Ryan St. Germain

Monthly Archive: October 2016

Amidst the Flowers

 That night the flowers bloomed.

The landlord told me they were called ‘night blooming ceres’ (Queen of the Night) and he’d been waiting patiently for the night to come in which they would open. They grew in the courtyard behind my apartment on Esplanade and opened in the early days of October; true to their name, they were there one brief moment and gone the next day. I can vividly recall the way that they smell and the way the petals felt when I held one flower delicately in my hand.

I was out that evening with friends and I’d gravitated toward Vee, who I always had a bit of a crush on (and felt she was out of my league). She was in the same band I was in and one of the reasons I stayed with it so long, looking forward to the month of October when I would see her often. She made me feel like the mistakes I’d made in life were the most interesting thing about me and I sort of loved her for it. Our friendship was strange, mixed with brutal honesty and warmth: she devastated me with her smile which she was just as likely to be wearing when she gave me a compliment as when she told me to go to hell. She could speak the truth and convince me that it wouldn’t kill me to hear it, giving me advice that was hard to swallow with just enough sugar in it to help it go down. To this day there are things that happen in my life that make me want to know what Vee would have said about them. Truth be told, I could use some of her advice right now.

My landlord called that evening and told me the flowers had opened and I wish I would have asked her to come see them with me. I came so close, telling her where I was going and why when I left the bar. I hesitated though, because I thought it might be silly or cliché to ask her to leave our friends and walk the fifteen or so blocks with me to my place at midnight just to look at the flowers, no matter how remarkable they might be.

I missed out on something that night and I could feel it when we talked later. We both started seeing people shortly afterwards, but that sheepish tinge of bittersweet that you can see on peoples faces was on both of ours when we crossed paths and that seemed to me that what we missed that night in the garden might have been more than just the flowers.

She passed away a few short years later, taken swiftly and quietly by cancer. To this day, I can’t think of ‘night blooming ceres’ without picturing her. Like this rare and beautiful flower she owned the night that she lived in and was gone all too soon. Fittingly, on her shoulder Vee had a tattoo of a fleur of her own and the word ‘tojour’, which is just how long I’ll miss her for.

Night Blooming Ceres

Vingettes

“My favorite spot as a teenager was the video store. I would spend hours in there,” she said. “I took home the cardboard cutout from ‘Mobsters’ because I had a huge crush on Christian Slater”.

“Who didn’t” I answered.

“When I was a teenager I spent pretty much every cent of the minimum wage I earned washing dishes and as a prep cook at the dollar cinema across the street from where I lived. I was there all the time and they would give me the old movie posters when the movies weren’t playing any more.” I told her.

I thought of the shiny movie posters peeling away from the tape on the walls of my room at my dad’s place when I was a teenager. I remember looking up at the curling edges of ‘Cinema Paradiso’ at night, having missed it when it played and wondering what it was about. Years later I would see it and the montage of movie kisses cut that were cut by the priest all strung together at the end would land on me like a heavy stone in shallow water.

Receiving the laminated movie rental card that I used to rent horror films and foreign movies was a right of passage and the three-for-one rentals during the week ensured that I was exposed to as much of the world as was humanly possible during the summer months in the tiny Michigan town that I was living in.

In my head I pictured her in that tiny video store wandering in the next aisle as I distractedly tried to pick out a movie and I felt like we would have gravitated toward each then too.

“I guess it’s pretty safe to say that had I crossed paths with you as a teenager I would have been as into you then as I am now” I said and she blushed.

Seasons

The days are getting shorter now and the nights longer. It’s dark when I get up for work in the morning and there’s hardly a trace of the sun left in the sky when I get home. It’s getting too cold for the jacket that I wear, but I’m not ready to give it up because I love it and it fits me like a glove. The wind comes along and I turn in on myself and I like the struggle against the cold.

I said goodbye this week to Laila, who is on adventures of her own on the west coast. I said goodbye to Aurora too. The seasons have changed and summer is gone and with it the days of loving from a distance. It felt heavy to let them go, but it was the right thing to do for them and for myself. I know who I am and it’s not someone who can love part time from afar. I know who they are too and I’ve no expectation of flowers blooming out of season.

Veronica and I went on a little road trip today, leaving work early together. We drove far outside of the city talking about sex and love and how removed the golden fields that we passed felt from the part of the city we live in. I snapped pictures of pink leaves against grey skies and I had no doubt that summer was over. I hugged her goodbye before I slid out of her car and into the rain. Cars were lined up, stopped in traffic at the corner near my apartment and I looked at our her though my own reflection in the glass for half a moment after the door closed between us. I crossed the street behind her and her car hadn’t moved when I looked back over my shoulder.

I took the elevator up the handful of floors and glanced out of the window just outside of it when the doors opened. The sky was dark, the sun having gone, but stretched out below me lights flickered and glowed for as far as I could see. Autumn isn’t a day on a calendar to me, it’s a feeling like the one that I had today. It’s rain against the windows, leaves falling from the trees and the appreciation for the light of day when you realize it doesn’t linger for nearly as long any more. Seasons change and summer is over, but I always knew that it wouldn’t last forever.

Abundant Love

The five off us sat in the dimly lit bar, the walls  of which were lined with rows and rows of books. Mila carefully folded the sweater that Madison gave her to wear so that she didn’t get it dirty, exposing her tanned, tattooed shoulders. The shirt she wore underneath it was bright yellow and more fit for the California sun than it was for autumn in eastern Europe. She wore knee high socks and tiny black shorts, showing off tattoos which all seemed to have a story behind them. She speaks slowly and carefully at times and I found myself hanging on her words because her insights and comments were clever.

Mila is a beautiful girl and I get the feeling that she’s looked at constantly but listened to less intently, so she fucks with people a little bit just to see who is paying attention and thus who is worth paying attention to. She made strange statements and weird references about puppets in shop windows and dystopian movie-esque strategies for finding the friend we were looking for. There was a darkness to her humor that borders on sardonic and every comment she quietly made drew me in a little more.

We’d met her in the hotel lobby to get a cab and when Mila joined our group I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’d seen her around for the past few days, but I wasn’t exactly sure who she was or what she did. We all climbed into a van together with seats facing each other and I sat opposite Mila, watching the streets from my backward facing position and listening to the comments she made as the old city slipped away. The driver dropped us in a spot where we were supposed to meet a friend, but in finding ourselves under a bridge rather than on top of it, we had to find him before we could cross it. Standing on the cobblestone near the bridge is where I really saw Mila for the first time.

The four of us found our way on to the bridge and found Sam under one of the arches that soared above it. Together we walked the length of it, crossing over the river looking at the old city as we weaved through tourists, getting to know each other with questions along the way. We stopped for a picture beneath one of the bridges arches and the sun fell slowly from the sky, burning the clouds a bright pink as the day slipped away. I looked up at the arches that towered over head and when I brought my eyes back down to the bridge, she was looking at me, turning away when my eyes met hers.

 We stumbled across the book-lined bar while looking for a place to eat and stopped inside. Sliding into a booth, I ordered a Makers Mark Manhattan on the rocks and Mila ordered Becherovka, letting me have a taste of it after describing it to me. It had a hint of anise to it, which is a flavor I very much enjoy but rarely share in common with others so it was another reason to appreciate Mila.

 Mila is polyamorous and has a partner that she is very much in love with on the west coast. She’d spent the day with an industry friend and I’d spotted them holding hands on more than one occasion as we walked through the old city, but it felt less like there were boundaries in conversation and flirtation and more like we were all having interconnected moments.

I was getting to see Madison outside of work in a way that I really enjoyed: I appreciated her friendship already and in a lot of ways she reminds me of my little sister. Brian and I talked about the people that we both knew in common in the industry and I talkedto Mila about movies, rattling off ones we thought each other should see. I listened as Sam talked about being excited to go home to his wife and kids after so many days away from them and liked the bashful smile that crept onto his face when he said that he couldn’t wait to be home with them.

We said goodbye to Sam and the four of us that remained hiked up the hill looking for the old castle, getting lost along the way because we were more interested in the conversations we were in than in sightseeing. Madison and Brian talked ahead of us, Mila and I  trailed behind just a bit.

We talked about polyamory and how it worked for her. She hadn’t asked yet what my situation was, but she openly shared that she and her partner were very much in love and that one day she wanted to have kids with him. She told me that it wasn’t always easy to navigate the complications of seeing other people and she admitted that she sometimes tested his patience a bit.

“He puts up with a lot from me” she said, sounding grateful that he did.

“You don’t want to have kids, I take it?” she asked, turning the question toward me.

“I do, with the right person who also” I said, admitting it out loud a little shyly. “Do you?”.

“I don’t want kids just for the sake of having them, I want them because I’m with a partner that is so special/great that I want another of them in the world” she answered. She spoke about life, love and relationships with such candor and related to one another so instantly that I found myself wanting to take her hand in mine as we walked and talked.

“So there isn’t anyone that you are seeing?” she asked, sounding a little surprised and maybe a little sad at the thought of it as we stopped on the side of the hill, looking out at the lights and an abandoned Starbucks that looked out of place and out of time.

“There are two people actually” I answered and I thought then of both Aurora and Laila. Mila’s lips turned up at the corners in a smile and we were quiet for a moment.

We talked about the cold north where I live and she smiled when I told her what February was like here.

“I want to come to visit in the dead of winter” she said, and I could picture the snow swirling around her when she did. I could imagine the winter wind catching her long dark hair, making it dance as it collected flakes of snow. I could imagine the cold all around us and the color it would bring to her cheeks. The look in her eyes made me feel like she was imagining those things too.

(more…)