I am almost always working. Though in this line of work, most days are not predictable. All except Valentine’s Day. I had just starting working for a florist because according to my mother, ‘summer must not be wasted’. And the job wasn’t really that deplorable. My boss was a good enough man, Mr Roberts, aging man with a strange affinity for yellow roses and purple orchids.
It was the night before V-Day and we were setting up plans on how to get things right. On that day especially, men wanted their things done right and in time, and women expected them to pay up and surprise. And we were the sneaky middlemen– passing off the flowers to wives, girlfriends, and to both for some eccentric fellows. We had received a landslide of orders, almost all for blood-red roses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Mr Roberts loved this day more than anyone else. He got a great commission, and a chance to make his wife happy too from a business she always belittled.
We laid out the receipts on the table and sorted according to addresses, so that we could do the deliveries on time. I got a rather tough lot, but I wasn’t complaining. It might sound sad and pathetic, but I was working on V-Day, with a girl possibly lurking in the shadows, or a cat.
The next day started early and we were jumping from the moment it all started. I drove my mother’s car, (because I didn’t have one) and also because Mr Roberts had only one truck that the other guys were using. And also, since I was the little guy around, I probably had no chance of winning an argument.
My first delivery was to a wife from her husband. I could anticipate her expression. Could be one of two– an exclamation of his sweetness, or a predicted action of a husband reminded of this day by his best friend. For my fun, it was the second one, and I almost broke out in laughter. I think I did, and I think she laughed with me.
From there I went to a young girl. She was beautiful, and I would’ve given one her myself. She was quite young; a first love maybe. As I handed her a dozen roses, she looked at them with so much surprise, I swore she was crying. She read the name on the card, and whispered, “You fool.” I guess it was a love that came as a late realization. In the same building I handed over another dozen to another young girl, just as happy, just as surprised.
I spent the rest of the day driving around, judging people for their anger, their surprise, their despair. I was rather tired and it was getting very late when I realized that I had forgotten one delivery. I immediately stopped and checked for the address. It was quite far but I couldn’t disappoint today, could I? I quickly turned around, but it had started to rain and there was a traffic jam. Thinking about the angry husband and angrier wife, I got out of the car and set on foot.
I finally reached her doorstep and rang the bell. I repeated to myself an apology, “I’m sorry. I was caught up, and the rain! I…”
She opened the door, an elderly woman.
“These are for you. And you don’t get any points for guessing! But first I am sorry about the delay… the rain..,” I was speaking when I saw her tear up. “Are you okay?”
“I am fine, really. But seriously? How many more years now?” she asked me.
“I don’t understand.”
She just smiled at me.
I came to know later from Mr. Roberts told me that her husband had died more than four years ago. He knew that he was going to die when he was diagnosed of emphysema, and so he walked into the flower shop and made Mr Roberts promise to deliver flowers every Valentine’s day even when he was gone. He paid for them, till whenever it was, for his wife to keep a smile on her face. “An apology for dying before her,” he had said.
I could say I walked back home a wiser person. Even if I could predict years of reactions to a bunch of roses, I could never have predicted this. Just as I could never find a love truer than this.
Inspired by a man, who had a heart full of so much love.