I couldn’t decide what was more nauseating, the smells inside the flower shop or the hordes of starry eyed lover boys. No it was a clear choice. As repulsive as the smell of roses was, it was nothing compared to the repressed grins and smug looks from the guys waiting in line.
Waiting in line… with me.
Why was I doing this? Hadn’t I relived that moment enough over the past 39 hours? The forty bucks was gone. The lady on the phone said there was nothing she could do. The bank had already charged my account.
Gone. What was the point?
Still, I waited and watched Romeo after Romeo walk away from the counter triumphantly. One even had the audacity to give me victorious half-nod as he walked by.
Good luck with that buddy, don’t let her stomp on your heart after she pulls it out of your chest.
“Sir? Do you have a pick up?” The lady at the counter asked.
“Yes. Well… Kind of.”
That didn’t start off well. Just like my last face to face conversation with a female. I’m on a roll.
“Sorry. It’s just…. I ordered a dozen roses last week and already paid for them, but was wondering if I could cancel the order and get a refund or store credit or something. Here’s my receipt.”
Store Credit? What kind of masochistic subconscious do I have? I’ve never coming back to this little shop of horrors.
“I’m sorry sir. All our rose sales are final during February. We have to special order our roses for Valentine’s Day and we can’t do refunds.”
Same spiel as the lady I talked to one the phone. I knew this wouldn’t work.
“Valentine didn’t work out sweetie?”
Please stop there lady, don’t make this any more awkward.
“Oh, I’m sorry hon.”
That’s right. Patronize the young customer. I hate everything about your thorny, smelly, no-refundy empire.
“Here are your flowers. Why don’t you give them to your mother? I am sure your mom would love them.”
“Good idea, thanks. My mom would love them.”
She lives 700 miles away you hag. I might be able to get them to her for President’s Day you intrusive dealer in false tokens of love and rejecter of refunds.
I grabbed the bundle of flowers and left. I knew that would happen. Was I seeking rejection as some bizarre way to cope with how I felt inside?
I walked slowly to my car, taking in the comforting smells of engines and exhaust in the parking lot. I sat down behind the wheel and tossed the flowers to the back seat where they landed unceremoniously on the floor. They already began to reek of broken promises. I turned on the car and cranked the heater up to push away the smell.
I couldn’t go back to my dorm with the flowers. The guys would slay me for this. I sat in the parking lot listening to The Cure for the umpteenth time that day as I weighed my options on what to do with the flowers. It had to be something epic. I needed to get my 40 bucks worth.
Should I ceremoniously burn them in spite?
No, doing that with the stupid teddy bear didn’t make me feel any better even if the guys enjoyed the spectacle.
Do I rip off the petals and scatter them from the top of a cliff in Rock Canyon like ashes in the wind?
No, that’s going to take too much time. I really need to be at class this week.
There had to be something. I left the flower shop and headed back. I only had a couple hours before my evening class.
The short drive back to campus was full of obscene sights of couples on dates trying to get an early dinner in before the limited restaurants in the college town filled up. I had to make a conscious effort not to think about her. It was only going to get harder on campus.
I pulled into my the dorm towers parking lot, keeping my eyes on the parking space in front of me rather than her lit 6th floor window in the building beyond. I grabbed the roses and stuffed them in my backpack, but the stems were too long and they stuck out considerably. Deciding I’d rather deal with a rose-scented backpack and reduce the risk of getting extra attention, I pulled out the flowers and crammed them in upside down leaving only a few inches of stem sticking out.
Whatever. I don’t care anymore. About anything.
I took care to stay away from the dorm and walked in a big loop around it heading towards the heart of campus wandering closer to my class and farther away from places that looked like her. The muffled crinkle from the floral wrap in my pack rose through the quiet and hit my ears like a smoke alarm. An alarm telling me to escape from something already burnt to the ground.
In the distance the haunting peal of the bell tower sounded, the same bell tower that sounded as she was breaking my heart.
Two days ago I had it all figured out. I felt happy. I could laugh. I could eat. Everything was easy. Now, each breath felt labored. Each step felt heavy. I knew getting over her would take time, lots of time, but how long would it be before I felt alive again?
Somehow my melancholy wandering had led me to just outside my next class. I had no idea how long I had been walking nor how I ended up here. I sat down a bench and tossed my backpack to the floor in front of me. The blasted rose stems were sticking out even worse and had caused my pack to unzip some more. I grabbed the stems and showed them back in the pack trying to cover their shame.
The stems felt remarkably smooth. I looked closely and noticed that each of the thorns had been trimmed off, leaving only a slight deformity and discoloration to the stem.
How ironic. They go through the flowers and remove the part that truly symbolizes love.
“Fancy meeting you here.” A feminine voice said to my side. I looked over to see Collette Cooper taking a seat next to me.
A girl… At least she’s my acquaintance, not an associate of the green-eyed, blonde destroyer of dreams.
At least I didn’t grunt.
“Are you headed back up to the dorms?”
A question. I can answer those.
“No, I have an astronomy class here on Wednesday nights. I’m early… I think.”
I hadn’t heard that cursed bell tower, so I must be early.
“Good Luck, I hear astronomy is tough. I don’t do evening classes. My brain can’t handle it. I have to be done by 5.”
“It’s not so bad for me. As long as I show up. It’s an easy class to miss.”
That sounded halfway normal. Progress.
“I bet. Well, I’m off to get some dinner. Have fun learning about the universe.” She stood up. “Oh and Happy Valentine’s Day.” She said with a smile before turning away.
“You too.” I replied in rote eliciting a wave from Collette before she started walking away. Acting purely on instinct, I opened up my backpack and tore into the wrap around the flowers. Grabbing a rose by the thornless stem I called back to her.
“Collette!” I stood up from my seat and walked the few steps toward her, handing her the rose. “Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.”
“Wow, thanks.” She said with a smile much more genuine than I had seen in days. She brought it up to her nose. “It smells delightful! You just made my day, thank you so much!” She leaned in and gave me a hug. I managed to awkwardly give her a half-hug in return. She broke away, still smiling and looking at me.
What did I just do that for?
“Have a good night, I’ll catch you later. You better go get dinner before the cafeteria runs out of bland food.”
“You’re right, that would be tragic. Thanks again for the flower.” She said while smelling it again. “I really needed it tonight.” She finally turned back around and started walking away.
I walked back to my back pack with the torn floral paper and eleven roses.
That felt a lot better than setting fire to the teddy bear.
She said she really needed it. She seemed really happy. And I actually felt good too. Not happy, but not numb. That’s good enough.
I looked down at the thorn trimmed stems. They had trimmed away the pokey parts and left behind a crooked stem.
Can I do something like that with my pain? Maybe there is something good that can come out of these flowers after all.
I pulled the rest of the roses out, zipped up my backpack and discarded the floral wrap.
One down eleven to go.
I stopped a random girl in the hall and handed her the flower. Her surprised reaction actually made me smile. A real smile.
Ten. This is going to be fun.