MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Upset Parrot by Maurice Schulman

Fiction


Stopping to Smell the Roses

Kat Kiddles

I made friends with roses today. Iíve never really liked them before. Iíve always seen them as commercial mascots for romance just like the red, heart-shaped boxes of intolerably sweet chocolates eager lovers gift on Valentineís Day. It all started off this morning when I woke up lost and had no idea how I was going to get through the day, so I asked for help. I asked for guidance on what to do next, what step I was supposed to take to move on with a day that I just wished would go away.

I detangled myself from the covers, trying not to make too many mattress waves, slowly tiptoed to the bathroom and started brushing my teeth. A swirl and a spit later, my hand reached for my face cream. I noticed an imprint of my ear on my forearm and wondered why this form of tattoo art hadnít become mainstream yet. Putting back the cream, I went for the foundation next. Mustering up the courage to look up at my reflection, I worked meticulously to cover up the bungling pimples with which lifeís persistent stresses and incessant hormones kept surprising me.

I hadnít a clue why I was making such an effort to prep for the outside world, but I knew that doing something, anything, felt better than sitting in my head, so I went with it. I asked where I was supposed to go once I finished getting ready. At first, I got no answer, not even a bubble of inspiration to perhaps return to a familiar cafe that would undoubtedly do its job of coaxing me into its comforting caffeinated caress. Then an invisible hand nudged me over to my laptop. I went on Yelp. I typed in Ďparkí and pressed return. A listing caught my eye. There were four and half stars next to a rose garden just minutes from my place. I didnít spend much time reading the reviews, just took a couple seconds to click on some photos to make sure it looked safe. It seemed fine, but more then that, it felt like the place I was supposed to go next.

I jotted down the address on one of the fluorescent green post-its that I wish they hadnít put in that multi-pack, but then again, how else are they supposed to get rid of such a hideous color? I slipped on my running shoes and crept toward the front door as quietly as I could. Reaching for the door handle, I was assaulted with this irrational pang of fear that someone was going to catch me leaving if I didnít hurry, which led to accidentally slamming the door behind me on my panicked way out. So much for trying not to wake anyone. At least I avoided those mattress waves. In case youíre wondering, yes, itís as bad as it sounds to feel the need to sneak out of your own apartment just to get some peace. Sometimes, lifeís funny that way.

I didnít have an exact address to input into the carís navigation system. All Google Maps gave me was an intersection. I started tapping in the first street name on the touch screen. Strangely enough, it pointed directly to the intersection where the rose garden lay awaiting my arrival - a sign I chose to believe was confirming that my gut was pointing me in the right direction. Nine minutes later, I was looking for parking in a neighborhood that seemed to contribute quite generously to the local landscaping industry. I became mesmerized by the heavy bushes of bulbous blossoms cascading over the garden fence, so much so that I forgot to put the car in park before opening the door to start exploring.

I entered the gates and found myself walking under a canopy of roses. It was still early enough for the thick strands of brushed grass to be drenched in morning dew. I stepped off the cobbled path as soon as I passed the first row of bushes and started making my way through the labyrinth of passageways, weaving between one shoulder-high cluster of colorful bushes after another.

It was 10 oíclock on a Sunday morning, yet the garden was full of people. Didnít working citizens sleep in on weekends? Many of them seemed to be consumed by their professional camera equipment, busily taking close-up stills of the intimacy that only a camera lens can have with the innocent flowering of virgin petals.

I wondered if the photographers also took photos of the little black flies that sometimes sit perched on the outer rim of petals or the tiny brown spiders that occasionally reveal themselves crawling through the intricate patterns of filaments plump with pollen. Or what about the roses that have already begun to wilt or the ones that never had a chance to bloom, prematurely deciding to withdraw before getting exposed to the harshness of this world? Did the shutterbugs only chase after the perfect ones, the ones untainted by natureís elements?

I wondered if roses consider themselves photogenic. I think that if I were a rose, I might be a bit camera shy, not knowing exactly when a shutter was about to close and always feeling pressure to look my best. On the other hand, perhaps if I were that flawlessly beautiful, I wouldnít have a care in the world. Perhaps...if I were aware of my beauty, I wouldnít spend so much of my time searching for it.

These were the biggest roses Iíd ever seen, like heads of lettuce suspended in the air, bobbing gently to the subtle insinuation of springís breath blowing their way. I didnít want to touch any of them for fear of being asked to leave. I saw a sign at the entrance but didnít read its bulleted rules for fear of spending too much time outside of the gates. I was scared it would look like I was undecided about whether to enter and I didnít want my indecision to close the gates at my feet, sealing me from the only thing that mattered in that moment.

After a while though, I noticed people reaching into the bushes and caressing blossoms, moving branches to the side and lifting entire saucers of petals to their noses. People were smelling the roses. I could stop and smell the roses. This was my time. I wanted to give myself that gift.

I vaguely remembered from childhood that roses sometimes smelled nice. They were usually just really expensive and never opened more then a few petals before drying up on the living room table, but I remembered this one time in elementary school when I was visiting my best friend and her mother had put a single rose in a small vase on their mantel. I remember smelling the rose even before I walked through their front door. It was the most wonderfully fragrant rose Iíd ever experienced during those first long ten years of life. I remember being in awe of not only its fragrance that managed to fill their whole house and even waft into their front lawn, but I also remember the enormity of this one rose. It was almost as big as those huge burgers my dad ordered when we went out for family dinners. I remember worrying about the stem, wondering how it managed to hold up so many of those velvety plates of leafy perfume without giving up.

That was the only time I really remember ever enjoying the smell of a rose, but I figured that since I found myself in a rose garden, I might as well smell a few and at least try to look as enamored with the surroundings as all the photographers and young couples seemed to be. The first rose I leaned in to sniff smacked my sense with the sticky air of intensely brewed tea; the next was a huge yellow globe bursting with the smells of warm bananas and whipped cream. Pink roses with the smell of pepper and oranges, deep wine-tinted blossoms beaming with an aura of anise and honey - it was an amazing cocktail of scents from natureís kitchen mixed with the innocent memories of freshly mowed grass that bubbled up to the surface of my earliest of memories.

I started to play a game with myself where I would look at a rose bush and feel out which blossom was inviting me to come drink from its bouquet. I came across one lightly tinted peach-colored rose that was bending over its side and hovering close to the manicured lawn. It was hanging so low that I had to squat down and morph myself into a yoga pose just to be able to reach its opulent opening without disturbing any of its siblings. As I found myself contorted between a towering landscape of lush rose bush branches that shielded me ever so gently from the California sunís intensifying mid-morning rays, I entered into another world. I was no longer in the municipal rose garden on the corner of Naglee and Dana. I somehow got transported into a jungle of wild bushes and tropical shades.

The closer I leaned into the rose that called my name without needing even the simplest of introductions, I realized she was drawing me into the most intimate realms of her existence, showing me how the world looked from her perspective, allowing me to feel the breeze on her petals. I became breathless at the grace with which this rose embodied such ravishing beauty and stunning stillness in every one of her curly petals. Who was I to ever have doubted the wonder of this spectacular specimen? How could I ever let myself walk by a rose again without stopping to revere her radiance?

I donít know how much time passed while I made my way through this marvelous maze but by the time I found myself standing under the rose canopy once again, I was dizzy and light-headed with only one thought ping-ponging against the inner walls of my mind - I must come back soon and revisit the magical rose that somehow managed to pull me out of my self-deprecating stew of pity and denial and bring me back to a time and space that made the world feel safe and familiar again.

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