I’ve learnt to tell his transgressions by the flowers that are delivered to me.
Every time it happens, they’re delivered without fail, on a Wednesday morning. Somehow, the courier always manages to arrive just as I’m rinsing out my breakfast dishes and collecting my gym things together. I suppose he’s specified this particular time of the week, making sure I get the point, wants to be sure I don’t miss the message.
It wore thin a while ago.
The second time they were delivered, they were roses, luxurious, sprawling in every which direction over the dining table, heavy scent lingering over meals long after the last one had wilted. I don’t like to tell him that I don’t like flowers, or that I’ve learned what each bouquet means. If they’re small, simple, then it’s a minor issue. Sorry for the argument last night. Sorry for missing the dinner you cooked.
When they were roses, it was Sorry, I cheated.
It was the gray area, the kind where you have to have some set idea of what cheating even is, but I got it. The bigger the flowers, the more he’s apologizing for. We share a bank account; he never remembers to tap into his own account for the bouquets. He forgets I see the bill when I go on to pay other bills, and I never mention it.
He’s bringing flowers every night now, not the delivery-kind, but individual stems; sometimes, there’s two or three mixed together. The vases began to run out, the petals began to wilt and crumble and still he’s bringing them. Instead, they go into water bottles and drinking glasses, stems snipped short to fit them into tiny shot glasses. He’ll tend to them more than I do, until there’s a line of flowers in varying stages of health on the windowsill.
He reads on the internet the best way to keep them healthy, adds a capful of vodka and a teaspoon of sugar to supply nutrients. “You don’t need to worry about them like that,” I tell him. He shrugs it off.
“Someone has to look after them.”
It’s true, I suppose, I’d no doubt leave them and never look at them except to put them into fresh water.
It reaches the point where I have an indoor garden, one with potted plants strategically placed and a small balcony dotted with more plants. Roses are always the first ones growing.
They’re the last ones, too.
There’s a drawer where I keep all the cards, stacked in careful chronological order and scribbled the date on the back of each one. It’s some kind of record, maybe a means to prove a point to an argument that hasn’t happened yet. (Not yet anyway; one day though -)
At the end it’s easier to just grow flowers, and so he hammers trellises to the balcony, buys a set of coordinated flowerpots and angles them all just so, aligning them to some imaginary pattern that’s supposed to make them look good, but just looks haphazard. It becomes even quicker and easier to apologize for the transgressions, and I ignore the box of tiny cards that end up taped to the vases and windows and water bottles.
We fall into a routine. I ignore the fact that the potted roses are routinely plucked of blooms, and that said flowers end up on my windowsill. We no longer share our lives; we’re basically two roommates with a lot of roses.
(I’m always the one clearing out the dead roses; he can’t bring himself to do so)
A newer pattern emerges, one where I pick the flowers myself, find myself wrist-deep in selecting flowers I can’t stand. I liked roses, once.
I’m on my own tonight, picking flowers in advance, and lining them up. They don’t look as beautiful as they once did, and I remember all the times he used to look after them with various special treatment habits that, admittedly, did seem to keep them fresher and healthier.
Lined up like this, they look almost shabby. The heads droop on the stems; the water seems less than clear. In a moment of clarity, I yank them all from the windowsill and place them on the table, scrabbling to fill a vase with cool clean water and then slip each stem into place. Arranging them takes all of ten minutes, and it’s no hardship to go to the cards box, take out the last one and scribble in it.
Nine P.M. He’s later than usual tonight, and if I were still here tomorrow I’d hear about the case that ran longer, the impromptu dinner out before coming home. At least half would be fiction.
Throwing away the old water bottles; clearing up the last few things. The apartment’s neat now; you’d almost think it was unoccupied. My things are by the door, packed away, and as I’m pulling out of the car park I understand why he always apologized with flowers: he was always sorry, but the flowers were only ever meant to be temporary.
It’s why I left them tonight, picking every good rose I could find and leaving like this.
I’m sorry too.