The room is dark and stagnant, like a puddle of murky water a week after rain. There are spiders here. You’ve grown fond of them. You imagine small, round bodies traveling on stilt legs like circus performers. You imagine gossamer webs shimmering with the colors of sunrise. Mauve. Darling clementine.
You don’t imagine too hard. You don’t think too much. Your mind wanders at a slow and careful pace. Too fast and you’ll start to want things. You forbid yourself from wanting things (or ever really considering gardens).
Yes, it’s boring. Difficult. Slow. But you know what it’s like here. You don’t ever worry about what people are going to do to you.
He asks why you called on him. You find that funny, in a way. You’re sitting alone in pitch darkness. He knows why. He just wants to hear you say it. Admit it.
You tell him about your tendency to burst into flowers. You tell him the darkness hasn’t seemed to help you along. You tell him you wish you could stop.
He has a pencil and a clipboard and a little pin light to help him see his papers. It’s almost blinding, even though you are staring at his polished leather dress shoes. It’s the first color you have seen in years. Brown. You think of mountain ranges and trees and skin. You stop. You’re too close to wanting.
He shines his light on you and marks his paper:
Two hyacinths (each shoulder). Three daisies (left arm). Fourteen clovers (right arm). A morning glory (between your eyes).
You have already tried to pick each one. You have pulled and pulled but the stems do not snap between your fingers and each time you try it leaves you exhausted and crying and very, very sore. The blossoms refuse to leave you.
The doctor concludes that perhaps darkness is not enough. Perhaps it is the water you drink that sustains them.
You do what he says. If there is a chance that this will make you normal, why wouldn’t you take it? Would anyone choose to have things growing up through their skin? You are ugly. Unnatural. You have been infected by a parasite.
It’s been getting harder to stay awake. But in the hours between sleep you often wonder when you got infected. They say nobody’s born like this. But you’ve never seen another person with the disease. Where could you have caught it? You wonder what other kinds of flowers grow on humans.
There is a knock at your boarded up window. There is a voice you are too ill to listen to. (You are not ill because of the flowers.) You feel dry.
You’ve realized by now: If the blossoms die, you die. If you die, so do the blossoms. You are not independent entities. You did not choose this. You did not catch this. You did nothing. You existed. It’s quite the statement.
Don’t say it’s unfair. It’s how it works.
Someone yells. You close your eyes. The boards on the window crack in half. Glass screams. Jagged pieces scatter. Freedom sounds like a whip and doesn’t feel much different. You were lucky. An inch in the wrong direction, you could’ve been blinded.
(No way to know when/how the window’s going to break in. No way to know where you should be. How it works.)
You open your eyes and you think you see yourself. It’s not you, though. Their face is … their flowers are … vibrant and full of the most thorns you’ve ever seen. They give you water from a plastic bottle and kneel down next to you until you are a little better.
They tell you that you don’t have to hide. You don’t believe them. They tell you there are places you can go. You almost laugh. They tell you that they love you.
You say okay.
Your exit sneaks up on you. It’s little by little. It’s looking. It’s talking. It’s inching and inching towards the window. You don’t notice you’re out until you’re out.
The sun feels …
You look around you and see smiling faces coated in petals. You smile back. You love them. How could anyone say this bond is unnatural? It’s beyond you.
The sun feels …
You look around you and see Others watching. Talking. Pretending they know what they’re looking at. Most mind their business. But you are their Other. You’re a lot for people to wrap their heads around. You’re reminded of that a lot.
The sun feels …
People who mostly grow leaves do not deserve a place with the rest of the flowers. People whose buds never blossom do not deserve a place with the rest of the flowers. People who started to bloom late in their lives do not deserve a place with the rest of the flowers. This has been the recent consensus.
The sun feels warm. But you can see everything out here. Are you better off than you were in the room? With the doctor?
Yes. You have to believe that you are.
She tells her child no and absolutely not. She says stay away. She doesn’t want her kid infected and corrupted. She doesn’t want her kid treated like they’re infected and corrupted.
The kid pulls their hoodie up snugly over the carnation on the back of their neck. Okay, Mom, they say. Okay.