I think my new neighbor is planting hallucinogens but I can’t be sure. Not that it matters. We’ve been on a couple of dates now and he seems nice enough but even still, I know what I’ve heard with my own ears and seen with my own eyes.
He moved in two Tuesdays ago and immediately set to work razing what the Hendersons had left behind to the ground. Awful, plain stuff it was. My company does landscape architecture and I’d been begging them to let me do that yard for years. All of the neighbors have used me. I went to college for this, and I’m good at it. This is easily the best looking street in town except for the Henderson house…
But they’re gone now and Seth Moss’s first order of business upon moving in was to rip all their shit out; poorly placed vining ferns, elephant ears, hibiscus, palmetto bushes, all of it gone. That was the day I knew I’d found love.
He was doing all of the work himself, shirtless, in the hot Florida sun. I knew I wanted to make an impression so I made a point of waving as I pulled the only three lemons from the boughs of my citrus tree and went inside. It was late in the season and most of the fruit was rotten; either having fallen to the ground or spoiled where it hung. I threw them into the garbage inside and made lemonade from the perfect, wax-coated lemons I’d purchased at the Publix up the road.
I would of course claim that everything about this lemonade was homegrown from the recipe to the fruit used. A white lie, because…appearances.
I brought him a lemonade and we got to talking and I recall him asking me then who was in charge of the landscaping for a neighborhood common area,–the roundabout at the end of the cul-de-sac–“That’d be the association but they subcontract it out to me. I own a landscape business.”
“It’s very beautiful indeed,” he glistened with sweat as he sipped my lemon flavored lie, wiping his brow: “I would like to add to it if you don’t mind.”
Of course I mind. I had put painstaking hours into the design of that gazebo and the foliage and here this man is, living here for a day or two, and he wants to change everything? My brain screamed, how dare you, and yet incredulously, I heard the words from my mouth giving him permission; like one transfixed. At the end of the visit he thanked me for the homemade lemonade and asked me over for dinner later in the week.
The gazebo in the roundabout got his flowers sometime the next day. A flatbed pulled into his driveway, every inch of which covered in the most curious plants. Seth stopped work on his own property to imbed them around the pavilion. They were large ostentatious things like I had never seen; something out of a dream. The ones for the common area were tiger-striped in color combinations that I didn’t know happened naturally. Canary yellow with azure, veridian green with violet. Their bright plumage quickly drew the attention of most of the neighborhood and many came out afterwards to sit in the gazebo, passing bottles of beer and wine only to retire in the evening with the setting sun.
I should have known something was wrong different when Mr. Florent didn’t return to his home after dark. I am almost certain that it was this night that he began to sleep on the gazebo steps. It’s midnight now, days later and he’s still there, bare feet in the grass one arm raised as though in greeting. I can see him from my window. He saw my curtains ajar and so he waved but it might have been the wind. I returned a wave just in case and we shared a momentary secret midnight smile.
The day after the upgrade at the pavilion, I began seeing the strange flowers everywhere. Seth was offering the excess to any and all takers. It seemed as though every doorway was adorned with palm-sized blossoms of pink and orange; or hanging baskets dripping with teal tendrils that were dotted with quarter-sized honey-colored blooms.
It wasn’t just the peculiarity of the flowers’ appearance that drew everyone to them, but their cloying toxic breath. The aromas they exhaled were complex and enticing. Honeyed generously with strange secrets, the air hung thick throughout the neighborhood; dense with the allure of their perfume.
Most agreed the flowers were pleasant. The smell was enjoyable and the colors impressive. I never planted any in my yard. My pride prevented me from doing so. I am not worthy of them.
The odd sensations began a day or two after the flowers had been spread everywhere on the block. Should you chance to ask, most of the neighbors will tell you Susan has finally lost it, but I haven’t.
I know what I’ve heard with my own eyes and seen with my own ears.
I think this was last Saturday? Yes. By Saturday it was Mr. Florent, Herb and Ms. Quill all sleeping rough by the gazebo under the stars. It must have been Saturday. Most everyone that is left is out there now. They look gaunt and sunburned but at least Mr. Florent has company. They don’t look comfortable. Most of them sit on the ground with their bare feet sinking into the grass. They sleep smiling and upright. Since I have the account for upkeep, I may order them some furniture.
I was not immune to the strange cloud of euphoria that everyone in the neighborhood hung by, suspended through the past few days, but it was Saturday last week that I first noticed that the sky smelled a bit too bright yellow and warbly and the grass had begun undulating between green and tangerine at the whim of the wind. It was fine that I knew these wrong things. I had dinner at Seth’s place that evening and we talked about it. The food and conversation was delightful.
Seth planted Iris who lives next door to me on Sunday. Nobody else saw it. They were all to transfixed in synesthesia. They were listening to the sound of the purple and red at the bandstand. At least that’s how Jared says Sunday night went. He lives down there now, but we still talk. He remembered to bring his cell phone.
I smiled as I watched Seth through the window. He crossed the street and knocked on Iris’s door. Though it was so late, she opened right up. She was smiling too. Even as he bashed her brains in with the shovel. He planted her under the tree in her front yard while everyone else was tasting the song of the breeze and smelling the light of the moon; at least that’s what Jared said.
On Monday everyone skipped work. On Monday at midnight was when he planted Laurel from two doors down.
On Tuesday he planted Jasmine.
On Wednesday he planted Anthony.
On Thursday we had dinner for a second time. He had a steak, cooked rare–a monsterous specimen of manhood. I declined eating in favor of staring at him longingly from across the table. At midnight he planted Mr. Alder.
On Friday I think he planted William. He returned in the dark from that direction, lugging over his shoulder, the shovel, as it dripped with fresh skull fragments and graymatter.
Today was a beautiful day that’s becoming an equally beautiful night. I haven’t left my home since the delightful dinner date with Seth a few days ago. The air outside feels just a bit too fuzzy and pink but I think it’s nearly time…I can hear the smell of the flowers at the gazebo calling me to join the rest of the neighborhood and plant my feet in the grass under the oak tree where I can bask in the hum of the starlight for always.
I think I will go out there and inlay myself among the rest of the neighbors. I should probably get going. I can taste the sighs of the streetlights; they’ve been inviting me and they’re getting irritated that I’ve yet to accept their company.
It may be too late to RSVP.
Seth is crossing the road to my door. He probably wants to escort me.
He’s at the door. He’s brought the shovel to meet me. Brain me with it. Smash my gray thoughts out like pots of wet topsoil. Like the others. I already have on my best smile. I should post this now so that I might go answer.