When I Speak of Flowers
what am I really talking about?
In the house where I grew up, there were no flowers. This statement might seem like a metaphor to express that there was no love, but there was love. There was care, food, and books. There simply were no flowers. There wasn't even a basket in the bathroom where you could throw away sanitary pads, but this absence was so influential in shaping my sexuality that I could only breathe life into it through a story filled with fiction that I published in my latest book.
I didn't think about it then, but it's possible that one of the details that led me to fall in love with P is that he bought flowers for the house. He likes them because he grew up in Mexico City, a city where the streets, in his words, smell of jacarandas, sewage, and tacos. In Mexico City, there are flowers everywhere you look. Perhaps because it's a city built on top of a lagoon. There are so many flower stands along the streets that they seem like dispensers of an essential commodity.
The last time I was there, I was pregnant, almost at the point where I couldn't fly anymore. That's when I experienced Braxton Hicks contractions, and at times, I thought my daughter was going to be born in Mexico. In a boat on Xoximilco, they placed a flower crown on my head, and women I didn't know blessed my belly. In the mornings, in a square in Polanquito, a family arranged their stall, moistening the roses with spittle.
What I mean to say is that my love for flowers didn't come from my upbringing. It was something that entered my life with the creation of a home. I said I recommend buying yourself flowers weekly, and I stand by that. But what I've come to realize is that I don't buy them for myself, but for my home.
When I have unresolved matters with her, I buy more flowers. If I'm settling in and want to be welcomed, flowers. If I've been away for a while, flowers. If I've decided to leave her, there will still be flowers in every vase.
I like flowers because they reach where words fall short. I can't talk to my house, but I can buy it flowers. I can't talk to the deceased, so I'll leave flowers at the grave. I say I like them, but in reality, I envy them.
I envy them because they are the only ones capable of infiltrating otherwise disjointed moments: the bride's wish for her love to multiply when she tosses the bouquet into the air, funeral wreaths to fill the absence, the mysterious arrival of a new life, a generous guest seeking to lighten the mood, a tragic death on the road, the only way not to be forgotten is with flowers. Only they and the air have the ability to slip into any place. It's as if they know how to speak the language of all emotions, and who wouldn't want that.
One summer night, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. I got to know insomnia in my last month of pregnancy. I wrote to my friend Camila, who lives in New York – there was still light in that part of the world. I told her I had a feeling that "the baby" was coming. (I had lost touch with the time when my daughter still had no name). The next morning, I received white lilies at home.
It was during a period of extreme temperatures, which caused the flowers to bloom quickly. Every day, I photographed the bouquet and wrote in a caption: "She will be born when all these lilies have opened."
That kind of magical thinking disappeared, paradoxically, during the very childbirth. I don't know if she was born when all the petals opened because when I returned home much later than planned, someone had thrown them in the trash.
Now, when I visit a newly delivered woman, I don't bring flowers. I give her a bag of dates, dark chocolate, bone broth, and nuts. What I don't say in words, I say with food.
The deal with flowers is simple. You go to a florist, pay a certain amount of money, take them home wrapped in a cone as if they were hot chestnuts, and place them in a vase. They live with you for the rest of their short lives, until the falling petals signal their death. Just as they are about to die, they release their most intense fragrance. I've wanted to investigate this phenomenon, and in doing so, I read that humans emit a particular scent just before they die. So you throw those flowers in the trash and think it's time to buy new ones.
I've tried to give rational arguments for why I like flowers so much. But my most honest response is that I don't know. There's no clear purpose in wanting to surround myself with them all the time, because while they reach where there are no words, they ultimately create a soliloquy, not a dialogue. I know I don't do it for others, as many times the flowers last so little that not even anyone besides those living in the house sees them. But I know it's in that simplicity, in being precisely devoid of purpose, articulated arguments, or a clear reward, where they find me.
There's something about this feeling that I relate to my daughter. Yesterday, I held her in my arms for a long time. I broke the silence to explain to her that on the morning when an almost imperceptible pink line announced her arrival, I asked her to stay. My daughter rested her ear on my shoulder and with her hands, increasingly ready to grasp more ambitious objects, she hugged me. Then the thought slipped in that one day, she won't fit in my arms, that perhaps for a few years, being away from me will be her conquest. But that won't stop me from loving her today. So I suppose that when I talk about flowers, for the first time, I'm talking about love.
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