Today, I was walking down the street after a rather average day at work. A man was meticulously tending his garden. It was the sorriest patch of dirt in one of the sorriest neighborhoods in one of the sorriest cities.
This poor man struggled and sweat over his greens. I think he noticed my gawking because he let loose a friendly 'Yo!' Oh, god, totally snagged now. You can't have someone greet you and then not stop for a chat. It's just bad manners to do so.
His sweet peas clung vicariously to the small white lattice buried nearby. It was comical that these small sprouts yielded such large pods and here he was harvesting. The sweet pea pods fit easily into my hand, like a green pocket knife.
"I'ave been growin sweet peas," he boasted. "The're best dis time of yeer." I nodded in sage agreement. I had no idea that sweet peas were the best around the summer solstice. I have no idea when they would ever be the best in the year, but this man said it so self-assuredly that it must be so. Sweat peas are best this time of year.
"They do look great," I remarked.
"Wunt one?" I think I have never seen a prouder man. And to be completely honest, he had full rights to be. Anyone who can manage to make something edible grow out of the dusty old dirt hanging around the city is nothing short of a master botanist.
Sure, the city and the school and other big businesses have lots of trees and grass growing, but only with liberal applications of mulch and imported soil. It's not the native environment but an invasion. It is an unsaid admission that nothing good can grow here without serious cash. And yet, here was Sweet Pea Man, diligently watering and plucking his sweet peas, making the impossible possible.
Now, how could I refuse? You can't refuse a good hearted gift crafted with their very hands. It's bad manners to do so. In any such case, you take it and say, "Thank you very much," as if it were the one thing you have always wanted the most in the entire world.
I took the sweet pea and said goodbye.
Around the end of the block, as I was absent-mindedly playing with the pod in my hand, I noticed a small spattering of green pods. Had this man accosted others and forced sweet peas into their hands? And having done so, proceeded to chuck them away when safely out of sight?
Surely this man was not a hermit and must be familiar with his block. I wonder what he felt when he found that his precious crop, so lovingly tended and coaxed out of the ground, tossed as garbage onto the streets.
Ah, the price of giving a gift.