There’s a witch in the garden again, smoking hand rolled cigarettes. The first time I caught her there, she was pulling up everything but the weeds. Out went the tomato plants and the lemongrass. Perennials, up by the roots. When I asked why, she closed her hand hard around a thistle and then released it, watched it spring back into place and showed me the blood on her palm. She said, have you ever seen anything more resilient?
I didn’t ask her name until the third time. She was perched on a rusted lawn-chair talking to the fog. She swatted me away and said she didn’t have one; but things get lost in translation sometimes. I have come to understand she doesn’t have only one name. Calls herself Driftwood, calls herself Cockroach Woman, calls herself Patron Saint of Doorways and laughs about it. Urchin Heart, Abundance of Softness. I ask what her mother called her and she says it sounds so far away. She says if people change, she doesn’t understand why names get stuck. She calls it false advertisement and offers me a sugar packet from the pocket of her purple coat.
The next time she shows up, it’s at my front door instead. She has a suitcase, a backpack, and a box of mugs. I rent her a room on the second floor but she rarely ever sleeps there. I wander into the kitchen at odd hours to find her rolling cigarettes and making tea, hanging herbs up to dry, paging through old notebooks. One has moss hanging out of it, one leaks all over the kitchen table every time it’s closed. She says these are normal setbacks when you’re tasked with collecting a life between pages. She says, nothing is ever real until she writes it down. She takes two full months to write that she lives here now.
Thistle Witch asks me for help tightening her corset. She tells me that she used to just tie the laces to the doorknob and throw herself in the opposite direction. She says it’s nice to have someone there to anchor her, but after she says it, she frowns. Leaves for three weeks and comes home without acknowledging her absence. She just walks back into the flat one morning and upends her purse on the counter. I count twenty-seven different branded sugar packets. She curls up on the rug in the living room and I don’t ask where she’s been.