“He wakes up early that morning. The room is dark, and the sofa is lumpy. He flips the pancakes and chops the strawberries and leaves them on a chipped plate on the wooden table. The shards of porcelain dishes turn the floor into a dangerous mosaic he tiptoes over. He sets a note next to the plate, a plea for forgiveness scribbled on it with a ballpoint pen.”
He wakes up early that morning. The room is dark, and the sofa is lumpy. He flips the pancakes and chops the strawberries and leaves them on a chipped plate on the wooden table. The shards of porcelain dishes turn the floor into a dangerous mosaic he tiptoes over. He sets a note next to the plate, a plea for forgiveness scribbled on it with a ballpoint pen. She will scan it once and throw in the trash. At least, he thinks to himself, she’ll know he cares.
The BART station is near empty at this time when the sun itself is waking up. It’s a pleasant ride. He passes the minutes by humming to himself in time to the rattling of the train car. From the window, he can see the whole world go by, towns, cities, farms. He exits at the final stop of the line, pushing past the bustle of the everyday working American. Life itself is happening around him. He savors the thought, turning to wave as the BART car rattles away. A few people inside wave back.
He takes the steps two at a time, hopping down them in the way a child would. A few people stop and stare, but he doesn’t mind. The stares are in themselves little compliments. He doesn’t trip on the loose fifth stair. He skips over it, then stops to explain to an amazed little girl how to jump just like him.
The brisk September air fills his lungs as he strolls down the street, dropping quarters into the parking meters as he goes by.
At the bus stop, he sits next to a woman wearing an oversized jacket. They talk for a bit, exchanging puzzle pieces of their lives. She tells him about her son and daughter in college who are on scholarships and don’t know that she was evicted three weeks ago. He tells the woman about his love, what he’s done, and where he’s going. The woman laughs and clamps him on the shoulder. He offers her one hundred dollars in the form of a thick wad of bills, but she declines, pushing the money into his pocket. He is sad to leave when his bus arrives.
He takes the bus up to wine country, where the land is covered in its livelihood in the form of grapes. Up here, the taste of wine is a part of every meal. He doesn’t think he could stand all of the finery that comes with it. He wasn’t born for a life of frills and neither, he thinks, was she. He remembers she had said something about that last night after he had shattered the dishes on the floor.
He wonders if she got the pancakes and the little note she probably refused to read. The bus comes to a creaking stop. He pushes the thoughts out of his head and exits in a hurry, handing the driver a plastic rose he found abandoned on the seat.
The world smells of lavender and dirt and mist. A sagging house waits a a mile down from the bus stop. He skips towards it, singing a radio hit from years ago. A couple he knows through their voices on the phone stands in front of the house. Years of happiness are visible in their every move. Behind the house is a world of violet.
The couple smiles when he gasps. They tell him that this lavender is their life’s work. Every flower holds a memory. Two hundred dollars is payment for five bags. He tells the couple that their love story will be perfect to tell her. Maybe then she’ll be able to remember they have a story of their own. The couple gives him a grateful smile and hands him the bags full of lavender sprigs.
He waits almost an hour for the bus to return. The man next to him doesn’t like to talk much. So, he tells the man about her, painting pictures with his words. The man nearly cries. He gives him a sprig of lavender and holds him until the man’s bus arrives.
Joining him now is a teenage girl, absorbed in her phone who chuckles at seemingly random moments. He watches for a while, until she glances up to see his stare. Flashing him a look of disgust, she returns to the tiny world in her screen. Anger bubbles up within him, a monster he has never learned to control. He takes her phone in his hand and throws it as far as possible. The reflective surface glints in the sunlight before it strikes the ground. The girl looks at him in shock, before dashing away to save her device.
The screen is shattered beyond repair. She screams at him and cradles the lifeless phone as if it was her baby. He listens to her for a few moments before telling the girl about her.
Throughout their years together, she never needed the tiny devices. She never needed a wall dividing her from everything else. She flourished in a world of screens by simply opening her eyes beyond that. He hands the girl two hundred dollar bills when his bus is in sight. He then tosses her a sprig of lavender. She catches it in both hands, studying the flower as if it was the first time she had ever seen such a thing. He picks up his bags and steps onto the bus.
The ride back is bumpier with people packed shoulder to shoulder. He takes a seat next to a snoring man. Across from him, a couple shares a bottle of wine. She might’ve liked that once but not after everything that’s happened. He pushes the thought out of his mind and glances around the bus. A little boy watches him. His five-year-old hands cling to a metal pole. He ducks forward, towards the boy, and offers him a sprig. Lavender is passed from big hands to little ones. He smiles and retreats back to his seat.
By the time it reaches his stop, the bus is teeming with the scent of purple flowers. He hands one to every passenger as he makes his way off. He pauses at the driver’s seat and offers her a sprig with two flowers dangling off of it. She smiles and places it next to the plastic rose. The driver’s eyes remind him of hers. He can’t help but grin.
Walking down the sidewalk, he digs out his last few quarters to save a car about to be ticketed. Several moments later, an anxious driver emerges from the station, perplexed to see she has twenty minutes to spare. The station is near full again, despite it being the quiet time of the day. He hands every person he sees a lavender sprig.
He sits across from a woman wearing a gold studded coat and has one side of her head shaved. He learns about her boyfriend who stole her life savings and how she is going to court now. He gives the woman a much needed hug and tucks one of the remaining lavender sprigs behind her ear. She walks out with her head held high, the purple flowers perfectly complimenting her eyes. The first bag is empty now, but still carries a pleasant scent. He ties it around a pole, hoping everyone can share in a little piece of his adventure. A pleasant voice announces his station, and the train comes to a screeching halt. He makes his way out and watches as it travels downs the tunnels.
The remaining four lavender bags seem to become heavier and heavier as he walks down the long winding road towards his home. The smell of an apologetic guilt is in the air.
He arrives to a depressing barren yard. For the first time today, he feels almost lonely. Then, through the window, he sees her shadow. A pianistic melody flows into his ears.
He plunges his hand into the bag and grabs a handful of flowers. He stoops and goes about planting them into the dirt. Slowly, a tapestry of purple begins to form on the rocky soil. He is soon covered in mud with a distinctive earthy scent. Perhaps, if lavender can grow without any roots, maybe so can their love.
He works for hours into the evening. She never does emerge. The tinkling sound of the piano continues to radiate from the window.
The once barren yard is a field of purple. In his hands, he takes the remaining lavender sprigs and ties them in a bouquet. Ignoring his racing heart, he marches up to the front porch and knocks four times, no more, no less. He waits for a moment, rocking back and forth on his heels. She opens the door and stares at him, as if waiting for him to make the first move in a game of chess. Studying her face for forgiveness, he holds out the bouquet. “I’m sorry.”
She looks at him blankly.
“Did you read my note?”
“It’s in the same place you left my heart.” For a moment, she catches a glimpse of the sea of flowers that has sprouted in her yard. Her eyes fill with wonder and hate, but nothing nearing love.
He turns towards his long day’s work. “I did this all for you.” He stares at her with pleading eyes. “You always loved lavender.”
Her laugh slices through his heart. “And how many flowers did you give away while you were on your little adventure?” She takes a step forward. Sunlight splashes onto her face. Inside, he can see the floor has been cleared of porcelain shards. A familiar lump of guilt forms in his throat. Her feet are bandaged with white cloth. “How much time did you spend running away from me by doing your so-called good deeds?”
She snatches the lavender from his hands, crumpling the flowers he had traveled so many miles to obtain. “You are so perfect.” A bit of saliva lands on his cheek. “All you care about is looking perfect and caring to everyone.” Tears run down her cheeks, forging tiny rivers on the landscape of her skin. “Why do I only matter to you when you feel your heart beginning to break?” The lavender bouquet falls to the ground. “You never noticed that my heart was already in pieces.”