Image: Prince K
It was through the flowers that I came to better understand my twin brother John. From the day he died I could see a change in the house.
As a twin you are supposed to have an affinity. I didn’t at least not from my side. John on the other hand was everything I wasn’t. He was happy, enthusiastic, keen, active and always so positive about every damn thing.
We lived in a large house, Dourfield, it was called and reflected my family. We were all dour people. Both my parents and I were dour people. My father was an accountant and said accountancy bred dour people.
My parents considered John a quaint and eccentric child as he played in the garden. He loved playing in the garden. He had friends there he said, the Mytes. He said they lived in the garden and would come and play with him whenever he went out there.
As children our garden was nothing to boast about. My father had planted an avenue of crab apple. Their fruit bitter and unpleasant, more useful for throwing than for eating we thought.
When we were fifteen our parents died. My father after a long illness and my mother soon after. I think for her it was a broken heart for despite the pessimistic view they both had on the world they loved each other very much.
My mother’s sister Aunt Iris came to stay with us and her arrival triggered a change in Dourfield. She was much more like John and together they planned to restore the garden to the grandeur of my grandmother who from the few photographs that survived had a rich and vibrant garden.
Out came the crab apple and in went a variety of roses, gardenias and assorted colour plants. Over the year of this project the garden was transformed into a riot of colour.
All the while John insisted the Mytes were helping and encouraging him to go further and further. I resented this change in my environment.
As a man of almost twenty now I chided him his belief in the Mytes. Often I would urge him to grow up and get a life.
John always smiled at me, said: ‘One day you’ll understand.’ and went off somewhere his trusty garden rake in his hand.
Our Aunt left us when we were twenty-five, went to her own garden somewhere in the next world. We were alone from then on at Dourfield. Neither of us attracted a woman, me in particular as I tended to find they ran from me rather than to me. Certainly at work, I too became an accountant, I knew I was referred to as the creep from the deep. So I kept my distance and did my job.
John was so engrossed in his garden he rarely went out anywhere other than to the town nursery.
One evening he didn’t come into dinner. I found him lying beside the black roses. The autopsy showed he had a heart attack, a genetic fault apparently, one we never detected.
I felt a pang of regret that my brother was dead. But at the same time a sense of justice as now the house would be mine. I would restore it to the Dourfield of my parents.
John had a habit of decorating the living room with flowers he collected each day. As the roses were in full bloom we had many at that time in the living room. I hated the sight of so much colour in the house and saw now the chance to rid the house of more than my enthusiastic brother. I planned the next morning to start by clearing his memory from within the house. The garden I would get to in my own good time.
The next morning to my dismay every flower had wilted. It looked like a natural disaster. I was dismayed as I knew John’s blooms hung around for a week at least and he had only put these ones in the day before he died.
I looked out the window at a scene of similar devastation. Every plant and flower was bent over as if a huge drought had struck over night and sucked all the life from every plant.
I was so moved by what I saw that I ventured out into the garden. In my mind I saw John doing what he loved. He tended every plant, always talking to them, he had done so all his life with his ‘imaginary’ friends. I knew inside this was not right. That this didn’t happen overnight.
Beside the roses where his life ended I saw his garden trowel. He’d had this one since we were kids. I picked it up and from the corner of my eye I thought I saw a plant move. It was silly I thought that such a thing could happen.
I sunk it into the soil. I had never before touched John’s tools nor gone anywhere near his plants preferring to deride his pursuit.
In that one instant I swear I felt hand on my shoulder. Then I had the sensation of someone sitting beside me a gentle hand resting on my knee. Then a small voice in my ear: “Its ok Tommy, me miss him too.”
I never knew grief until then. I never knew love until then.
I sat there and cried, cried as never before and all the while I felt their presence around me.
Finally I stopped, wiped my face, dried my eyes, sat and looked for the first time at the legacy my brother had left for me.
Around me every plant was a resplendent as I remembered them.
I felt a small hand slip inside of mine and I knew then what I had to do.