Chloe Lanyi Lari

The Lilac Bush

You are fifteen years old, and it is springtime, and you are moving out of the house with the lilac bush. The sky is blue, and you are walking in the overgrown grass that is mostly dandelion and clover. They will cut the lawn tomorrow, the painters will come on Wednesday, and the movers the Friday after that. But for now, the brick is exposed, and the greenery grows wild around your ankles.
The lilac bush is blooming. You are tall now, being fifteen years old, and so you and the blossoms are of a height. You can stick your face in the bunches of delicate purple stars, cool and fragrant where they tickle your skin. The vibrant green leaves bend to tap your shoulders. You stand there for a moment, because lilacs are your favorite flower. The sun is shining down on your back, on the crown of your head. You breathe in the air. And then you sink down into a crouch.
Here, this is a more familiar view. Branches reaching up, some low and straggling leaves clinging to them, flaxen twine keeping the bush’s limbs halfheartedly strung against the wrought iron fence. It forms a room—the fence, the side of the house, and the branches closing the triangle. You crawl inside, pressing your back against the bricks. The black paint is flecking on the iron fence, just enough that rust is beginning to creep up the bottom. You can feel the brickwork catching on the cotton of your shirt.

There’s something waiting for you here.
You can half-glimpse it. It’s half-gone. You half-remember something precious, something sacred, buried treasure, hidden gold. What was it you found here when you were little? What lived in-between brick and wrought-iron and lilac boughs? You let your eyes unfocus, until the world is green sunshine and smudged lavender.
It comes back to you on the scent of lilacs. Fairies in the springtime, icicles in the fall. Potions being stirred in pots of rainwater, sparkling, sifting mica and leaves turning to fire. It comes back to you, snow piling high against the black iron fence, it comes back to you, carpenter bees and thistles and lily of the valley by the shadow of the wall. The generator buzzing in the summer, hot to the touch; the pitfall halfway down the slope where a felled tree once stood; the snake you found in the garage and cried for when you set it free. You and your little brother—how funny! Do you have a little brother? But you must have, once, because you can remember that gap-toothed smile, those dimples, remember hair and eyes and skin just like yours. You and your little brother crawling under the bushes in the front of the house, and trying to climb the gutter in the back, sword-fighting with sticks, raking leaves, sledding, spraying each other with the garden hose. It comes back to you, creeping under the lilac bush, and dashing to the safety of the lilac bush, and throwing yourself bodily through the gaps in the branches of the lilac bush. This was the home base, the fort. This was the castle, the stronghold, you and your little brother against every enemy in the world.

It comes back to you. You’ve been uprooting the forest of thistles growing in the cool undergrowth of the trees after summer storms. Both of you are sweating through your long sleeves, hair sticking to your necks. You pull the prickling things out of denim and shoelaces, cotton and sun-darkened skin. You check each other. Summer is bloody to you, it is nettles and asphalt burn and mosquito bites. Your brother gets a smear of red on his face, and it makes his grin look savage.
It comes back to you. The sky is wearing heavy gray, and the downpour is hardly softened by the autumn’s ailing leaves. You are taking shelter there anyway. You had been running away—both of you have backpacks on, stuffed with clothes, and an apple each. Neither of you packed a raincoat, and both of you are beginning to suspect your parents might be upset if you run away. Your brother’s socks are soaked from jumping in the gutter. You’re eating your apple, rain dripping in your face.
It comes back to you. Your little brother winds white twine around the boughs of the bush, and they crackle in their winter slumber. The February wind whips through your clothes as you examine the iron bars, trying to plan patterns in your mind. The plan is to cultivate vines around them next spring, since a laser grid doesn’t seem realistic. You’re protecting against intruders. You’ve never had intruders, or supervillains, or monsters or ninjas or evil spies. You’d be ready though, if you did.
It comes back to you. You and your brother are sitting solemnly together, clutching papers and a sandwich bag. It’s all there—lilac and sunshine, dandelion and clover. The two of you place the documents in the bag, sealing it shut. These are the instructions, the blood pact, the treasure map. These are the secrets that bind you to each other, the ones you will take to your grave. Protected from the elements by Ziploc and hope, this is something precious, something sacred. You bury them in the dirt, in the castle, the stronghold. You bury them, and you leave them to their years of hibernation. It comes back to you.

You come back to yourself. You are fifteen years old, and it is springtime. And you are moving out of the house with the lilac bush next Friday, so you get on your knees and dig. The forgotten texts come up easily, and the Ziploc has held for all these years. You pull your treasure out of its plastic shell with careful, dirty hands. The paper is dry when you unfold it. It has been waiting for you.
You can half-glimpse it. It is mostly gone. You cannot remember the particulars, and the sun has bleached the words away, even through the dappled leaves, even through the dirt. You can make out color—Crayola marker in your own handwriting. You cannot make out the words. It is all faded, softened and washed out, a rosy, sun-dappled dream.
You are fifteen years old, alone under the lilac bush. They are cutting the lawn tomorrow.

Chloe Lanyi Lari is a DC-based poet who is currently studying illustration, arts education, and creative writing at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also a member of the Voices of Now mentor ensemble at Arena Stage, and is working toward her lifelong goal of being taller than 5’2.