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.