my leave date. She stops talking, looks away. Her kohl-outlined eyes are full of water. I look away too, for a moment, and then one of us changes the subject.