Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Rose

I had not seen her for many years, so we were each startled by how the other looked. We were in our twilight years, a bit wilted but still, each of us, probing at the secrets of life. Valerie, always an artist, had taken up water colors.

Valerie's tray had slots for maybe 24 colors, but only five or six held paint. These were the ones, her teacher said, that she would need to paint a flower. Any flower.

Valerie was choosing to paint a rose. But first she had to find one.

She walked with me, her friend, along the edge of Peter's garden. The evening was chilly, the sun just visible, low down through stark branches.

The colors of the roses were fading in the dusk. Whichever rose might have especially pleased her, the artist, at an earlier hour, now they all looked pretty much alike.

Besides, Peter should choose. These roses were his. And he was not far, just over by the old potting shed putting away his tools. 

He strode back across the grass. "Peter!" she began.

"Let's go in, shall we?" 

I could never tell if his Britishisms were real or just for me, the occasional visitor. Forty-five years since he'd come to the US! Surely he could speak American by now, or at least Bostonian?

Valerie always tiptoed around Peter, especially when speaking. She sounded as if she planned every word. She was a local girl. 

"Peter, is there any one of these roses ready for picking? I'd like to paint one."

"I suppose so. I've just dead-headed the ones I thought would be shabby by morning. I'm sure it won't be obvious if I take one from toward the back."

She let him do it. I think the artist in her would have picked the perfect rose to paint, but she kept the peace and accepted the one he had leaned in to clip off. Then we all went inside.

The rose in the light of the kitchen was fully open. The colors of yellow merging to pink would be up to Valerie to sort out with her paints. I wondered if she would see it as it appeared to me at this moment. Peter bustled to put it in water, Valerie chose a slender vase. Warm perfume floated around. She and I went upstairs to the spare bedroom where she paints.

But it was late. Too late, light too incandescent, a rose that could be spared from the garden not one she wanted to paint. It was a bit shabby, a bit beyond its prime, not worth the time.

But still a rose, I thought. It's still a rose!

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