With stakes and some twine, we made a rectangle and decided which soft green bed of grass would be turned and made to garden. Not for ourselves, but for those who let us sleep on the floors of their now-grown children. We were in the mountains somewhere, in the South somewhere, sometime in the spring, but the sun beat down on our cheeks and made them flush, coaxed the sweat and salt from our skin.
I had a shovel, and you had one too. Carefully, I lined up the back of my shovel with the twine on one side. I bore down, with the handle pushing hard against my ribs. I didn't make it down more than a couple inches, embarrassed and frustrated with my feminine physical incapabilities. My cheeks flushed more. The sweat dripped and dampened the small of my back, and the back of my neck, and my underarms, the space behind my knees. I watched you, casually, pick up a shovel- its handle like splintered bone and its dull metalic blade- watched you position next to the twine and drive deep straight and solid into the grass to the blade's hilt, reared back, and turned the soil.
I watched your arm bulge when you lifted the Apalachian soil, turned it and pushed aside the rocks. I saw the rivulets of sweat on your temples and through the hair on your chest, the beads on your forehead, saw the veins in your arm deliver oxygen to your extremities. I watched you drive deep into the earth, over and over, and over, turning it inside out, leaving it exposed and rough.