The sun shines down on the little garden, bathing it in a strong heat that would bring small buds to bloom. The narrow rectangular yard is enclosed by a tall wooden fence and stuffed with young gardenia trees and a hedge of rosemary and lavender. It is a garden for smelling above all else, the shrubbery was planted with the nose in mind and not the eyes. Jasmine covers the back fence, transforming the wooden planks of the border into a wall of green and white speckles.
Beneath the lavender blooms, nearly hidden from sight below the thicket of pale green and purple is a young girl. Her bare feet are caked in dust, creating the look of a pale brown shoe that is corrected only by looking at the small toes tipped in pink nail polish. She squats close to the ground and her long brown braided hair sweeps along the soil like the tender caress of a broom.
The girl does not notice her hair, tipped with the earth’s dust, nor the shoes of soil she wears, all her attention is on the ground before her. She has arranged a series of vertical sticks in a circle and some tender green leaves from the jasmine bush have been impaled on thin twigs, creating flags for her city beneath the lavender canopy.
She has been in the same spot for hours, missing the lunch of macaroni and cheese her mother prepared and also the visit from her friend Dave from next door. She didn’t hear them calling or feel the pangs of hunger. Nothing distracted her from creation. She created a world, and she could feel nothing but the rush of excitement as the small city of wood and leaves came together.
She sits still, adding the last touches of thin sticks and then places one solitary lavender stem in the center of the city-circle. The metal latch of the back gate slams closes and she looks up. Through the fragrant stems she sees her brother walking along the back side of the house, approaching the door that leads to his bedroom in the converted garage.
“Sean!!” she cries excitedly. She jumps up, her pigtails gathering a few yellowed leafs as she runs through a hedge of geraniums. “Sean, come look at what I made. It’s a whole city. A whole world!”
He looks at her, at the little girl whose feet are covered in dirt, this little girl that smells of salt and sun and flowers. She’s running towards him, about to grab onto him as she always has.
“Mattie! Stop! You’re all dirty and I’m on my way somewhere. Don’t get me dirty, I don’t have time to change.”
“Sean! Come look at what I made,” she squeals excitedly, not hearing him.
“Don’t get me dirty Mattie, I’ll come look, but don’t get me all dirty.”
“Okay” she says, slowing down and turning in the direction of the lavender bush, “It’s this way. It’s in here.”
Sean walks towards the bushes and comes to the edge where the purple stalks become a wall. Mattie steps into the narrow path she has created among the lavender. She turns to him, “you have to come in to see it.”
Sean rolls his eyes. “Mattie, I told you…I can’t go in there, I’m going to get all messed up, I’m on my way somewhere. I’m going to get covered in that stuff.”
“Please, it’s so cool. I don’t want anyone to see it but you, it’s a whole world. It’s such a special place.”
“Look, I can’t get in there now, but I’ll look at it later, okay?”
She looks at him, wearing his clean jeans and crisp black blazer. He looks nice, and she wonders who he is going to see.
“Okay, you look nice. I guess you shouldn’t get all dirty, it’s just a little world. Maybe you can see it tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I’ll check it out tomorrow. I gotta go grab my stuff and leave now, okay?”
She nods and then Sean turns and walks towards his bedroom door. She takes another five steps and then kneels, her hair sweeping the soil once more. She takes a deep breath, then starts to breathe into the circle of the new world. Her breath becomes a slight wind and all the flags of leaves begin to flutter.