That night the flowers bloomed.
The landlord told me they were called ‘night blooming ceres’ (Queen of the Night) and he’d been waiting patiently for the night to come in which they would open. They grew in the courtyard behind my apartment on Esplanade and opened in the early days of October; true to their name, they were there one brief moment and gone the next day. I can vividly recall the way that they smell and the way the petals felt when I held one flower delicately in my hand.
I was out that evening with friends and I’d gravitated toward Veda, who I always had a bit of a crush on (and felt she was out of my league). She was in the same band I was in and one of the reasons I stayed with it so long is because it meant that I got to spend time with her. We talked before practice and sometimes we caught a ride home together afterwords
Veda made me feel like the mistakes that I’d made in life were the most interesting thing about me and I found myself about some of my darkest corners because of it. Our friendship was strange, mixed with brutal honesty and warmth: she devastated me with her smile which she was just as likely to be wearing when she gave me a compliment as when she told me to go to hell. She could speak the truth and convince me that it wouldn’t kill me to hear it, giving me advice that was hard to swallow with just enough sugar in it to help it go down. To this day there are things that happen in my life that make me want to know what Veda would have said about them.
My landlord called that evening and told me the flowers had opened and I wish I would have asked her to come see them with me. I came so close, telling her where I was going and why when I left the bar. I hesitated though, because I thought it might be silly or cliché to ask her to leave our friends and walk the fifteen or so blocks with me to my place at midnight just to look at the flowers, no matter how remarkable they might be.
I missed out on something that night and I could feel it when we talked later. Veda had written a play and she left to tour with it shortly after that night, so we wouldn’t see each other again for some time. She sent me a postcard once from the road and it made me smile and ache at the same time when I turned over the middle-of-nowhere photo and read her writing on the back of it, signed off with just one letter.
Somewhere in the middle of it all she started seeing someone and so did I but that sheepish bittersweet tinge that you can see on peoples faces was on both of ours when we crossed paths. and that seemed to me that what we missed that night in the garden might have been more than just the flowers.
I had dreams of being in that garden with her and of conversations that we never had, of moments that never happened and of words that I’d never got the chance to say to her. In my dreams it was always just after dusk and we were waiting for the flowers to open, but they never did. Once I dreamt that we were in the garden the day after they blossomed and all the blooms littered the ground around our feet and the smell of them hung in the air like a memory of something that had happened only a moment ago. Those were just dreams though and we both moved in different directions; I never did have a chance to show her that garden.
Veda passed away a few short years later, taken swiftly and quietly by cancer. To this day, I can’t think of ‘night blooming ceres’ without picturing her and if I walk past them while they are in bloom my heart aches. Like that rare and beautiful flower she owned the night that she lived in and was gone all too soon. Fittingly, on her shoulder Veda had a tattoo of a fleur of her own and the word ‘tojour’, which is just how long she’ll be missed.