- by Cristina Stubbe -
April 9th, 2018
These days all I remember about you is your favourite flower. Or what you called your favourite.
Dandelions, you said with a laugh, grinning widely.
Once, you told me how your mother wanted to buy you something to make you happy. She’d known what your favourite flower was, and went to a florist and asked for A dozen dandelions, please.
The florist wrinkled his brow and said, rather unkindly, Ma’am, those are a weed.
A weed! Still you loved them. I remember how you braided them into crowns and put them in your hair, then would sneeze whenever the fluff would inevitably fall.
What was the colour of your hair? Brown, but that’s not detailed enough. I don’t remember the exact shade, whether it was deep bronze with flashes of red that ignited in the sunlight, or so dark that at night it looked almost purple.
You used to dye your hair a lot. Once it was tipped in teal, but after a few months you chopped it all off, curls dancing with renewed vigor at your chin, its weight lessened, because you claimed it had faded to the colour of seaweed.
It was four years ago today that I last saw you. I’d dragged you back into bed, my hands on your hips, the plush curve of your thighs. Your skin always smelled of honeysuckle, like we used to steal from our neighbours’ yards when we were kids. Something fresh and sweet, that I still sometimes catch a whiff of in drinks. I woke up this morning smelling it so strongly it was as if you were here.
I miss you.
April 10th, 2018
Today I woke up and on my windowsill—you remember, the one you used to read next to as lazy summer afternoons turned into purple nights—there was a dandelion with cottony white parachutes, fluffy and ready to be airborne. It was potted as if it were a real flower I’d picked up at the grocery story down the street.
I blew on it, watching bits of white fluff mingle with the dust in the air as the sun hit them just right. For a moment, I could hear that laugh of yours that always ended with a snort.
Remember when you told me how, growing up, kids used to make fun of you for your laugh? You never talked much about them, those kids, except to say that you had made something of your life when they hadn’t, so who were they to tease you? That laugh was one of my favourite things about you, especially how it made you scrunch up your nose; how the laugh lines around your eyes deepened. It gave me a glimpse of what you’d look like when we’d grow old together. Wrinkles from laugh lines and smiling too much, from slightly too much sun. Instead, you’re immortalized as you were, with only the barest hint of age showing on your face when we laughed together. At least I got that glimpse. That what-could-have-been.
I saw your mom today, at the grocery store. I said, Hello; she said, Hi, how are you?
Oh, good, I replied, lying. And you? She lied, too. I’m fine.
We’re not fine. I’m not good. Why did you leave us?
April 11th, 2018
Are you here, querida? Do you linger in the air above my bed? Are you watching me write this, my eyes blurred from tears?
There was another downy, ivory dandelion on the windowsill today. In that same pot, standing strong and upright and full, waving gently in the breeze from the open window. This time, I left it there, went on with my day. Sometimes I feel like going to work is all I have left, and coming home I feel the ache of the emptiness all over again.
I still cook for two, you know? When I got home tonight, the dandelion was now the centrepiece of our table, still a feathery white, like small tufts of cotton. For a second I smelled the picadillo you used to make, the only thing you could make.
Don’t tell my mom, you’d said, grinning the first time you’d made it for me, adding raisins and forgoing the potatoes. But the Cubans do it better.
All the bits of language that I’d lost, that I re-learned from you. The first time I went home and was able to speak to my mother in halting, broken Spanish she cried.
At our kitchen table, next to that dandelion swaying, I cried, too. For you, for my life now. For seeing your mother at the store and not knowing how to talk to her.
I brought the flower with me back to our bed. Before going to sleep, I’ll pick it apart and watch the fluff drift out the window.
April 25th, 2018
It’s been two weeks, and every day there has been a new dandelion. Every day I’ve picked it apart for you, like you loved to do. Every day I’ve blown on it, and now there are little yellow blooms pushing between the cracks on the sidewalk outside of my apartment, running along the edge of the grass.
I realized today that the weed flowers before it turns into the puffs you loved so much, that those puffs are in fact little seedlings. That I’ve been spreading dandelion seeds every time I’ve watched them float out the window.
Today, the dandelion that sits on my windowsill sways. I leave it be.
April 28th, 2018
I picked one today. Yellow and vibrant, like a buttercup, which were always my favourite. Who knew that our flowers were so similar?
I’ve turned into one of those girls you hated, who spend their days taking care of plants, talking to them like you would a cat or dog. Would you recognize me now? The apartment smells different—no honeysuckle, which always trailed behind you when you moved. Mostly it just smells green, you know? Like fresh things. Alive things.
Death hung around here for so long, the shade of it like those mosquito nets we used to always have over our bed when we visited your parents in Puerto Rico. The bugs loved us. I remember the netting felt like a hidden cove, like our own little world. Death’s veil did that to me, but everywhere, permanently covering me so everything was faded behind a mesh screen, unable to reach me.
I took a breath this morning on my way out. Inhaled, exhaled. Sneezed. The kind of sneeze that jerked my whole body, flushed me out. The sun shone, the sky was clear. I miss you in that same way a toothache hurts, but I’ve made that dentist’s appointment now.
I can see a way out without you.
April 30th, 2018
Did you know you can make tea out of dandelions? You’d hate it, like you hated all tea. It all tastes like hot water, no matter how good it smells, you said once, and I never could agree.
I have so many of them now. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with them. They keep appearing, like little reminders of you. So I roasted the roots, steeped them for a bit, added cinnamon and honey. It’s getting too hot for tea these days, but there was something cleansing in it, something comforting in holding a warm cup of steaming dandelion tea as the rain poured down outside.
I met someone today. She’s nothing like you, but she had something about her that made me think of you. She’s a Pisces, like you were, so maybe that’s it, though you always placed much more stock in that than I did.
I like to think these flowers are your way of saying you approve. That you want me to move forward.
She smells like lavender.
May 18th, 2018
I feel some sort of melancholia today. I keep experiencing this feeling, like the flowers will stop soon. Do I want them to? I’ve grown fond of my little garden, of the cheery little plants that have weeded their way into my life, through the hole in my heart where you used to be.
I brought her here for the first time yesterday. She liked the plants, and it only hurt a little when she touched the row of dandelions on the windowsill. I didn’t make the bed after she left, and I lay there, looking at the new dandelion from you and smelling the lavender from her.
I love you, you know? But somehow, I think you already know that.
May 20th, 2018
The apartment feels different today. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but then I noticed that the number of plants on my windowsill stayed the same overnight. That I couldn’t remember the exact colour of your eyes, even though there’s a picture of you on my bedside table.
I dreamt of you last night. You didn’t say anything, and were surrounded by buttercups. You plucked one from the soil nearby and held it out to me, the flowers golden and soft as they bloomed in your hand. You had that look on your face—the one you used to get sometimes, when you wouldn’t get out of bed all day and didn’t want to leave the apartment.
The flower was warm in my palm, and your fingers drifted through mine. Your hair curled along your ears and I could see each strand shining, the colour of dark chocolate so rich I could almost taste it melting in my mouth, as you leaned forward.
When I woke up, my cheeks were wet. A buttercup lay pressed between my fingers.
© 2018 by Cristina Stubbe
Cristina Stubbe is one of many Puerto Ricans currently living in Brooklyn, New York, working on her library science degree. Her favourite flowers are dandelions (yes, she knows they're a weed, and she doesn't care.) When she isn't complaining about writing her novel and doing homework, she is at home making use of her small apartment kitchen or dragging her roommate to the movies. She can be found on Twitter at @stubbe_2794, usually complaining about the MTA.