A Condemnation of Lawn Culture by Rachel Zhao

“that’s barely a house,” she sneers, with the familiar glint of condescension in her eye, “you don’t even have a real lawn.”


and there are so many things i want to tell her. like lawns are meaningless symbols of wealth and status or lawns introduce invasive plans or lawns fucking promote invasive eradication, which you would know about if you’ve ever bothered to step outside your fucking superior stem bubble for just a second -


and then there are other things.


like the softening in my mother’s eyes as she presses baby tomato plants into her small plant bed with calloused hands. we never end up eating most of them because she always harvests them too early, too eagerly to bear any real produce. but she allows herself that one frivolity of impatience. “beautiful”, she grins as she lifts stems swinging with tiny, green bulbs at the end. and i just smile. 


like how soil crumbles under fingers, releasing the scent of rain


like how my dad would lie back and talk about the house i would buy him for his retirement. ranch-style. blue shutters. driveway that can fit 2 cars. a garden. “and a big lawn,” he laughs, “for me and my dog.” and there are so many things i want to say like what if i never make enough money for that? i don’t even know what i want to do and climate change is coming so who knows, the world might be ending by the time you retire and im afraid to fail you when i don’t even know what you expect anymore and what kind of dog needs that much space anyway and. what did the ocean look like, writhing restlessly beneath you when you and mom immigrated over? what did the clouds look like? i want you to tell me you were scared. because i am.


and i just smile. 


like how i cried when i first moved into the “barely-a-house”, into a neighborhood far from the wails of fishmongers and shopkeepers in outdoor markets at sunrise, far from our small apartment that i ran home to before the streetlights turned on, far anyone who spoke the native tongue that i lost. when my parents first introduced themselves to our neighbors, the fluid notes of mandarin jutting against the jumbled stutters of english sounded like jagged pieces of an off-tune symphony forced together. our neighbor turned to me, teeth glistening, hair nearly neon yellow in the sunlight with her dog that always seemed a little too loud whenever he saw us, “so glad you’re here.” and i just smiled. 


 like how new york is an unforgiving, ugly city, but for brief moments, the flickers that dot the skyline are man-made stars that carry more color and life and restless movement and relentless dreaming than a lawn ever could


like how not everyone can afford multiple acres of land in pennsylvania


like how i don’t even know how large an acre is


like how fucking overrated lawns are.


but i just smile. “yea,” i say, “i guess i don’t.”