Back home, you embark on a vigorous online research endeavour: Getting Better. Improvement from the Inside Out. Healthy Habits. Eating Organic. Holistic Nutrition. You read, take notes, keep an ongoing list of URLs, all the while recognizing how your focus slowly splits into thirds – get better, show you want to get better, get better just enough to stall your lover’s departure.
It’s difficult to get into this wholeheartedly when you know your bank account won’t maintain these diets. Six dollars for a pack of greens turning wet on the produce shelf. Grocery chains sell you packs of blueberries for five dollars so you won’t get them for free in the ditch.
And none of this online literature addresses your lifetime habit of just keeping your belly full. A limited food budget meant mom could get bologna and KD – it kept the kids happy, kept them going. It showed she had some kind of means. Nan always made sure to offer houseguests cold cuts, store-bought potato salad. Cold plate supper over that old cod from the summer. She burnt the homemade furniture to show she could afford plastic. And here you are, googling body positivity and eating local freshness when you’ve been on the shame diet since 1950.
What you really want to do is throw money at it. Get a loan, then a pill and a surgeon. Get going from this simple shell to a gorgeous, megaproject of progress. That will show them you are not to be underestimated. Just when they were ready to leave, you’ll come back bigger and better. See, there was more up your sleeve this whole time. It’s all going to go okay.
Until it doesn’t. Implants, modifications – you won’t be able to hide those scars. This urge to go big is cheap and familiar. It’s always been your inclination to show off, puff yourself up like a partridge, all just the tip of the iceberg of your dependency on other people’s notions of impressive. It’s so embarrassing in hindsight when what you crave is to be cherished. You cannot be cherished when you’re strutting around, all warning and plumage.
You open a new search tab: how to grow a garden. You can walk your lover through what you’ve planted: herbs, garlic, root vegetables, kale. Show them a variety of items cultivated for the good of the heart, for the good of the pocketbook. Show them the dirt under your nails.
It will be charming at least. What’s a better metaphor for a promise than a seed.