A Day in the Life of a Flower Shop Boy
It’s another snowy Valentine’s Day in the Love and Light Floral Shoppe. Nash didn’t plan on spending his 16th birthday delivering flowers by ten-speed bike in the snow, a nice distraction while he waits for a response from Alice Ito, social media queen extraordinaire. Nash sent her a Reels on the sly as a symbol of his love and devotion, despite the fact that she dates Joey the Jock. Alice opened Nash’s video, but she left him on red.
Curie just dumped her sweetheart, Peter, who wanted more love than she was willing to give. She’s prepared to spend Valentine’s Day alone; but then she receives a SnapChat from Nash, her secret childhood crush. Nash’s father deserted him at the flower shop, and Nash is in desperate need of an assistant. Nash was Curie’s best friend until she kissed him four years ago. They haven’t spoken since. Curie accepts his offer. She has her own agenda, and it includes delivering more than flowers.
Nash wants a chance with Alice. Curie wants a chance with Nash. When Nash’s personal video of love is leaked, Curie’s gloves come off. Old habits die hard. She’ll get her guy, one way or another. It’s Valentine’s Day, and all is fair in love and war.
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My father is a mathematical genius. On any given day, he can outline any scientific or math-related theory known to man, should such a need for this rare occasion arise. When these magical moments occur, a great transformation unfurls before my very eyes and my generally quiet, meek-mannered father becomes a wildly passionate, gesticulating wonder.
I pause my writing and smile with pride at the use of my vocabulary word from last week, which I was relieved to find out does not have the same meaning as gyrating.
His pen or pencil comes alive in his hand, and ordinary paper is as sacred as ancient scrolls. His eyes twinkle and shine, reflecting his eagerness to share a bit of brilliance with his fellow man or woman who also crave knowledge. The number of times my high-school classmates have told me they do not understand my father’s love of math could fill up a few mason jars with copper pennies. I can just hear the tin pinging as they hit the glass bottom.”
I pause again, hopeful that my English teacher will be happy with my use of imagery.
My phone vibrates. I lay down my pencil and notebook, grateful to be interrupted while working on my writing assignment for English class. I hate writing journal entries, especially if it’s personal, even though I love writing. I know it doesn’t make sense, but neither do I. I’m an awkward teenage boy in the middle of my first serious, serious crush.
I turn my phone over in anxious anticipation. My armpits are on fire. I think I have a fever. I fight the urge to lift my arm and sniff or skim them for dryness. I glance down at my SnapChat screen. It’s my best friend, Jerrick. My breathing slows. My stomach relaxes.
Did you hear anything?
I know exactly what he’s talking about, but it’s too fun to play dumb.
Don’t mess with me, Nash. Did you hear anything from Alice yet?
My heart sinks in my chest as I prepare to spell out the harshest word in the English dictionary.
I get nothing in response from Jerrick. I suppose I should be happy he shares my misery. I stare at my silent phone, as if willing it to give up its secrets. “Is Alice interested in me or not?” I whisper to no one.
The church bell rings, and my upstairs window rattles just a hair. I glance outside at every stained-glass window lit up on the first floor. Bright red hearts shine out from every direction. My father beckons. I stand up, shove my arms into my letter jacket sleeves, (thank goodness for band) tug on my stocking hat, and slide my cell phone in my back pocket. I hustle down the seventeen stairs to the first floor of our house. I glance at my watch, feeling all out of sorts, when I check my watch for the date. It’s 7:29 p.m. on February 13th. How could I forget Valentine’s Day is tomorrow? The pregame madness of Valentine’s Day has officially begun.
I open my front door that consists of eleven different pieces of wood in eleven different tones and start the ninety-seven-step walk that leads to the front door of my father’s floral shop, otherwise known as the Church of Love and Light before the last pastor closed its doors to mark the final official Sunday many moons ago. The story goes it was a non-denominational church in a small town that demanded labels for every business, including beliefs and style of worship, as that was the comfort level of many generations before, and when the church would not conform to these requests, they were shut down. This church has more decorative hearts on it than I’ve ever seen, starting with the heart-shaped doorknob that turns in my hand.
I step inside to see my father standing near the pulpit with a huge grin on his face. “Nash! You made it!” my father exclaims, as if I’m a long-lost relative who had everyone guessing if he was going to show up to the family reunion, and not his son who just walked a little less than one-hundred feet to plop my butt down in a church pew, front and center.
“Hey, Dad.” I can’t help but smile at his enthusiasm.
His eyes twinkle out at me. “This is our year, Nash. I feel it in my bones.”
I nod my head. I’ve heard this statement just a few times before over the past seven years that my dad has been a weekend florist. I can’t help but play along. “You think so, Dad?”
He nods in whole-hearted agreement. “I know so. Tomorrow is your sixteenth birthday, a monumental landmark in itself.” My heart lifts. Maybe this will be the year I’ll get Valentine’s Day off. He raises a finger from behind the pulpit. “This is the year we sell all 168 floral arrangements! It’s going to be the perfect storm.” He slaps the pulpit for emphasis. “I double checked the tires on your bike just this morning. It’s all ready for you, even with the snow.”
I lean back in the pew to stare up at Jesus on the cross behind my father; probably the only Jesus who has a big red heart painted on his chest with a yellow peace sign inside it. “You want my birthday and Valentine’s Day to become the Perfect Storm? Isn’t that like the equivalent of wishing for like an omen to happen on Halloween?”
He laughs out loud and grips the pulpit. “No, Nash. This is the year that the church bell is going to ring so loud and so strong, it can only mean Victory.” He raises a fist in the air before pointing his index finger to the heavens and tilting his head back to look upwards. “That bell will ring with every sale. I’ll be partially deaf by the end of the day.” His eyes leave their heavenly gaze to stare back at me. “I just know it.”
I scratch my head. “Dad.”
“Yeah, son?” he answers me absent-mindedly.
“Are you going through...I mean, is this some sort of mid-life crisis? Are you having like a mathematical genius breakdown?”
His eyes focus, and he’s very solemn. “No, Nash.” He shakes his head. “I swear, I never should have let you watch Beautiful Mind, even though you’re named after the main character. I think you’ve been on mental illness watch for your old man ever since.”
I stare at the floor. “Well, they say schizophrenia can show up at any time in life, and there’s only so much your brain can hold, and I’d say you’re pushing the limits of natural capacity,” I mutter.
He clears his throat. “Are you done worrying?” He pulls something from behind the pulpit. My ears perk up at the sound of the wrapper, and I hone in on the telltale aluminum foil. He grins. “Your mom has really outdone herself this time. I think she knows.”
I have to admit, his excitement is contagious, or maybe it’s just the smell of my favorite hoagie filling the room, Philly cheesesteak on mom’s homemade bread, that gets me going as I walk up the few steps to the pulpit to snag my plate. I pick up my sandwich and bump it against his. “Here’s to tomorrow, Dad. May it be the most epic Perfect Storm for you.”
My father’s face falls a little at my words. I look up at the ceiling, as if I have x-ray vision that laser beams straight through the bell tower into the night sky. “May the stars align for every wishful heart searching for love and may Cupid’s arrow shoot ‘em straight in the a—”
My father coughs. “Alright. That’s enough.”
I give him an ornery grin and take a big bite of sandwich. “Yep,” I answer behind my hand, which hides a mouthful of deliciousness. My mother loves me with food, and I love her kind of love.
I munch away on my hoagie in the church pew, slurping at my Coke can in between bites. I glance around the room at the silver metallic fridges scattered here and there, padlocked and closed up tight, one of the many mysteries of my father’s surprising romanticisms that can be categorized right next to his vast collection of poetry books encased in an old lawyer’s bookshelf which he accesses each night in a dark room that’s only source of light is a candle, making me question if I really am living in the twentieth century. I imagine I’m the only fifteen-year-old high school sophomore who falls asleep each night to the sound of the romantic poetry of John Keats read in the solemn, baritone voice of my father while my mother snips away with her scissors at her scrapbook paper, leaving her own artsy mod-podge stamp on our town by way of unique authentic cards that accompany my father’s many floral arrangements.
I stop my wandering mind to look up at my father, the brilliant mathematician with a poet’s heart. “So, are you going to tell me anything about what’s in the coolers? Like, what’s your theme this year?”
My father abandons his hovering stance at the pulpit to sit down beside me, and my comfortableness slowly slips away, as unease settles all around. I’m so used to the unsolved mystery that is my father that his rare revelations set me on edge. “One of the many joys of owning a flower shop, son, is that I get to choose how I share the story of your mother and I in my own way.”
I take another bite of my sandwich and stare at the coolers once more, searching my mind for all the Valentine’s Day arrangements I’ve delivered until now, but my mind is as blank as the shiny silver door. “So every theme you’ve had has to do with you and mom.”
He grins. “Of course. Who do you think is my inspiration for the most romantic holiday there is?”
I think of Alice, and my leg bobs up and down.
He lays a hand on my knee. “Relax, Son. Whoever she is, she’s a lucky girl.”
I blush at the thought of my father knowing I have a major crush. He turns to face me with his dark eyes and black hair. His stare is so intense, I drop my gaze and glance once again at his delicate hands, which seem so strange on a man who’s just over six feet.
“When the time is right, and she’s the right one for you, it’ll happen. You’ll see.”
I duck my head and nod in agreement before taking another bite of my sandwich. I can’t talk right now. I don’t know what to say. How can I explain to my father that the same assurance he has of who he is from being the descendant of a survivor of a Japanese internment camp is just one more thing that makes me feel lost and out of place; and while my father is like a tree-covered mountain with many geologic layers, each more fascinating than the last, I am the man-made pile of dirt that stares up at the base of the mountain, a constant reminder of my inadequacy.
The silence of my phone cuts into my butt. I pull it from my pocket and lay it down on the pew, which returns my thoughts to Alice, the ghost, and my date night proposal which is supposed to be a meet-cute of epic proportions, but does it count as a meet-cute if it’s more like an ambush where I tell her my feelings in the most un-offensive way possible, considering she’s already taken? I just don’t know. The only thing I do know is that I really suck at romance.
Having chased a few girls since I discovered them, I’ve also come to believe girls like my mother who appreciate the mystery that is my father are few and far between. I’m not sure if there’s any hope for me, a boy who can quote “bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art” verbatim, and did, in the back of a Costco store while on a school field trip; but there was an open mic, and I was just sure twelve-year-old Alice Ito would find me as lovely as my mother assured me I am. It was dizzying to hold the attention of an entire class of twenty-seven students, only to be serenaded by their raucous laughter and pointing fingers, not exactly a bouquet of appreciation.
I swear I literally felt my runaway heart pound in my chest as I stared out into the sea of confusion and disapproval, hoping to gain the affections of the only girl who mattered, as she walked away, totally missing the moment the Costco man took his mic back and reprimanded me for my bad behavior, at which time I flipped from being a total tool to a new cool factor as the class rebel bad-ass. My notoriety lasted a few days, but then Michael Wilson swallowed a live goldfish from the fish tank in the Science classroom when Mrs. B escorted another troublemaker into the hallway, and my glory at the Costco mic was forgotten for fear-factor boy who took the love of sushi to a whole new level.
My father’s humming reorients me to time and place. He spins the combination lock on the fridge door before peeking inside as if to check if his flowers wilted overnight. I ponder his harmony with love once more, and I’m at a total loss. Why can’t just a fraction of the love and romantic gestures that flow through my household on a daily basis rub off on me? I don’t understand why I am such a dismal failure in the love department. I thought grand gestures is what love is all about; isn’t total humiliation worth anything when it comes to impressing a girl?
My mom always tells me to be who I am, and that will be enough to win any girl’s heart, but I’ve tested that theory too. The data has shown girls do not respond well to ancient authors of love or handmade tokens of my affections, such as the ancient art of Japanese origami. As soon as she found them, April Salen crushed my love displayed in the hearts and butterflies I lined up in her desk as deliberately as the time I spent making them. Folding and fanning fragile paper to turn it into something magical to catch a girl’s eye is a challenge I am not capable of meeting it seems, nor is it an acceptable trait to have, a fact I soon learned when April asked Joey Harris, the idiot jock with cinder-block hands if he made them. His trademark response was to snort before spouting off his favorite phrase. “No. Am I gay?” at which point I slunk down in my seat and stared out the nearest window.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far in the love department, it’s that I do not possess the particular charm my father does when it comes to winning a girl’s heart; rather I have a bulls-eye on my back from being the only guy in town with a misunderstood father; a father who literally loses track of time and space amongst flower petals and stems while running his oddity of a floral shop out of a partially active church that runs on its own schedule.
My father steps down from the stage and slaps me on the back. “Thanks for staying home on a Friday night, son. It’s important we get our rest before the big day tomorrow.”