Once when I thought the best relationship of my life was over we ran away to St. Augustine and I showed him all the places that meant so much to me. We walked along the beach and saw a baby shark. Perfectly formed, destined to be terrible.
But even the fiercest things die.
Afterward he offered to buy me a bouquet but I wanted something that lasted longer, that wouldn’t fade in a week. I was worried about things that faded and how they could be held fast.
We went to a nursery, a place filled with stone goddess and bubbling fountains, where he bought me this, a Brazilian Justicia with pink flame flowers.
The flowers lasted more than a week. Then there was work to be done and it didn’t flower for a year. Longer maybe, while we talked and talked, buried someone we both loved, and lived without realizing the hard work we were doing.
Until he took me back to St. Augustine and asked me a threefold question that would define my life. So that one day we became, formally, friends, lovers, and companions, sealed man and wife. But still the plant didn’t flower. Not until we got back from the honeymoon and months after that, just before we packed it up and took it to the city, changing all our lives.
Pieces of it broke off, long stems. I couldn’t part with them, with what they represented, so each one went into water in jelly jars, Champagne flutes, whatever glass I put my hands on, hopeful. They rooted all, and now the progeny fill my house. And there is a house, a permanent place after twelve years of wandering, and three of the multitude have gone in the ground.
They say it is too cold here, that tropical plants will not bloom. But I know my plants are stronger than that, and into the ground they go. Flowers all summer, but then fall and I falter. I keep the little ones inside, saying they’re too small, when really I’m hedging my bets. Even then I’m too sentimental, and spend more money than I should to build a strong boxes against the cold.
The neighbors say it’s too much. After all, there are other plants. They’re right and so very wrong.