I really adore plants, of any type, if that matters: young ones you can barely see and those that could almost overshadow you; dying plants, which cripple out complaints, and blooming ones that let out strange green auras. There are just so many types of plants; my head wants to spin in awe. There is so much variety, and they all live along together in a quiet flow of calm.
It’s especially refreshing when I find them in unexpected places. I’ll turn into an alley – and there’s a plant crawling up the windows – “Oh! How charming!” I’ll say to myself. I let its green tenderness sink through my thin skin and into my veins. Maybe at that moment, I can feel a little less worried from this life. Occasionally, the plants exhale a gentle blow of oxygen towards me as a thank-you – that is when I feel grateful.
At times, that even makes my day.
. . .
I hurry a bit faster towards the Yoshios’ apartment. Ms.Yoshio has asked me to babysit her newborn baby. Being slightly broke, I did not refuse such offer. I will exit that house with a bit more money.
However, deep down, I do acknowledge that I have a minor aversion towards little kids, even worse, towards babies. They are so helpless! Useless! Doing nothing for the whole day, while other people have to clean up their mess. What an annoyance!
Ms. Yoshio takes me into her cramped, dimly lit apartment.
I always think that she’s a little too kind, a little too happy, a little too… everything! I like calling her “Ms. A Little Too” in my mind.
“You look wonderful today, Maia!”
“Thank you, Ms. A Little Too!”
“Have a great day!”
“Ok, you too, Ms. A Little Too!”
Do not get me wrong, I admire her. She seems like a much denser condensation of all uplifting things. She is an admirable person to be around with: I find that her tranquility rubs off onto me. Maybe she was a plant in her past life. That would make sense.
I remember her style well. A branded scarf tied around her neck, a lovely – and not too strong – aroma of daisies clinging to her wavering aura.
This time, she wears a muted beige sweater that snugly embraces her body. It makes her look even more motherly. I could just jump into her arms and bury my face into her warmness. Slightly flustered by my thoughts, I almost forget to say my good-bye when she leaves me with the house keys and a sleeping baby girl.
Well, sleeping – but not for long.
Standing over the bundle’s crib, I do try to find some kind of liking in her. “Hello there…” I mumble vacantly. Her immense eyes open: they are the numb color of slate. My first thought is, “I don’t like looking at her.”
So I brush a crisp strand of hair away from her forehead, and walk away.
I never had the time to really look at this tiny flat. If I could choose one color to describe this place, I think I would name the color brown. It’s quite a hideous color, isn’t it? But it emanates that warm and delightful feeling of home that I crave.
Every room in this flat gives off a different type of brown feeling. An inviting, brown feeling of a newborn life. A pleasant, brown feeling of a soft sighing leather sofa. An intimate, brown feeling of an overhead lamp glowing. And the living room’s silence is heartwarming, almost.
I feel instantly drawn to the balcony – the plants overlook the reflective metal bar. My fingers ghost over the blooming buds. The balcony light floods through and seeps into the atmosphere. The plants absorb the warmth in eerie stillness. Everything has a golden touch to it. I almost hear the newly manufactured tranquility pushing through the leaves and into the watery atmosphere of the terrace.
I would feel perfectly content sleeping here. This stillness that seeps into me would be remarkably uplifting.
When my hours are over, I thank Ms. Yoshio for the money and make my way down the apartment stairs. Each breath I take is very deep. The air feels a lot more different now. I sense I have just come out of a bubble. The atmosphere is sweet, while the flavor of that apartment was… savory. It’s lunch time.
. . .
I wrap the three roses together with confidence, and hand them to the little boy who is waiting over the counter.
“It’s ten dollars, please.”
I almost feel bad for asking. But it’s my business. I struggle with three jobs every day, hating to get up every bitter morning. This is my second one. Even though, I have to admit, I do find it quite enjoyable.
The boy is chubby: with pink cheeks and all. His hands fumble out a folded ten-dollar note, then he hands it to me with a certain urgency. He stays rooted to the floor, his hat slightly tipping over his head. I want to walk over to him and fix it.
I smile, “Who are those for?”
“For Mummy, it’s her birthday. Daddy said it would be very thoughtful of me if I bought these… Your shop looked prettier than all the other flower shops, so I chose it.”
He is proud and I beam at him. Maybe children aren’t so useless after all.
“Oh, wonderful! You’re a good kid.”
I watch him as he twists his head around, glancing at the vines climbing up the wall of my shop.
He gazes at me, expressionless. I wait. My bones ache with happiness just by gazing at him – I don’t know why. His eyes then bore into mine, seeing through my own self. However, strangely, I don’t feel uncomfortable at all.
There are no other customers in my shop right now. At the back of my mind, I remember my tea set.
“Would you like to drink some tea with me?” I ask. I’m almost taken aback: this is not very typical of me. The impulse to get to know this kind boy has overridden my introverted nature. I want to uncover the intriguing thoughts that reside in his mind.
With his almond-shaped eyes open wide, he nods without hesitation.
“My name is Jack.”
Simple. Neat. I like it.
We sit at the small table next to the full-length windows. We don’t talk much. We take sips at our tea, trying to decode each other with mere looks.
Soft piano music plays in the background.
I adore piano.
Slightly swaying and humming to the tune, I lean back. What a soothing afternoon!
Suddenly, I feel afraid. Afraid I won’t have a moment like this again. Afraid that I’ll lose this feeling of utter calmness…
Then I realize. It is not fear what I feel. I’m just lonely. I don’t have anybody to share my existence with. I try to latch onto people I meet in fleeting seconds, trying to stuff this hole in my heart with them. It’s no use, I know. Because they pass, come, and go. People are ephemeral, like the last brief seconds of daylight as the sun sets. One moment it’s there and the next you’re plunged into the night without warning. All you have is yourself.
“I want a flower shop like yours when I grow up. Being surrounded by all these plants comforts me. It’s strange.” The curious sentence breaks my string of thoughts.
The little boy emphasizes every full stop, tasting every word out, I realize. Before I can reply, he’s bursting out of the shop on tiptoes, leaving half a cup of tea behind. The three roses are almost taller than him, they weigh on his whole body and make him look slightly unbalanced.
I watch him run away with a certain type of longing. What a wonderful boy, I repeat to myself as I clean up the mess of teacups.
. . .
The evening air is cool against my skin, so I tip my head back and feel it kiss my neck. I shudder, but I don’t zip up my jumper. City lights are closer with every step I take. I can almost hear the commotion of the crowd.
But right here, right now, not even a breath is to be heard. The moon isn’t out tonight. Not that it matters, I guess. This will be my last, third, job of the day. Then it will be over over. I can head back to my flat later. Good. Whatever money I bring home every night, it will be that, and I can’t go back asking for more.
The train station sits in a green light, oddly peaceful. Everybody knows that it isn’t very pleasant to look at. But with people, contributing and adding their very own color of illusions, this place gets alluringly delicate.
I succumb to the sweet whirlwind of passengers coming and going rhythmically.
Glancing around, I take out my violin, place a cup next to me and start playing at Platform 7. I know I may sound desperate, as if I thirsted for money. But I love the way my fingers pick at the strings, plucking different combinations. I play music to portray personalities, strangers I will never meet and places I have never been to. Most of the time, while I am playing, I close my eyes. Occasionally, I hear a coin drop through and into the cup. Then, I open my eyes again.
I always end up enjoying this. It’s one of my characteristics: I hesitate, but when I push myself to do things, I end up liking them.
I only play what I enjoy. I entertain my mind with my tunes. Leaning up against the wall, exhaling green puffs of breath, I sway to the delicate violin notes. It is almost like the passersby are not there. They seem like the wandering ghosts of my music that plays in the background. Some come harder into reality, and when they drop a coin, they become more solid to my memory.
Trains leave and come and I stay. At incredible ease, I smile and let my body take over my mind. This is the only time I let it happen. Soon it will be 11pm.
I’m home. Like I often do, I make one last cup of tea before going to bed.
. . .
Daggers of sunlight refract past my windows. It’s bitter morning again.