the rose


Down by the river, a rose sits on the pavement. Normally, I would pocket it to stand in a water glass when I got home. A flurry of people in crisp white shirts are decorating the glassed-in deck of a boat. There are boxes of flowers on the tables, and this one must have gotten away. I stand and watch them for some time, wondering if it is a wedding or a birthday that will soon fill this space, all laughter and messy toasts, children in carefully chosen outfits trotting from stem to stern. 

A smell comes up from the river, brackish and foul. Algae and gasoline. 

This rose is fake, the green stem nothing more than painted wire.

I think of 28th street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue in New York. The street of flowers is its secret name. Each shop is crammed full of blooms, some common, some exotic but without a doubt - every single one a soul can imagine is found here. The sidewalk is impossible to navigate, a labyrinth of discarded boxes peppered with rose petals. In any sunny window you will see a lazy cat or two, licking their fur in a bright spot ignoring the circus outside. I have a habit of walking on this street without fail, the opposite of a detour - a destination. Early in the morning with a coffee in my hand, late at night when the boxes are piled high and the faces are going home. It is a perfect stretch of concrete.   

Who celebrates with plastic flowers? Who are they fooling? 

I think of those random piles of flowers by the side of the road, where someone died. Stone piled on top of stone as the cars whizz by. I think of how a good hard rain will knock peonies to the ground, all rotting petals and mud. But at least they lived, at least they harbored bees and did their part. 

The fake rose flips in a wind that picks up. Its petals shiver as it rocks back and forth. I could nudge it somewhere, like a dead bird by the side of the highway but I do not. Turning and heading back home I picture the kitchen table, with a random plate of cookies on one side. V's toys strewn across the edges. A forgotten water glass. A receipt we do not need. A place to sit and write, a place sip to wine and talk long after the kids have gone to sleep.   

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