“This is the smell of being lost in the woods,” he said. “That’s when you know you’re really alone. You know what I mean? When you know no one is coming to get you. Here. It’s freesia.”
He puffed lightly trying to blow his long hair from his mouth. His hair was thin, but it seemed sweet to me that he cared enough to color it brown and grow it down to his shoulders.
“This one is almost gone.” He held up a withering flower. “But it smells so nice.” He shoved it into the vase. He was so high. Since we’d walked into the flower shop he hadn’t stopped talking, smiling, asking us questions about the flowers and the occasion.
“They’re for my husband,” I told him. “He’s got a big project at work.”
“That is so sweet!” This from the woman behind the counter. She wore a gray-blue sweatshirt and smiled wide showing the gaps between her teeth. Her hair was pulled back, her eyes darting around the room like his. Her eyes were bloodshot. She giggled. “You are such a sweet man.”
My friend, Maia, her eyes darted, too, but just to me, the corners of her mouth lifting into the slightest smile. We had started this errand at a fancy floral shop in south Minneapolis only to find it closed for an event. Thanks to Yelp we learned about this one, and we drove up a few blocks. With time waning, we entered and found the florists smiling wide and moving quickly to attend us.
“Hydrangeas are nice. They fill up the vase,” he said. He walked to the cooler where three hydrangea bulbs sat on the stop shelf above the only other flowers, a tall vase of red roses opening in the cool air.
Maia perused the vases all sourced from a variety of glassware opportunities, some with tags from other stores, some with garage sale stickers. There were a few Ball jars, and next to the glass vases stood a selection of fake plants.
A woman in her thirties looked up and smiled, then looked down again and continued to color a Disney princess with a half-size ballpoint pen.
“I just love these!” The woman attending our order came in from the back with a armful of daisies and a fistful of white flowers that ran up sturdy stalks. “And eucalyptus!” She held some out to the woman with the Disney princess. “I go back there sometimes just to smell it.”
The man with the brown hair smiled from under his mustache. He was happy at work pushing daisies into the vase next to hydrangeas and eucalyptus. He created a really beautiful bouquet, symmetrical with sprigs of interest and the weight of heavy flowers. The bouquet shined, and then he just kept going. Daisies, more daisies! Taller and taller they rose, crowding out the other flowers. More quickly with the daisies so that freesia petals flew into the air to make way. Suddenly it was a tiny forest of daisies and all the other flowers were nearly lost.
“Why save all your money?” he said matter-of-factly. “The banks they tell you to put all your money with them so they can spend it whenever they want. They get rich on your money, and you have to go to them to get it. I’m serious. Why would anyone want to save all their money? When I get money I just put it right here.” He slapped his pocket.
“It’s really beautiful,” I told him, and picked up the vase. This vase of flowers was actually beautiful in the end. It was a no-daisy-left-behind bouquet. I had asked the two florists for a vase full of white flowers for my husband, and they raided their cooler and gathered everything from their back room. They gave me every white flower they had plus all the eucalyptus.
“You need a flower,” he said to Maia. Maia looked at me.
“I agree!” I said.
“What’s your favorite color?” he asked her.
“I like yellow a lot,” Maia said. “And orange. Orange is nice.”
“How about red?”
“Red is great.”
He pulled two red roses from the cooler and wrapped them in purple and orange tissue paper.
“You can’t hand them to her like that!” the woman behind the counter said. She took them from his hands and ripped a long sheet of floral patterned paper from a standing roll on the counter. She giggled as she struggled to fold it, finding the large sheet unwieldy.
He stepped in. “Let me do it.” The woman coloring the princess giggled. “You have to wrap them like a fish.” He folded the ends together and then rolled the roses. “Like a northern pike,” he said. He stapled all the sides and handed the package to Maia.
“Thank you,” she said. I cheered the same. I was somehow touched, these three folks high as the clouds and just as cheerfully fluffy, happy to be surrounded by flowery housewares and a few stems to offer. They were off the map, for sure, but not at all lost.