By Carina Tan-Van Baren
The ends of my fingers turn white as I pull at the tape. Experience tells me it will not give. The tape is wound too tight, three times around, and the sticky green plastic is too thick to snap. But I pull anyway. Until it hurts.
I finally give up and reach for the scissors. It crosses my mind that this little scenario is a pretty good metaphor for my life.
I’m one of those boring, sensible types, with what an earlier generation would describe approvingly as “a good head on her shoulders”. I’ve always been a good judge of character; of the right thing to do in any given situation. Most of all, I have a talent for identifying lost causes, which is pretty handy in my line of work.
But none of this has stopped me from getting involved with the wrong people and doing all the wrong things in the most hopeless of situations – even when I know it will end badly.
I quickly snip the tape, releasing a thick tangle of green stems. Holding them up loosely, I give a light shake, bringing the flattened bouquet back to three dimensions, before plunging the lot into a vase of cold, sweetened water.
Stepping back to admire the arrangement – a riot of dusky pink jostling, spilling over the top of a faded green milk jug – I feel happy. A soft, quiet happiness. The type that comes when the rest of the world fades away and you exist only in the moment. Just you and a beautiful bunch of flowers.
I love flowers. Always have. They bring me peace. Sometimes I think I could overlook the worst aspects of our relationship, accept the cold, hopeless misery of it, if only he would bring me fresh flowers every week. But he doesn’t. And I don’t fool myself into believing he ever will.
I pick up the old milk jug and carry it to the dining table, where I will be able to see it from the kitchen and the living room. But I’ll see it most from the end of the table, where I sit every day, escaping into my laptop.
Not today though. Today I have a long list of things to do. Things that won’t wait.
I return to the kitchen and quickly clean up. I ball up the cellophane wrapping and throw it in the stainless steel bin in the corner. These new self-opening bins are such a boon. I use my arm to sweep the remaining debris – a few dead leaves, bits of stem and plastic tape – into the other hand and throw it all in after the wrap. A quick swipe of a damp cloth and the counter is as it was. Like I haven’t been here.
There’s something stuck on the cupboard over the counter – a yellow sticky note. Not one of those tiny, impractical squares, but a big, rectangular page that gives you enough space for a decent list. I consult it and realise I am already behind.
I snatch the note off the cupboard and run out the kitchen door, grabbing my bag and my keys from their hooks on the way.