Shorts: Rosemary Flowers

This week has been rather over-full – so much so that my exhaustion has prevented me from even turning on my computer! But that won’t stop me from today’s #SaturdayCatchup – a double-bill of my weekly writings. This first piece is an excerpt of a short story I am writing for one of my closest friends; an ex-housemate of mine who I inevitably don’t see enough of these days.

This is the final part of my ode to her. It’s called, “Rosemary Flowers”.

I definitely didn’t deserve her. I’m lazy, and I have a bad temper. Never at her, but maybe she had seen that sometimes, and I wished she hadn’t. But every time I confessed, she made it easy. I wasn’t evil, I was human. Of course I was! How I miss her acceptance, for rejection is too easily come by.

Sometimes I dream of her. Sometimes, she’s giving me sage advice. Other times, it’s her laughter I can hear, and we’re off swing dancing, dressed up to the nines; we’re French revolutionaries, plotting to take down the government; we’re building new civilisations on far-flung worlds.

She bought me a gift for my last birthday, when she told me she was planning on leaving the city. Maybe not right away, she said. But there it was: an expiry date. Our friendship was, at least in its current form, terminal.

A rosemary plant, in a bright red pot. It was small enough to become the centrepiece of my little garden table. It’s April, and the rosemary is flowering. Rosemary flowers in the spring; I didn’t know that. Perhaps I am incredibly ignorant, but I have never seen it flower before. Beautiful, delicate flowers of palest purple, like cat’s tongues. She knows I love rosemary; it’s my favourite herb. Hers is parsley. I shall buy her a pot of parsley.

des fleurs
Inspiration: mon petit jardin

She’ll be coming over to visit soon, for tea and to chat while we bake a cake together. We have others in our lives now – others that must and should be prioritised – but when she calls I will always answer. When she struggles, I will never lose my patience. But then I will never have learned my lesson. I will forget to water my rosemary – my here and now – and its delicate flowers will wither, its leaves will turn yellow and tumble to the soil, and I will be left a jagged brown skeleton, my ingratitude on show to the world, and worse, to her. For she has found her passion, and though I know my own, I am ever too lazy, ever too frightened, ever too doubting, reliant on her cheer and drive for my own growth. Her transformation will be complete; forever she will be my drug, a complex psychoactive compound that I can do great things with – or ponder my oblivion without.

If she ever knew that she had such influence on me, would she be scared away? If she read this, realising it was her I had opined about so grovellingly, would she be embarrassed? In so doing, would I have surrendered all equality, all power, all mystery – my heart open, like a simpering fool? Has anyone ever felt an attraction to such a person? Certainly, I haven’t. When she cancels, it’s like a withdrawal. My heart beats faster, pathetic, and I need to know how to get my next hit.

So then, I must tend to my plants. I must buy parsley, enough for us both, and keep it even after she has gone, and focus on these two. When they are thriving, she will see I have learned to cope without her, and she will no longer be my drug, but a tonic. Refreshing, delightful and bubbly; of aromatic bitters and botanicals, pleasurable yet without obsession.

For she deserves better than that, and so do I. So do those who tie themselves to me as friends. I will learn the herbs of my other dear friends, and we shall enter into a great pact, partners for life; for whenever I water the herbs, so too shall our friendships be watered, each with its characteristic flavours.

Parsley comes in different varieties: I know of at least two – the curly leaves and the flat. The curly is boisterous, disruptive, ostentatious. Its flavours must be carefully balanced with others to prevent it from dominating. This is not her. No, she must be of the flat-leafed sort – more subtle, crisp, refreshing. Somewhere between mint and coriander, its universality makes it appropriate for almost any savoury dish.

And thus I have bought two pots of parsley. They sit growing on my balcony, in a pair of small, green ceramic pots. I planted them with their survival in mind: a few stones in the bottom to hold more water; some loose compost to support their growth in pots just bigger than the ones in which they came. They sit next to my rosemary, still flowering.

A bee came to visit today, to sample the blossoming herbs and flowers in my little collection. I’ve seen this bee before, I know it. A local bumblebee that has decided my flora suit its tastes, like a person who, having sworn off all others, has found its favourite restaurant. It tasted the sleepy nectar of the lavender and the sweetness of the fuschias, the piquancy of the chillies and vibrancy of the basil, before settling on my rosemary plant. It clambered about the leaves, using them like a tiny ladder, carefully inspecting one side before lifting off and lowering itself to the other.

It did not go to the parsley, but it was not in bloom. I read that when it does, it will shortly die thereafter. Basil is this way, too, but that didn’t matter now. Though you can prevent it if you try hard enough, parsley is such a symbol of abrupt and fatalistic endings. Living to flower and die. Why did she have to like parsley, then? This plant was again evermore a symbol of the clock on our limited time in each other’s company. I shan’t sleep tonight in thinking about it – or perhaps I shall, dreaming of warm evenings surrounded by friends and her: spicy, mineral, comforting, and necessarily temporary.


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