Monday, November 26, 2007

Liriope muscari

It is unclear how I died. Page 6B lists my age (26), my occupation (waitress), my dates of birth and death (12/1/1978-10/17/2005), but no cause. I don't think there would be room, anyway. There are a lot of names on this page.

As a girl, I dreamt in purple. I saw the earth split in two, the fissure running directly through my little pink bedroom, shooting through the sky and shattering the moon. Over and over again, I watched the monochromatic black & white of moonlight give way to a violet haze, while the monkey grass in the garden danced playfully to the destruction.

As a nightmare, it's probably not that original, even for a 5-year-old. But it was vivid, intense and repetitive. It stuck. For years, the mere sight of monkey grass sent a thrill through my brain and rang alarms. Alarms that cut the air in half the day I decided to plant a purple lawn.

It started on Highway 20. They were selling sod from the side of the highway like watermelons or tamales. What caught my eye was the field of purple tucked into the green patchwork.

I thought of my purple lawn as the canary in the coal mine. Chlorophyll absorbs yellow light at 540 nm. When yellow light is low or stress is high, anthocyanin takes over and the green fades out. In other words, the plant turns purple when the shit hits the fan. (Even more dramatically so if the shit hits the fan and busts out the overhead light.)

I also took to cutting down oaks. I needed yards of uninterrupted moonlight off those shining blades. I painted my bedroom pink and kept the shades open at all times, even if it meant dressing in the kitchen. I planted spider lilies, mimosas, and any other alien, fingered plants that would grow. And then, of course, monkey grass. Liriope stuffed in every corner and making a slow fade into the lawn.

I wasn't sure what I had accomplished, or even why. I started to run over artifacts in daylight. The first few were subtle. Water bottles, paperclips, and pieces of cement glittering in the purple grass. Next I found a file folder on my doorstep, with my own name on the tab and black soot down one side. At one point I found a dress hanging from a mimosa. It was my size, and purple. I kept it.

The newspapers started right after the dress. I examined every page with wonder. The stories told of upheavals that somehow hadn't touched me, and I wondered when I had last turned on a TV, or a radio, or taken a drive beyond my own violet fields. An entire country had exploded on the Mediterranean. A city had gone underwater. A neighborhood's homes were picked up by tornadoes and scattered across four states.

The list of the dead was full of jump lines. "Continued on 12A... Continued on 4B... Continued tomorrow." Somehow, I didn't miss my name. Maybe your own name has a way of jumping off the page at you. Or maybe I was looking for it.

There's an ad for sod in the lower left corner. Apparently they're running a special on the 19th.

It is unclear how I died. But I'm quite certain the ground shook, and the moon shattered, and gardens of strange fruit lifted their stamen to heaven in a parody of joy. And that since, I've grown quite comfortable here. I look out over my purple lawn, knowing the shit is about to hit the fan. But this perpetual violet dream I have planted never fully blooms into nightmare.



Katie said...

*thud* Remarkable as usual Jane. Your writing never ceases to amaze me.

OhItsJustAmy said...

Amazing piece, C. Connected to something flitting around in my attic of a head. A discussion for future Thursday evenings, I think.

- A.