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On Valentine's Day

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On Valentine’s Day he bought her roses.
They came to the door in a slim glass vase, all two dozen of them choked up together with frosty baby’s breath. He took them and set them up on the counter in front of her, with a little clunk that seemed to vibrate the air in the house, just waiting, waiting, not wanting to look at her.
So there were the roses, clenched up tightly with long, thorny, leafless stems. All of them uniformly stiff and dark, a dank maroon, looking almost artificial—they weren’t; I know because later I went and took a flawless petal between my thumb and forefinger and found it infinitely delicate, like tissue paper, as if it was waiting to be torn.
And she stood there and forced a little smile, not wanting him to find her ungrateful. Really all she could do was tally up some kind of ridiculous price per petal in her mind. She imagined the buds crusted over with gemstones, stupid hollow gemstones for stiff hollow roses…
They filed for divorce three weeks later, after being together for sixteen years. All the roses had died but I left the vase on the countertop, full of fossilized baby’s breath sparkling as if made of diamonds under the bluish kitchen light.





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