Yesterday, Garcia showed me his garden. He’s taking correspondence courses in environmental science and tells me he wants to become a park ranger when he get out of prison. I help him study for his exams, and in return he gives me burritos made with rice and beans and chicharrónes.
The garden is planted in a mere two square feet of dirt, tucked away behind weeds and razor wire. I point to one of the plants whose stalk is hairy. “That’s a tomato plant,” I say taken aback. “And those are onions?” Garcia smiles. He also has a pepper plant, cilantro, and an apple tree that stands just under a foot tall, its leaves new and feathery. It was miraculous to see such beauty, to think it could have sprung from prison ground where no trees are allowed to grow. I imagined Garcia crouching in the grass, planting the seeds he’d salvaged from so many meals in the chow hall. I imagined him going out there each day and reaching in ever so carefully past the razor wire to pour water over the tiny saplings from his coffee cup.
I felt and urge to contribute in some way, to bring out food scraps for compost, or to help stake the tomato plant. I felt suddenly very protective of that garden, and I feared what might happen to it if discovered by the officers. Would they stomp the plants with their boots? Would they rip them from the ground and throw them out with the trash the way they throw out the books they confiscate from weight bags?
I tell myself not to get attached, that a good thing will surely not last. But I can’t help but notice as I look out the library window that the sky has darkened. It looks like it will rain, and this makes me happy.