You love too much, I am told by a man with a briar heart, thorny sinews and collapsed ventricles bearing down on him, hardly beating in his tight chest. He looks at me with flat, slate eyes, chipping and eroding. His hands are dark with cigarette burns and rough with calluses; I feel them on my shoulders as he looks down at me, face collapsing in at his eyes like a dead man's.
For the first time, I realize he is dead. His briar heart dried up when winter killed his rose; my father, he is all thorns.
He squeezes my shoulders, too tight. You look like your mother, you know, he whispers, eyes shifting to the garden, to the yellow rose I planted for her. It is a rambler, sending shoots to the sky that sink back down. We never gave it a trellis. I loved her too much. And there are tears in his eyes, wet, heavy things that slip down his cheeks and on to the grass below us.
I don't know what to say, so I think of the rose, of her. I think that I'd like to send this year's flowers out to sea, so the petals can sink in the ocean and settle over her eyelids, wherever she is. And I'm crying, too, because my mother is in pieces, in the ocean, and my father is every bit as dead as she is.
I did, too, and I smile a little, bat away my tears with tight fists. But I don't regret it –I love everyone as much as I love her, instead. She'd like that. She always told me I had a big heart, and that I should share it. I smile more, because I remember telling my mother once. She had just hugged me; we both knew I would get hurt. I love everyone –everyone I'll ever meet, I want to give a piece of myself to. Whether it is physical or just something inside me that no one can see; I want people to know they are loved.
He drops his hands, looks at me, and wipes his eyes. You're going to get hurt.
Yeah, I am. Mom told me. I'm okay with that.
I hug him quickly, then pull away. I walk over to the rose, dig my thumbnail into the stem just below a blossom, and twist until the flower comes off into my hand. My father looks at me, lights a cigarette, then puts it out under his foot when he sees me coming back.
I tell him to hold out his hands, and he does. I place the blossom into his palms. She loves you and I do, too.