The Garden Hose: A Short Story
The morning hadn’t gone too well for Susan. Her contemptuous neighbours murdered any air of a lovely start to her day. Sometimes, she thought about doing very bad things to them. Things that she could never admit to anyone.
After that incident in the morning, she felt a pinch in her gullet. Susan could not stomach her neighbours’ actions. In the past, she tried screaming into pillows, punching her bed, and crying. She tried church, and she tried therapy. None of all aids could subdue her displeasure with every bit of chaos that surrounds her. Little failures had built up throughout the week, wearing her down, with life taking a few swipes at her, and then today, the final blow. She needs to get away, never to return, she thought.
Susan set her cushion down on the floor and sat in a meditative posture. She tried breathing in and out with consistency. “Positive in, negative out… Positive in, negative out…” she internalized. “Today could be better… I can make a change… I can take control…” and she felt the beat of her heart stabilizing. She smiled. Positive Therapy 101, smile to yourself. Trick your body into a bout of positivity.
A good ice cold shower sent Susan gasping for air, and then some profanities. She laughed, at how silly she felt, at how angry she felt, at how lost she felt. She stared right at the spurt from the shower-head, and she pictured her plant being uprooted and killed by the mad gush of water from her neighbours’ hose. She turned the tap off, determined to put the past behind her. She will not be filled with evil intent. Not today.
Susan got dressed, and focused on the day instead. She was about to meet Dan, a friend that she had befriended from her short stint in church. Dan was different. Unlike the others, Dan never spoke to Susan with intent, and to date, never asked a word about her faith, nor has he made a move on her. Susan might be simple to the eye, but she isn’t. She knows of her good looks; of her darting brown eyes, of her sharp features, and of her radiant lips that she had received repulsive compliments about over the years. Susan is seen as “cute,” which she undoubtedly relates to as “daft.” Susan was unsure about Dan. She wondered if sometimes, she had wanted him by her side although most times not.
She recalled the day Dan called her ‘Susie.’ Her heart wrenched. She planned on asking him to stop, but she grew a liking to it. Yet, when she did, Dan reverted to calling her Susan. There were nights when she would murmur to herself in bed “Why don’t you call me Susie anymore?” And those nights, she felt rather embarrassed, sometimes, disgusted with herself.
Dan was the only one who stayed in touch with Susan after she had left. Her foray into christianity lasted 8 months. She loved contributing to several charitable causes but her fondest memory was a mission trip to Cambodia, where she touched the walls of Angkor Wat and met a naive, sweet boy named Bona.
Bona lived in a shed, located in a shabby site off of Siem Reap. Bona would bring the missionaries fruits after meals, and he would massage them when they were taking a break. Bona was 6, full of energy, laughter, and positivity. He was a particular highlight for Susan during the darker times of her adulthood, when she was, and still is, on the search for comfort and resolution. Purpose is a journey that had since worn her down tremendously.
Susan recalled handing over a gift to Bona before she left. She passed a night market and came across a little stall that sold toys. Susan thought about Bona. Toys were a luxury the children could not afford in that area. Susan wanted Bona to feel special, just as Bona did for her and the others. Susan picked out a toy fireman which Bona screamed in delight upon receiving. As Susan left on a bus, Bona held up the fireman and waved goodbye until the bus disappeared by the horizon.
2 years had passed. Susan had wanted to visit since, but she never did have too much desire to go. She submitted to the corporate life, met her friends after work, if not, binged on television shows, and that was about it. She wanted to be numb of intellect. She wanted to be a simple person. When Dan mentioned that the church was heading to Siem Reap once more, Susan got a gift for Dan to pass along. It was just a simple notebook and a pen but it would mean so much more to Bona since he should be schooling now, she thought.
On the earlier mission trip, Dan wasn’t close to Susan yet, but he, like all the other missionaries remembered Bona fondly. Dan had promised to send Susan’s regards and he had been busy on the trip. Susan checked in every now and then when he was away but Dan wasn’t responsive. Susan didn’t probe.
Dan had picked a restaurant to meet, a place that served breakfast all-day-long. Dan knew Susan loved all-day-breakfast restaurants. Susan arrived early. She wasn’t surprised that Dan was already there. They ordered. They chatted. Dan asked about Susan’s life and more details than usual. Susan felt that Dan was chattier than before, and maybe he was finally trying to get to know her better. But this is not the way, she thought. Dan was trying way too hard. Before Susan could put a stop to his inquisitions, the food arrived.
Susan casually asked about Bona. Dan seemed rather downcast by her question. To her surprise he held her hands firmly and pre-empted her to remain calm. Susan disliked his ominous tone, but it struck her why Dan might’ve been so talkative before. Due to the unpleasant nature of the news, Dan mentioned that he would make it short and as direct as possible.
Bona died. This happened close to 2 years ago, shortly after Susan’s mission.
It had something to do with neighbouring kids who were jealous of a toy he had. Bona wouldn’t give it up and his life ended when someone drowned him in a pool of mud until his grip on the toy loosened. It was a crime of envy and nothing more. Dan prayed for Bona day and night and he hoped that Susan would do so as well. “He’s in a better place now.”
Susan stood up. Dan did as well. “Don’t” she muttered, and left.