Saturday, August 07, 2004
A red rose for Claudia
I cut a red rose close to the head and removed its thorns. It was small, but fully opened. Its fragrance filled my air and made me think of Claudia. Carefully, I placed it on an open page from the book I bought her. Baudellaire's collected poems. Not very romantic, but we both shared the same love for dark poetry.
The rose found its place, evenly pressed by the weight of the pages around it. I kept the book for several days afterwards, to ensure that the rose took it well. When it works, the rose maintains its color and brightness with a trace of its aroma. Mine looked fine.
Claudia was sitting alone, reading, at a small cafe called The Place, not far from where she lived. She was still wearing her school uniform, but she had on a thick, white virgin wool sweater over the top. It was the button down type, with big brown wood-like buttons. She looked terrific. Barely fifteen, and she lit my world.
She was taking a sip from her tea as I approached.
"Hi," I said.
"Hi!" She smiled.
"You look beautiful."
We exchanged hello kisses, on the cheek.
"Were you waiting long?" I asked.
"Twenty minutes, maybe. Not long."
"Do you want to get something to eat?"
"I'm fine, thanks."
I sat down and ordered some hot cocoa.
"I brought you a present," I said, setting the book on the table. I had wrapped a red bow around it.
"For me?" she asked excitedly, as she grabbed it and turned it around to face her.
"Baudelaire!!!" she exclaimed in delight. "Oh, it's wonderful!" she said, as she stood up to kiss me.
I had made a habit of giving her small presents here and there, during the six months we had been going together. Nothing much really, just things like records, books, and chocolates. She was always so happy to receive them that it made the effort worthwhile.
"Will you read me one?" she asked, handing me the book.
"Perhaps later," I replied hesitantly, wanting her to be the first to open the book and find the rose."Right now, I want you to tell me how you've been."
Feigning disapointment, she pouted cutely and drank some tea.
"I've been sad lately, since my mother left for New York," she said. "I feel like I didn't spend enough time with her while she was here."
Claudia's parents were divorced, and they lived in different countries. She stayed with her father and grandmother, and saw her mother only twice a year. They had been close before, but they were no more.
"Won't you see her again at Christmas time?" I asked.
"Yes, but it's so far away. And I don't feel like we left on good terms," she whined.
"Why not? What happened?"
"Well, we were saying goodbye, and I started tearing up. Don't cry, my mother said, baby, don't cry. And I said, oh no, no, I've got something in my eye, that's all. So she turned away and got in the cab, and I just stood there like an idiot, pretending not to care that my mother was going away!"
She sobbed gently, and I offered her my handkerchief.
"No, no, I'm fine," she said, waving me off. She then dried her eyes with a napkin.
"Maybe if you had been more honest with her, if you had let her dry your tears..." I started.
"What do you know?" she shot back. "What do you know what it's like to only see your mother twice a year? You've got your parents right there, whenever you need them! What the hell do you know???"
"Claudia, I don't," I said. "That's not what I'm saying. Why are you getting so upset at me?"
"Because you think you know what's wrong, and you think you know the perfect solution. You always think you know everything!"
"I don't, I don't think I know everything," I offered,"I'm just trying to help you figure out what went wrong."
"Well I don't need your help. I only wanted your comfort! Was that so much to ask for? Was it?"
I shut down. All of a sudden I was unsure of myself, and scared. I thought I was offering her comfort. It now seemed apparent I was not. I had no idea what to do next. This was the first time I had experienced a woman's inexplicable ire directed at me. I wasn't prepared to defend myself against it.
She looked at me in disgust and got up, gathering her things. Then she reached into her coin purse and I said "no, I've got it," but she shook her head and threw some change on the table.
As she turned to go away I called out to her: "Claudia!" and held out the book, hopefully.
She stared at it for a long second, then snatched it out of my hand.
I never saw her again. I called her up several times, but there was nothing there. Something had happened between us then, in a matter of minutes, that would never be repaired.
I've no idea if she liked the rose.
Posted by M at 8/07/2004 09:36:00 AM