Can you see that beautiful shrub? It has no bald patch, right? That’s because the shy, moustached, Portuguese man, who seems to live in that house alone, has spent the last six years standing in front of the hedge, where there was, for so many years, a bald patch. He’d stand before that patch, staring down at it for hours every day, even in the wintertime. When I’d come home from my errands and lock my bike to the pole, he would be there. When I went outside to check my mail, or if I looked up over my laptop, he would still be there.
At first I thought he was crazy. Then I began to think of him as more profound than other men. Why should we look at everything all around us? There is enough in a shrub.
This summer, the patch filled itself in. I guess he knew all along that it was not lacking water or fertilizer or chemicals or conversation. All it wanted was his attention. Now he stands at another empty patch.
I sit in a room lined with books, at a round, teak dining table, on the second (top) floor of a Victorian house. He stares at his shrub as I stare at my computer. His body faces me and mine faces him. Our bodies are opposite each other every day, and we stare at things, and wait for the emptiness to fill in. —Sheila Heti