I remember the day when she gave me the flowers. She was waiting for me as I got off the train, standing by the stairs on the platform, expectant. She seemed so anxious and, for the first time, lacked confidence. As soon as she saw me a shy, hopeful smile spread across her face and I knew she liked me. I should have guessed from the way our hands had touched the previous night when we said goodbye and our fingers lingered, pressing against each other, my hands finding their mirror image in those of Irina. But if my instinct knew, my conscious mind refused to register. The large bunch of flowers now made obvious what her painted nails had failed to convey.
So I wasn't surprised when, after she walked me down the street, we kissed under the bus stop shelter. The intent of her lips was sweet, soft, understated, and full of promises. I can still see myself holding the flowers tightly against me when Irina asked, close to a whisper, can I kiss you? If any instant was pure and true between us, this was it. It felt like all the moments I had spent getting to know her came together and made perfect sense. The rain poured down around us, beyond the blurred faces of the people who tried to suppress their interest in us. Our first kiss was a public event. Like our last.
At home, I arranged the flowers in a vase and looked for an appropriate spot to display them. That's when I realized how big the bunch was. In my room, it took up all the space. There was no right place to put it. It was too high for the shelf, too large for the desk, too voluminous for the low table. Here I would brush against its side as I passed by, there it would topple if I tried to reach other objects. Running out of options, I put it on the floor, in a corner next to the window. From there, the plants greedily swallowed all the light, leaving me in semi-darkness. Once I took in Irina's flowers, it became clear that there would be no space left for anything else.
I sometimes wonder if we could have avoided what followed that first kiss. All the heartbreak, the drama, the wrongness of it all. Part of the appeal of life, I think, lies in its inevitability. That night, in the darkness of the room, the flowers grew and grew until they completely covered the walls with elongated leaves and twisted stems, and by morning the ceiling was sagging under the ripeness of gaping flowers, their deep mouths rimmed with heavy red and purple petals. After that, there was no setting us right.