Wednesdays are dollar rose days at the grocery store. He’s noticed this at regular intervals for the past several years when he stops at the store on his way home, as he does when his wife calls him at work, asking him to pick up something for her. She hasn’t learned the art of making a proper grocery list, and often finds herself in the middle of making dinner, lacking something essential. He doesn’t mind stopping at the store, and he is pleased with himself for not minding. A lot of men, he thinks to himself, would mind.
She doesn’t shop at this particular store — it’s convenient for him, coming home from the office, but she goes to a store nearer to their home. He’s glad she doesn’t shop here — if she did, she too would have noticed the dollar rose Wednesdays, and wondered why he’s never brought a rose home for her. He wonders this himself. It’s not as though he doesn’t love her. They’ve been married for fifteen years, and still he comes straight home from work (except when he has to stop at the store) and looks forward to seeing her. Perhaps he’s a little bit used to her; but that’s natural enough, after so much time together.
He dislikes being told how he should feel, and what he should do — the very existence of the roses, and the sly exhortation to buy them on Wednesdays, when they are cheap, suggests a subtle criticism of him. He feels guilty for not buying the roses, and resentful at being made to feel guilty. He is not the sort of man who gives flowers, regardless of their affordability. He feels that the reduction in price is a means to coerce him to express himself unnaturally. And so, week after week, he passes them by.
On this particular Wednesday, he stops for a moment to look at the roses, as he always does, his eye caught by them against his will. They are displayed in a square white plastic bucket which sits outside a larger cooler, where the more expensive flowers are kept. The bucket has a flimsy wire handle; the sight of it annoys him. The bucket would surely be heavy, full of water — anyone who picked it up would have a welt across the palm of his hand from the inappropriate weight suspended from such a handle. It’s poor planning, and poor planning irritates him — except in the case of his wife’s grocery list troubles, which he doesn’t mind.
There are perhaps two dozen roses still in the bucket: most are shades of pink, a few are red, and one is white. He looks at the white rose for a moment. He takes a step toward the bucket, and then a step back. He glances around furtively.With sudden decision, he plucks the white rose from amongst its colourful brethren. The rose is encased in a sheet of cellophane, clumsily stapled at one side, with a hole at the bottom from which the naked stem protrudes. The stem is thick and woody — not what he imagines the stem of a rose should be. He shakes it, and a few droplets of water fall from the stem to the floor. He examines the flower for a moment. It is clearly past its prime, the blossom nearly full-blown, the petals simultaneously waxy and papery, not supple and velvet as he knows roses should be if they are to last any length of time in a vase. But it is only a dollar, and what can he expect? The rose called to him, though he doesn’t like to think about it in this way. He still doesn’t quite know why he feels compelled to buy it . . . he could easily put it back. But he doesn’t.
He takes the rose home, along with the onions and small glass jar of dried rosemary which his wife needs for their dinner. He goes in the front door, hangs his coat up, and walks to the kitchen holding the bag with the onions and rosemary in his left hand, and the rose in his right, awkwardly concealed behind his back. His wife is standing at the sink, peeling potatoes with her back to him; she has the water running and doesn’t hear him approach. He sets the bag down on the counter and watches her. The garbage disposal makes an angry spitting noise as she flicks the switch next to the sink. After a moment she turns to face him. Her hands are pink from the cold water; her face is smiling at the sight of him. She notices his strange stance, his hand behind his back, and raises her eyebrows in silent query. “I got this for you,” he says, unceremoniously. He brings the rose around so that she can see it, but doesn’t give it to her right away; he is watching her face. The light in the kitchen is harsh, and suddenly he sees lines around her eyes, around her mouth, that he has not consciously noticed before. Her skin has a slightly powdery texture; her hair, escaping in wispy tendrils, looks dry and fragile. She is the woman he married . . . and he loved the fact.
“Thank you,” she says, though he hasn’t actually given the rose to her yet. “This is so unlike you — what made you buy a rose for me?” Her tone is mild.
“Because it made me think of you,” he says, as he extends the rose toward her; and as he speaks the words, he knows they’re true.
*This piece has been selected as the Winning Entry of the Day for the ‘Viewspaper Express Yourself Writing Competition’*