Sheryl held a dozen orange tulips close to her chest, shielding them from the relentless wind screaming down Pine. Passing through the crosswalk up 4th she appeared to the waiting drivers like a mother protecting her child. In a way she was. Sheryl never had children, but the motherly(more) instinct was strong in her. Whenever she saw a small child grasping a mothers hand she felt a tingle in her ovaries that would spread like wildfire throughout her body until she felt dizzy and had steady herself. She'd always wanted children, always wanted a baby to clutch to her breast, but Dave, her husband, was born sterile. She loved him so much, yet at times she'd thought to leave him because of his sterility, and then she'd come home and there he would be, smiling from ear to ear, ready to make every other dream she had come true.
As she walked into her office holding the droopy tulips she decided to give one to each of her co-workers. She couldn't be a mother to a child, but she could surely be a heart for everyone else in her life. When she at last sat down at her desk, a little damp, but feeling warm, she placed the last tulip in a small vase facing her floor to ceiling window. Its orange and yellow hues beamed against the grey sky outside as if it were aiding the Sun in the fight against the dreary day.
There’s a flower cart at the top of the escalator. Right between the fruit stand and the guy who sells artisan pickles. And you know it’s springtime because of the tulips. They don’t grow tulips around here. I mean, sure there might be some kept by some kindly old(more) National Parks Service gardener in some little nook somewhere on the National Mall. But there aren’t fields and fields of them. Not anywhere nearby, at least. These ones on the cart. The blue and yellow and orange ones. They came in on a truck from Pennsylvania. These are Amish tulips.
Gathered by hand in straw baskets by little girls in bonnets and then loaded in horse-drawn carts and taken to town where they’re sold to a man with a truck. And then 76 to 95 to here. I’d like to think that’s how they get here, but they’re probably machine harvested. A field of petals and broken stems. Mown down brothers and sisters, annihilated by progress and supply and demand and John Deere.
I think of buying a bouquet for the living room. I don’t, though. I take out my metro card and go down into the station. An old girlfriend told me never to give her flowers because they just sit there and die. She told me if I was going to give her anything for Valentine’s Day it should be a plant. It’s a much better metaphor for a relationship, she said. It’s alive, and it grows.
I pass through the turnstile and think about the houseplant I gave her. I can’t remember what kind. It doesn’t matter. It’s dead.(less)
Not. Not like blue roses. But not like pink roses either, or even like pink tulips, or red tulips. A little off, a little weird.
(more) My sister Diana dated a boy who gave her orange tulips. None of us liked him. He was shorter than her--and yeah, she was tall, 5'10" in tenth grade, but she still didn't have to date short boys. She, especially, didn't have to date short boys. She could date football players if she wanted to--but she didn't want to; basketball players--and she did sometimes; but if she was going to date athletes, she mostly liked the soccer players and the cross-country runners. Who weren't always tall, but until the orange tulip boy, she never dated anyone shorter than her.
He wasn't an athlete at all, he was one of those artistic types, like you couldn't have guessed that from the flowers. He was in the plays--I realized later that he'd been Jim O'Connor in The Glass Menagerie, though Diana didn't play Laura, she never would've played Laura, even if she was part of the theater scene, which she totally wasn't. But orange tulip boy was in the plays, except more than that he was an artist, a sculptor, in fact. A sculptor in high school. But not many people knew he was a sculptor--I only knew because of Diana, though this boy might never have been on my radar at all if not for Diana.
But he was. A sculptor, and on my radar. And short--5'9", so not so short, but shorter than Diana. And a giver of unusual flowers--high school boys usually only gave red roses and carnations as corsages, at least at our school. But this one, the sculptor, gave orange tulips.(less)
I fell. What else can I say? Late, my mind four steps (or four blocks) past where my feet were, the tip of my shoe found what it did not need on its way off the bus, and the sky was in the wrong place, and the quick force(more) of how soon I would be laid out sent a charge of dread down to the pit of my guts. I tried to save the twelve long tied stems, but this thought just tied up my arms so they were no help to me, and my chest crushed them on the curb. No thorns at least, but my wind was gone, and the old man next in line down the stairs stepped on my calf and went down quick as well, his palms scared on my ribs. Too much touch for this time of day. How do you know if your ribs are broke? When in this much pain, how does one flee the scene of such a dumb crime? Gasps, and then she tried to help me, and I wanted to scream at her. Get back on your bus and drive. You do not help me. How much time left in the world? Ten years, or just three weeks . What a tired day. I spit, and blood might be there. But no. I was not hurt that bad, just weak. I grabbed the man by his arms, pulled him up, and hit his coat to dust him off. Off you go. You'll be fine. Son of a bitch. How dumb did I look? I felt like I could run for miles. The pain would help me. I threw the crushed blooms in the trash, and as I turned, there was her face. Her eyes fired at me. She smiled.(less)