My neighbor, Ramona, the elderly woman with hair that resembles freshly fallen snow, has been having young men come in and out of her house regularly. It started a month ago with the Australian. He was no older than twenty-five and was so ripped, I nearly spat out my coffee the instant I saw him. When he came out of her house hours later, I decided the trash was in dire need of being replaced. He had a radiance about him, like the old lady had given him something magical. I made sure that when I bumped into him, it didn’t look purposeful at all.

He said his name was Lachlan and that he had only arrived in the states three days prior. He smelled like the tomatoes the old woman grew; wet, earthy, and just a little musty like nasty sex. He must have rolled around the whole fucking garden. I asked him how he knew her. The only reasonable explanation was that he was a distant relative, a grandnephew or a cousin. He didn’t go into explicit details about his visit. He simply said that he loved her, that she was the most passionate woman he knew, and that he hoped to be called again.

“Called?” I asked, reaching towards him.

“Keep hoping, maybe she’ll call you too,” he said, eyes distant and pulled from my grasp.

I watched him walk off to his car, a red Chevrolet Impala, and disappear down the road. This experience, as strange as it was, had only been the beginning. No one came for two days (I later found out she was suffering from a sore throat), until a tall caramel skinned male with piercing gray eyes came onto our street. He parked in front of the old woman’s house. She came out and greeted him with a smile. For two hours I sat at my window and waited for him to come out, until finally he did. He had that look on his face too, that smile of unadulterated joy.

Before the old lady closed her door, she looked straight at my house. I was of course hidden behind my curtain, so she couldn’t possibly have seen me. Yet I swear, that old woman winked at me. Right fucking at me.

Ramona wasn’t rich, or at least you wouldn’t be able to tell by the house she lived in. It was painted yellow and orange, like fire had consumed but not destroyed it. The outside was decorated with toy ladybugs whose wings would flutter at the touch of wind, and of course the garden. It was her prize possession. Most days, she’d be sitting on a stool right in the center and spent hours talking to her plants as if they were human. Her plants grew the entire year. Even when my neighborhood would overflow with snow, her garden would grow and grow. No one thought much about it, nothing more than, she had discovered the secret to perfect gardening.

The visits went from being scattered across the week to everyday. Another attractive male from all over the world coming in and out of her house with a look of contentment on their faces. I assumed the worst. She must of casted a spell on them somehow. How else? How else does a seventy-year-old woman with sagging tits get all these men in her house, but I, a twenty-six-year-old semi-attractive woman hasn’t had a date in two fucking years?

I had to know this woman’s secret. It took me weeks to build up the nerve to walk over to her house and knock on her door. Ramona was wearing a blue silk bathrobe, which highlighted her guileless eyes.

“You finally came to me,” she said, knowingly.

“You were waiting for me?” I asked, swallowing the lump in my throat. I rubbed my thumbs against the palm of my hands, feeling the sweat buildup beneath them.

“Yes, and you came just when I needed you to,” she said, her voice leaving a faint echo.

I fell silent. The blue in her eyes enwrapped me like I imagined ships being lost in Bermuda. Some mysterious force had taken hold of my tongue. Her wrinkled skin was more beautiful than any painting I’ve ever seen. I brought my hand to her cheek, which was frighteningly cold. She didn’t move away from my touch, she just stood there smiling. I felt my lips begin to curve, and something innocuous spread through my body. The blue from her eyes filled mine, mixing with the honey-nut shade of my irises. The room went dim around me. My entire body lit up like an overly decorated house on Christmas. The hours felt like minutes. When I left the old woman’s house, I too had a glow.


Shanille Martin is a recent Creative Writing and Psychology graduate from SUNY Purchase. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family, working part-time while running a literary magazine start-up with a friend. You can find her work in various publications such as NewsWeek, Gandy Dancer, Italics Mine, et al. She’s worked as an assistant writing instructor for Writopia Lab, edited with Radish Fiction, and as prose editor for her literary start-up. She hopes to one day publish a novel and run a literary agency that publishes specifically people of color.