Lucky Breaks

Because that’s the kind of country we have, OK?

Painting of three hyacinths, two tulips, and two candles
Maryamsadat Amirvaghefi, Hot Hyacinths & Cool Candles. 2021, oil pastel on paper. 5 × 7 1⁄2". Courtesy of the artist.

The Florist

The florist is a woman who loves flowers. As for me, I confess I was in love with the florist for several months in a row. She has a better grasp of flowers than anybody else. The words ranunculus and hellebore cannot astonish her. But she very much likes to be astonishedto gasp and innocently turn her daisy of a face toward her interlocutor; to open her eyes wide, grasp the back of a chair with a fluttering hand, and set her mouth into an O.

Actually, she also took after flowers by being imperturbable; her rare beauty, too, she got from flowers. Each morning she raised the shutters of her store, neared the window, and smiled, pausing for some time before the Aspidistra and Bupleurum.

Practically no one ever noticed her astonishingly well-assembled face. I’ve never seen a single passerby stop to admire her. In the afternoon, right after her lunch break, she would stand for a while, leaning against the plastic window frame as indifferent pedestrians continued on their way; only rarely did anyone enter her flower shop. I liked to stop by and study how she gathered bouquets, arranged flowers and branches in vases, cut stems, tore off leaves. The florist was familiar with exotic, barely existent words that denoted hues, tints, petals. She pronounced them clearly and with joy, the way a child recites a poem learned by heart for the first time: Bring them closer to the light, those Persian buttercups the color of ivory. She was convinced that her customers bought not so much flowers as the names of flowers.

This acquaintance of mine lived in Donetsk and loved more than anything in the world to make up designations for flower arrangements, bouquets, and flower baskets. One winter morning I found her glowing and happy behind the counter. Her brightly painted lips, perfectly positioned in the lower half of her mother-of-pearl face, triumphantly announced: “Listen to the new names, now chosen! Attend to their melodic form, but do not ignore their philosophical significance:

Breakfast in Venice

Spring Pageantry Wow

Absolute Spring1

A Roman Bedchamber

A Ukrainian Mystery

March Spring”

She waited for my approval, which was swiftly granted. She had invented the bouquet names for the next seasonspringand she counted on its rapid approach.

  1. Original in English. 

More from Issue 41