The boy picks flowers from the edges of the long country driveway that leads from the main road where he catches his bus every morning to the house where he was born. He brings the small bouquet to the vegetable garden next to the house where his mother is pulling up carrots and dropping them into a plastic ice cream bucket. She pushes the Tilly hat up on her sweat-dappled forehead as he holds the flowers out to her. She smiles a glowing mother’s smile and takes the flowers in her green and pink gardening gloves stained with dark, fertile earth.
The boy clips each stem carefully at a slight angle, the way the book said. He has selected each flower carefully from the bushes that surround the house, along the base of the porch, and from the borders of the lawn. He arranges them in a lovely bouquet, and then ties them together with a bright yellow bow. The ends of the ribbon hang down. Using a pair of scissors, the boy curls each ribbon end into a tight spiral the way teacher showed him in arts and crafts.
He takes the bouquet to his sister’s room, where she is fixing her hair. It’s her birthday. Her friends will be over this afternoon and she is dressed in her prettiest outfit, the new dress with the purple bows and pink polka-dots.
She takes the flowers from the boy and hugs him. Today is her special day, the boy thinks, and she’s really not that horrible or annoying all the time. Not all the time.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and the whole class spends an hour making cards with construction paper, white paste and glitter. Each child’s desk has a red or pink envelope scotch-taped to the side, awaiting cards from other children.
The boy waits patiently, keeping the flowers he had picked this morning before school a secret. He waits until recess, when all the children run outside to play. Left alone, he sneaks to his back-pack and the flowers inside. He carefully drops them into the envelope that hangs from the side of the desk with the name “Anne” scribed upon it with glitter.
When recess ends, Anne will receive a bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day, and she will wonder where they came from – and assume it was probably Jerry McCraw. The boy will sit and watch her from across the classroom for years, wondering what she is thinking. He will think about her for the rest of his life, and she will never know the truth.
There is a place that specializes in doing graduation corsages for a price that isn’t too steep. The boy drops in one afternoon to buy his date a corsage. He chooses one that is blue and violet because he knows those are her favourite colours. They bring out the colour of her eyes.
The boy buys a suit and some beer, then he picks up the corsage. He is ready. The boy and his friends get together during the afternoon to drink, and in the laughter and clouds of smoke and empty bottles the boy forgets to call his date. He finally reaches her when they are about to leave for graduation dinner and she tells him she will meet him there. The boy sits with his friends at a table, listening to the principal give his opening speech, keeping one eye on the front doors. Eventually, his date quietly enters. She looks annoyed but lovely, dressed in blue and violet. He waves to her, and she sneaks into the seat next to him. He hands her the corsage. She smiles politely, to him and then to everyone else at the table.
He wishes he had remembered to call her earlier.
She wishes she was dead.
The boy’s first real date is not starting out too well.
There’s this girl who works at the bar down the street from his apartment. The boy stops in often, and he smiles at her when he sees her. She smiles back, and they smile at each other. She’s got this tattoo running up her arm that she says continues to run over her shoulder and all the way down her back. The girl makes crude jokes and has many insightful things to say about things like “people”, and “words”.
He buys her flowers. He spends more money than he thinks he should, but how the flowers are gorgeous. He gives them to her.
She shrugs her shoulders and rolls her eyes and says, “It would have made me so much happier to know those flowers could live a full life. They were living in the ground, happy and growing towards the sun, getting taller and stronger by the day. Then someone came along and cut them down, wrapped them in plastic and shiny foil, froze them and then sold them to you. It’s a nice gesture, I guess, but I just think it’s sad.”
He never gets to see the rest of that tattoo.
Things are getting serious. She said that she loved him just last week, and now she talks about the two of them moving in together. This is big, and the boy knows it. He’s never been this serious about a girl who was serious about being serious, and in his heart of hearts he knows that he is finally ready to be serious.
She moves in. She buys him a plant, a lily in a white plastic pot.
“Unlike cut flowers, which eventually wither and die,” she tells him. “This plant will grow with our love. It will be a constant reminder of us.”
She leaves him five months later.
The lily in the white plastic pot still sits on the table in his apartment. It still grows, along with the boy. Together, the two water themselves, and they grow, and as they do their pots feel smaller and smaller.
He is so happy with her. She came to him, at last, from the frenzied chaos of modern life. They had finally found each other.
They live in a small flat off the main drag heading downtown. They eat, they sleep long hours, they read each other poetry and sometimes they drink and sing. How happy they are to live free and love each other.
They fight sometimes. The fights always end, but they can sometimes be vicious. Sometimes the fights get really bad and the boy wants to walk away. One day, he does. She is yelling for him not to leave, but he hangs his head and with clenched fists he puts on his boots. He walks around the block, trying to clear his head.
He loves her so much.
She can make him so angry.
He wants to be with her for the rest of his life.
She doesn’t trust him.
He finds it hard to believe a word she says.
They are meant for each other.
His mind swirls, he’s so confused.
He looks down. He sees a flower growing in the grass apron beside the sidewalk. It looks very pretty. He smiles. His mind goes calm.
He picks the flower and takes it home. He doesn’t care if it looked prettier growing in the grass where it was. He doesn’t care that the rest of the world will never be able to walk by that particular block and see the flower growing and perhaps make them happy. He doesn’t care if this flower preferred to keep living. He cares about his love, waiting for him back in the apartment, and the rest of his life with her.
He goes home and gives her the flower.
She takes the flower, and she puts it in a glass of water. It will stay alive for a while longer.
– The End –