Summer [2/4]

by Leo Gillard

It was mid-June, and the sun was probably burning the back of Sasha’s neck by now. She’d regret it later, but right now she couldn’t bring herself to care all that much. No, her priority was the ground in front of her: weaving her fingers through the warm earth, rooting out the seemingly endless stream of weeds that cropped up every day.

There was a kind of peace to it. She’d never really been much for gardening before, but then again she’d never really had a garden, and it was something to do. She felt useful doing it, it felt productive.

‘You’ll get backache, working at that angle,’ came a voice from behind her. Sasha jumped, looking up to see Zach perched on the fence at the edge of the vegetable patch.

’You’re back early,’ she said with a frown. He was definitely meant to be out at some of his catch-up lessons.

’Am I?’ he asked, glancing at his watch. ‘Oops. I am.’

Sasha shot him a look. He really was shameless sometimes. ‘Did you go to any of them?‘ she asked.

He nodded. ‘I went to literature,’ he said.

‘And that’s it?’ Zach nodded. ‘Zach…’

‘I know!’ he said. ‘I’ll go to maths tomorrow?’

Sasha sighed. Making a bargain with him wasn’t exactly first on her agenda, but something was better than nothing, she supposed. ‘Fine,’ she said. ‘What did you learn in the literature class today?’

‘Floriography,’ he said with a grin, hopping off the fence to sit on the grass on the other side. Taking a look at the mostly clear patch of ground in front of her, Sasha went to join him. ‘It was all about symbolism and hidden languages and meanings. To understand how people viewed what they were reading, you have to understand the essence of their culture, and all the things that mean nothing to us that mean all kinds of things to them.’

‘But flowers still mean things to us,’ she said with a laugh. ‘Giving someone flowers is still a romantic gesture, at least the last time I checked.’

‘Well, it’s simple like that now,’ he said, ‘but back then they had meanings for all kinds of things. You could give someone a bouquet warning them about imminent danger, or expressing different kinds of affection.’

‘Huh,’ she said. ‘So it’s using flowers to send a message? Rather than just giving people what they’d find pretty?”

‘It was meant to allow people to express feelings and concepts in a way without using words, yeah,’ Zach said.

‘So it’s sort of funny to study that in literature, then,’ she said, and Zach snorted.

‘I guess,’ he said. ‘But it’s about understanding people from basically a different world to your own, and that’s really important.’

‘Like trying to understand Arthur?’ Sasha asked, relishing the laugh that drew out of Zach. ‘I think that might be harder than flower language.’

‘Well, I guess it’s… it’s the same thing, right?’ he asked, leaning back and placing his hands behind his head as he looked up at the sky. ‘It’s about the things at the root of his personality. Except he’s not a whole group of people, he’s just one person.’

Even trying to think about Arthur as having some kind of essence to him, something at the core of his personality which motivated him, didn’t explain everything he did. The things he’d done, for both of them… ‘Somehow, I still can’t imagine it,’ she said.

Zach nodded, and hummed thoughtfully before replying. ‘He wants people to be happy, but he knows not everyone can be?’ he suggested. ‘I don’t know, maybe we shouldn’t just talk about him, it feels rude.’

‘We could talk about why you didn’t go to maths lessons today instead,’ Sasha suggested. She wanted to hear Zach’s perspective on this. She had her own thoughts, obviously, on why Arthur had done so much just for the potential benefit of two people. But she’d never spoken to Zach about it, even after everything that had happened with him.

‘Fiiiine,’ he grumbled. ‘I guess maybe he wants to help the people he thinks need it most. At least, in the way he sees them. Even if it’s actually a really stupid idea.’

‘So, you think that, at his core, he makes stupid but compassionate decisions, and then reacts to them from there?’ That sounded about right, really, though she wouldn’t call Arthur’s decisions stupid. Maybe risky, but that still sounded too negative for her liking. Impulsive? Short-sighted? Why wasn’t there a positive word for decisions that might fall down in the short term yet could have so much benefit if they succeeded?

Zach nodded. ‘Though I guess it sort of worked out so far. Sort of. I mean, it was still stupid and risky, but–’ He was thinking in circles again.

‘I don’t think you can define his essence in a handful of words,’ she said. After a moment, Zach nodded. ‘But what about a relationship? Flower language is about defining the essence of your relationship with someone, right? So just as an application of your lesson today, what flowers would you give to Arthur?’

‘Well, I wouldn’t, because the social code surrounding the giving of flowers has changed…’ Sasha fixed him with a look. ‘But – I was getting to that, I swear – camellias, and holly. But I won’t tell you what it means.’

‘Okay,’ she said with a smile. He could keep his secrets. ‘And you’ll go to maths tomorrow?’

‘Yeah, fine,’ he said. ‘I’ll go.’

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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