THE SYMPATHY FLOWERS
JAN ANGELIQUE DALISAY
I love flowers. I often buy the lot on Saturdays, taking the long route to the Freedom Park to see them in different colors, conditions, height, and prices. It’s uncanny how only I had an affinity for these beauties. My sister loves blue roses but she’s deathly afraid of caterpillars. Hence, she can never bring herself to touch them. I couldn’t rely on her to cut the end diagonally and change the water to keep the flowers “alive” for a week! Caterpillars don’t scare me though. I love their varied green-lime hues. They’re chubby, too, that sometimes I want to take a leaf, rub it against their “skin,” and roll them until they get dizzy. Or, if my Asian Forest scorpling was still around, I could put the caterpillar in his glass case, and let its impatient pincers pierce through its hairy skin.
I love flowers and I like nothing more but to give a stem or bouquet to my friends for special occasions. When a colleague I was fond of decided to leave for the greener grass, I gave her a bouquet of assorted mums—the white and greenish kind. It was wrapped in pink paper. My pretty present made her gush. Then Valentine’s Day came; my two girl-friends happened to be “single.” To poke fun at their single status, I gave them each a single long-stemmed rose. Each was wrapped in some transparent material. The rose made them giggle but what made it all the merrier was how all three of us looked. Since both held a rose and I, the giver, was empty-handed, I almost looked pitiful!
And there was you. It was supposed to be a mundane Friday afternoon. I went out of the office for a brisk walk when my phone beeped. A colleague and close friend of mine inquired if I knew that you were “gone.” I thought by “gone” she meant that you’re no longer working at the IT office.
I’m not that dense; I could sense something was wrong. This was probably what the internet people call “in denial.” So, she went on to explain how they found your body after three days. Three days! My disbelief was growing. And yet, it couldn’t change a thing. More details were exchanged between texts. Suddenly, it felt weird: to exist, while you’re ... no, I couldn’t use the word, not yet.
A Saturday morning. I needed to see you as soon as I can—even for the last time. You came from a different island; as soon as your brother was able, he brought your body back to your hometown. I stopped at a flower shop. I wanted to bring you something. You knew me as someone who loves flowers. My work desk stood close to yours that every time you go to your desk, you’d pass beside mine. And I knew how a delightful sight my desk was. Like some of our other colleagues, you liked walking a bit slow to let your eyes see the flowers—a bunch of gladioli, the fragrant sampaguita, or bright chrysanthemums—with the occasional miniature toy, and all my mini-menagerie of odd things beside the computer monitor. I didn’t know if that still mattered but I just couldn’t come empty-handed. So, on that Saturday morning, I’ve decided to bring you flowers. I’ve entered the flower shop only to find myself clueless. Good thing the storekeeper knew how to keep things running. She began asking me questions: do you want the ones in the basket or those standing flowers? What would you like to write in the little card? A message? I didn’t know, so she showed me some sample messages. I’ve picked a one-liner that said something about expressing sympathy to those you’ve left behind. But didn’t that include me? I was puzzled more than ever. So, while the florist busied his hands for the floral arrangement, I sat down. Slowly, I had let my eyes censor the surrounding. There were lilies of colors I haven’t seen before, familiar flowers whose names I just couldn’t remember. And there were the prized hydrangeas! I was surrounded by flowers. On a typical day, that sight would have made everything special for me. But that was not a typical day. I wasn’t taking the jeepney ride to see the floral merchandise of Freedom Park, no. I was inside a white taxi, seated next to my basket of sympathy flowers. It had white stargazers, white anthuriums, and an odd-looking grey-white plant, too. And as the taxi braved its way against the building current of morning traffic, as the silence of that morning lingered, something struck me: it was my first time to buy sympathy flowers. It was my first time to pick flowers for someone who won’t be able to see them. Hell, when I get there, you won’t be able to sit and crouch just to smell them. It was absurd!
I tightened my grip on the basket’s handle. The road was a bit rough; it had slightly shaken the vehicle, the flowers. I didn’t want the trip to ruin the arrangement of your sympathy flowers. I knew you would have loved them.
Jan Angelique Dalisay is a 27-year- old copywriter from the Philippines. She loves to take quiet walks, listen to K-pop songs, and write poems about life as a night-shifter in Metro Cebu. Her essays are constantly filed in her blogs, https://thegirlwhothinksanawfullot.wordpress.com and https://nobodyknowsjan.wordpress.com.