Plastic Flowers

May 1, 2009
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He awoke at four am for the fifth time that night. It was freezing outside of his sleeping bag. Water had condensed on the sides of the tent, puddles of it now present. He drew his head under the warmth of the bag. Of course, sleep would be a while off. He hated waking up in a tent.

His thoughts turned over to the tent next to his. She was probably asleep, but then you could never tell. On these outdoorsy things city people tend not to sleep well. Himself included. He thought about what was happening between them. Was it love?

He shook his head in the darkness. No, that couldn’t be it. Yesterday when he had helped her down a section of the trail he thought that maybe that was it. She had held on tightly, he had promised not to let go. Even so, it didn’t seem quite right. Last time it had been so… right. Last time he felt, for once in his life, completely fulfilled. With her it was that warmth that seems to glow in the chest on the coldest nights, the warmth that was indeed burning now.

“Is this right,” he questioned himself. In the darkness he was answered by the sounds of several gaseous emissions accompanied by mushy sounding thuds from just outside the tent. “’cursed horse,” he muttered and drifted off.

Night in an airport. The lights struck harshly at his eyes. He felt the familiar tired insomniac feeling of having flown on a plane. Luggage slowly rolled past on a dirty black conveyor belt. He stood next to her. Her company the only thing that isolated him from the cold masses that stood by the same conveyor belt, watching the same luggage go by.

“Hey, I’m going to go now, see you later,” his friend left with her luggage. Him and her still standing. A familiar suitcase rounded the turn. He stepped forward and yanked it off. He waited for a bit longer. Just to prolong the moment. He eventually turned to her and said, “I’m going to go now, see you on Monday.” She smiled and replied “Yeah, see you.” For a moment, time stood still. And so did she. She, in her white jacket, blue jeans, hair a blend of golden red and black streaming down her shoulders. That rushing feeling to hold her in his arms. “But no,” he told himself, “I don’t love her.”

He turned and stepped out of the airport. As his car pulled away he wondered if he had been right. He didn’t feel like he cared that deeply and yet…. Yet there was something there. Something he could not deny, even as he stood and denied it.

Street lamps flashed by overhead. “Do I honestly care about her,” he asked himself. “More importantly, does she care about me,” he questioned. All through the long car ride through the night he sat there, interrogating the silence, finding no answers save a lingering doubt as to his feelings.

He walked through the door into a brightly lit classroom. There two of his friends sat at the far end, a line up of four desks, and behind them were three more. He sat behind them, hoping that when she came in, she might sit with him. She came in with her friend. Her friend sat in front of him, and she sat with her friend. “Should have expected it,” he thought. “As if she wouldn’t sit with her friend.”

That entire class passed. An hour and a half trickling away into nothingness. All that class not a word passed between him and her save “hello.” There he sat in the isolation that had been erected by his friends and hers. “What was she thinking now?” He stewed in curiosity, too shy to ask it straight out.

He sat down at a table. Lunch was finishing up. He glanced off to the side. She was at her usual table, with her friend and… a guy? He hadn’t seen this person before. That guy sat opposite her, looked like just a friend. Was that all he was? Maybe…. New flames quickly turn old.

He had to speak with her. To find out what to do. There was less of a question now. He knew there was something, so long as it was allowed to grow. Maybe to spark it in them both. He was going to see her tomorrow. It was time to see how it went.

What to do? He asked himself why he was doing this. Why did he go after her? Was it the competition, or was it that he really cared? His bus hit another bump. He was jolted up almost to the ceiling. Not that he noticed.

Cars flash by in the other direction coupled with those others that move alongside him. He didn't want to hurt her. That was what mattered. It was less that he had her with him, than that he didn't want her to hurt without him. That... that was why. That was why he couldn't get off the topic. That was why he couldn't figure it out.

"It's less that I have her with me, than I don't want her to hurt without me," he paused. "That’s just crap!" He sighed. What did it matter? If this was truly what he felt, then he could not risk hurting her. How she felt was more important than the way he felt about her. "It's over, now. And she's going to go back to her life, and I back to mine."

He saw her the next day. He smiled. He said "hi." He acted like any friend would. He hoped maybe that she could understand. He hoped that she would lose interest. Because he didn't care. Because that was his truth. That he didn't care.

He spent a week doing this. But they saw each other more. It hurt him. It tormented him. Don’t let me hurt her. But she got closer. He sat down on a couch, and she on the chair next to him. He pulled out a pencil and looked at the sheet of paper she had given him.

An outline. An outline of a speech she was going to give later that afternoon. His friend was working on it with her, and he lent his support. But later that day, as he and she walked to where she was giving it, she turned to him. "Stay, please, and help me with this." He looked at her.

"Look, I'm sorry, but I have to go." She clutched at his arm. "No, come on, I need your help. Please." What now? He did have to go, but he didn't want to. Time stood still, once again. "But no, I...." The thought faded. "Could I deny it any more," he asked himself. It would happen. He did care.

He was going to just say "sorry, but no," but that seemed wrong. Instead, he smiled. "Look, you'll do great. I know you will." He put his arm around her and gave a bit of a squeeze. He stood and watched her walk in.

She looked back at him.

He felt warm all over. He began humming a bit, and walked away feeling much better. Just as he reached the bus, he laughed. He had been humming an old Beatles tune.

There was love
all around, but I never
heard it singing, no I never,
heard it at all

Till there was you...

Join the Discussion

This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

A. N. said...
May 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm
crawleytips said...
May 18, 2009 at 1:37 am
Great stuff. L'amour! Toujours l'amour!
Rachel G. said...
May 17, 2009 at 11:53 pm
Really original. I like it.
mctanster said...
May 17, 2009 at 1:33 am
Sweet! Really.
nachos said...
May 15, 2009 at 10:19 pm
OK, but how does a horse's fart smell?
statzler said...
May 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm
Hey dude, it's not really a Beatles tune.

Good story though. Great ending.
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