It’s the eighth time and by now I’m used to it. The slicing, the hope, the pain. I look down, but not at my abdomen, at the gaping hole, the emptiness. I look only at him, watch his kind face as he burrows in deep, gently lifts another seed from the collection and cradles it in his palms. He stares at it for a long time before he plants it in my belly, before he covers it in dirt and sews me up.
And it begins again: the sucking down of water until I choke, the soft voice and smiles and sounds of assurance. The old wives’ tales and nutrient-enriched food. The must-move-with-care. This is always the time he loves most. This is when he can show me pictures of the perfect planter pot and talk about a house with more light than the one we’re in now. This is when we spend hours talking about the possibilities of roses and daffodils and cacti and elm trees. This is when it’s safe to laugh when something’s funny. This is when it’s safe to be happy.
But he doesn’t know what I know. He doesn’t know that nothing has sprouted, that there are no roots. He doesn’t know that inside me it’s a desert, that how much water I drink and what type of food I eat is irrelevant. None of it matters. There is no life here.
It’s something in his eyes, though, that prevents me from telling him. It’s in the corners of his mouth when he smiles and in the very tips of his fingers as he grazes them across my skin. I’ve never seen anyone want anything so bad. That’s why I keep my mouth shut and smile when he tells me daylilies are his favorite but that he knows I love peonies. That’s why I’ve let him make a mess of my body over and over again, why I’ve gotten so used to it all that I can remove my own stitches without a second thought.
My grandmother always said lilies were only for funerals.
At night, when he crawls into bed beside me and pulls the blankets up real high, I close my eyes tight and will myself to breathe in slow. And when he whispers his words of hope and tells me how beautiful I am, his fingers tracing the lines of my scars, I do my best not to let him hear me cry.