the backyard," an essay by David John

text and image by david john. included in Apartamento #8

Huge thank you to the guys at Apartamento to reaching out to me and asking me to write an essay for their journal. It's opens edition #8 and is available now. - David John

The afternoon I handed the keys to the new homeowners, there was a certain sadness I felt as I stood on the back porch, gazing off into the dense foliage, as the rain began to fall. In California, I’ve always welcomed the rain, as the sun is often in abundance. But there are always a few days during a Los Angeles winter, when the sky seems to open up, and all the water falls out.

When my ex-husband and I purchased the home, which was actually a duplex, the backyard was filled with chicken coops, half-dismantled aluminum storage sheds surrounded by waist high weeds, and broken bikes. With a lack of a proper fence, the backyard was a sort of “come as you are” meeting place. During our first year, it was not uncommon to look out from the bathroom window into our backyard to see a mariachi band and the neighbors signaling for us to join them.

Our side of the duplex was not only small, but also had an awkward floor plan that prevented any sense of true privacy. “Just imagine that we are in New York, an apartment this size would feel enormous,” I would tell him. After which he would reply, “But we aren’t, we are in Los Angeles.”

About a year later, the family of five moved out, and we took over the entire duplex, fanatically destroying the wall that joined the two kitchens with sledgehammers. A larger space it seemed would be the answer to all of our problems. We reveled in thought of the day when every room was completely finished, new plumbing installed, electrical redone, and the backyard completely landscaped with fruit trees.

With little money and lots of determination, we worked room by room, eventually into the backyard, building covered decks, so that when it rained, the sound would transport you to a faraway place. “Oh, when this tree grows tall, the backyard will be magical” we would tell each other, as if trying to convince one another of the longevity of our relationship. We had a dinner party to celebrate the home’s 100th birthday, and our friend Michael toasted us saying, “Well done gentleman, now this house truly looks loved!”

But as our home got closer to being finished, and the tasks lessened, our relationship continued to find distance. The last few years, we came to realize that though we shared a passion for our remodel, no matter how hard we tried, the foundation was not so solid. We spent less and less time together with every home project completed. And so, 8 years later, we stood in the living room, with new pocket sliding doors, and a restored gas fireplace, staring at each other, only to agree that our relationship could not be so simply repaired.

The house sold to a couple who immediately fell in love with the backyard, explaining to their realtor that it felt like Japan in the summertime. As I stood on the covered deck, I smiled at the irony, while looking at the pomegranate tree that now stood 20 feet tall, lush with fruit, next to the flowering trumpet tree where we had sprinkled our dog’s ashes years ago. Further behind, a newly purchased patio table was set where once a chicken coop had been many years ago. All I could think to myself was this is indeed the perfect home as I handed over my keys, walked down the street to my car, and drove away.

Happy Holidays to all. Safe travels, and Good Company!
Relationships are what is important, celebrate them!