What Gardening Offered After a Son’s Death, by Yiyun Li

“It’s rather vexing, isn’t it, not to know what flowers will come up next year?” I said to my friend Brigid, in a voice that sounded more like a character’s in a novel than my own. It was November, 2017, and my family had just moved into our house in Princeton. The trees were shedding their leaves, in a theatrical manner that was new to us—we had relocated from California to the East Coast four months earlier.

“There are some roses,” Brigid said. “Those look like lilies.”

“And those are hostas.”

There were six or seven rose bushes, with residual flowers, fuchsia-colored, shivering on top of the near-leafless branches. Lilies and hostas, their leaves already paled and half rotted by the cold autumn rain, remained recognizable. The rest of the garden was a wilted mystery, buried under fallen leaves.

I was not a character, but I was speaking like one

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