Covid Garden

Of course, this portion of the trip in May 2015 had to start with something Apple. Trina indulged me, as she is wont to do.

I entered the large store in Covent Garden, wowed as always at how the Reality Distortion Field, inspired by the ghost of Apple founder Steve Jobs, worked on me even in London. The store had all the usual Apple kit, plus a slick design including a wonderful staircase made of glass, a Stairway to Heaven, one might say if one were an Apple fanboy. I made the rounds through the store, marveling at everything, wanting one of each item, needing nothing. 

“Okay, I said, I’ve had my Apple store fix. Let’s keep going.”

We strolled through the streets full of shoppers and tourists like us, getting hungry and spying The Ivy, a place that looked busy enough, portending a nice lunch, just up the street from the juggler. We settled in at an outside table, fabulous, and indulged. Trina had a nice cauliflower and cheese soup and coffee. I tucked into the fish pie, alternating bites with sips of a Jubilee Julep with rye, sugar, fresh mint and a little maple syrup. 

The sights, smells, sounds, the whole ambience of the place, just being in London at this place at this time with this woman was so wonderful that the present-day memories of it almost make me ache with longing to go back and do it again. To do anything again, in Covent Garden, in London, at that table, with that juggler up the street and the men in gold and silver seemingly defying gravity as they bent backwards and sat on air above their boxes and shoveled and tipped their hats for gratuities. To pose by a red phone booth again. To snap a photo by a real cigar store Indian. To hear the haunting melodies of opera being sung by a blond beauty on her day off, filling the shopping space with lovely, lovely, sound. 

The sun warmed my skin, and the pleasant sweat of love-laced voluntary labor dampened my cotton t-shirt. She was watering her work, and I leaned against the fence, waiting to adjust the output from the hose as directed. The tomatoes were planted, Better Boys and Romas, the cucumbers guarded their newly constructed hills, the tiny village of a dozen pepper plants occupied the middle of the space. Free range zinnias and marigolds greeted us as we stepped from the outside world of the power line cut to the inside of the little plot of paradise we had just constructed of soil and rock and mulch and tender green plants. 

We paused for just a moment to savor this tiny moment of anticipatory joy in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. In the midst of so much organic death, there would soon be life. Bright, showy, colorful, edible life, metaphorically watered by the staggering number of tears that already watered the devastated nations of the earth. This plot of earth, this square of brown punctuated by green plants and red stakes and white stones, would soon make us smile as something new, something luminous, something sustaining, came up through the soil to delight us and entertain us and nourish us, a gift from the same earth that was bearing witness to the awful finality of death. We would say hello and smile even as many said goodbye and wept. 

“Should we name it?” I asked, suddenly.

“What should we call it?” she replied. 

I could already see the next piece of wood, the next post that we would have to place at one corner of the garden. You know the one I’m talking about. Just like the one in Key West. It would stand straight and tall, about six feet high, with brightly colored cross pieces and informative hand lettering. 

“Tower of London: 2.3 miles”

“Buckingham Palace: 1.2 miles”

“Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: 2.0 miles”

“Big Ben: 1.2 miles”

“Evans, Georgia, USA: 4132 miles.”

“The only thing we could call it,” I said.

“Covid Garden.”

She smiled. 

We remembered.