“Honey, can you come over here?”
He puts the drill back in the shelf and walks along the aisle of the store. She is holding a piece of wood, approximately half a meter long and quite thick.
“This one is too short”, she says.
“Why don’t you buy a longer one then?”
“There isn’t a longer one.”
He picks up a plank, about a meter long.
“That one’s not deep enough.”
He sighs. “Does it have to be that deep?”
“Of course, otherwise the geometry is broken.”
He looks around and is about to walk to the right when she holds him by his coat sleeve.
“Wrong kind of wood”, she says, calmly.
“Does it have to be seven?”
“Otherwise the geometry is broken, I get it.”
“Well there’s no point in not doing it properly.”
“Can’t it be six?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Better, but no. It has to be seven.”
“But who cares? They’re cactuses, it just doesn’t matter.”
“You’re changing the topic. We need to find a suitable piece of wood for the pots and this store doesn’t have any.”
“We’ll just have to go to another store. Besides, it’s cacti, not cactuses.”
The freshly painted living room is empty and covered in plastic sheets to protect the floor that she so wanted. He is standing by the window, staring outside. Her cactus arrangement is on the windowsill. She walks over. Piece by piece, she removes the protective plastic cover from her cacti. Not a single drop of paint blemishes her cactus arrangement. He is still looking out of the window when she looks up at him, wipes off some paint from his forehead, and kisses him on the cheek. “I’ll make us some tea”, she says.
When the kettle begins to boil, he finds himself still staring out of the window. He kneels down and inspects the cactus arrangement. Seven tiny cacti, each unique, stand in a row in their tiny pots in hand-carved indentations of the long piece of wood, each indentation exactly five centimetres from the next. The wood matches the floor.
He gently touches one of the cacti’s long needles. He rests the tip of his index finger on the needle, prickling his skin. He then pushes down, first softly, then harder. His finger begins to hurt, more and more, until, in an instant, the skin gives in, cracks, and the needle cuts into his flesh. A drop of blood runs down the needle, down the cactus, and into the soil.
This is not what he had imagined it would be like. This is not what he had hoped for.