Fellows and Flowers

He was there at the corner of Carmel and Clayton. A skinny guy wearing a fedora, with a Chihuahua-type dog on a leash at his side. They waited patiently in the morning mist for the light to change as I observed the oddity of the leash. It appeared to be fashioned from yellow “police—do not cross” tape. There was more of that tape dangling from a bouquet of bluish-toned hydrangeas carried on the fellow’s arm. The flowers at a quick glance brought to mind the image of a bridal bouquet. The kind that the bride tosses back over her head, having turned away from her family and friends so as not to aim it directly to whichever still-single gal pal would be hoping for a sign of the soon-to-come arrival of her wished-for groom and a wedding of her own.

That fantasy, fueled by movies or bridal magazines, was interrupted by what caught my eye at the bottom of the bouquet’s stems. Those were ragged, and dirt still clung to the stalks. The guy must have helped himself to the blooms from any one of a number of bushes he might have passed while exercising his dog, or even standing and waiting for the dog to sniff out the best spot to lift its leg or couch for a crap. Did the fedora-wearing man have to cross a police line to grab his floral tribute? What prompted such thievery? Perhaps an early-morning transgression against a lover demanded penance in the form of flowers to be presented when man and dog returned home.

Can stolen flowers pay off a transgression? Is the need to appease a grumpy mate justification for snatching someone else’s blooms? Can one wrongdoing cancel out another insult? Was the hydrangea bouquet with its raggedy, dirty stems entwined in security tape even stolen? Perhaps I have wronged the fedora-wearer by even thinking suspiciously about the flowers he carried. Sorry, it’s just the way my whimsical mind was working in the gloomy, gray chill of another San Francisco morning.

The man and his flowers got me thinking about other boys with blooms. Over the years a fair number of men bearing flowers have presented themselves at my door. Most recently a neighbor came to watch the July Fourth fireworks from my hillside vantage point. He carried a colorful bouquet and a bashful expression. It is very charming to observe a man in his seventies looking a bit shy. Then, while trimming the stems and arranging those flowers, I time-traveled to another guy, who came for lunch a few years back.

His abundant bouquet was yellow forsythia. I detest yellow flowers; too f—ing cheerful. The man presented the flowers with a disclaimer. “This doesn’t mean anything.” A year or so later when the friendship took an ill-fated romantic turn, he was still protesting that “this doesn’t mean…that I want to live with you, that I want you to live with me, that I want to marry you…” Very soon after the final disclaimer he turned crazy ugly and was gone. Beware of flowers with disclaimers, especially yellow flowers. I hated yellow flowers then; like them less now.

Long ago there was an Egyptian lover who was generous and attentive until he turned his attentions to my best friend. “Not acceptable,” I informed him as I gave him his walking papers. That dismissal was followed by a florist’s delivery to me of two dozen lovely long-stemmed roses. It made me sick to look at those beauties, so I promptly drove them, still in the fancy florist’s box, to the nearest convalescent home and asked that they be distributed to patients who didn’t have visitors. Not all floral tributes are connected to happy memories!

Some of the flowers from fellows have been infused with humor. One lover was less than generous. Some would even have said cheap, but I preferred to think of him as New England thrifty, even parsimonious. I had been traveling in the Orient for about three weeks and the man needed to express his joy at my return in some tangible manner. He knew I loved flowers and that I frequently bought myself bouquets at the market to grace the table where we often dined. Determined to win my favor and a warm reception on our first night back together, he showed up with some very pretty blooms. They were an assortment that one wouldn’t find in the corner store or even at a florist’s shop. They were the charming, almost wildflower array that would come from a well-tended garden. Indeed, they had. That man’s ex-wife lived in the same building as he, and she tended the property’s garden, He’d simply asked her to cut some flowers for me. Didn’t cost him a penny and I remember that offering more than any other…well, given his pecuniary ways, there were very few others, although the romance lasted for a very long time.

If flowers be the language of love, they speak in many dialects!

Lois GoodwillDr. Lois Goodwill is a retired clinical psychologist and co-author, with the late Don Asher, of Entangled: A Chronicle of Late Love, released by Heyday in July. Born in Montreal, Canada, she holds degrees from McGill University and the Wright Institute. She enjoys attending theater and symphony performances and volunteer work. She is an enthusiastic hiker and walker. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of eleven. She lives in San Francisco.