Cut and Dried
I opened my body to the sun one morning. Warm, emerald life pulsed through me and the morning dew dried on my skin. In our birthplace, we are cared for every day. Humans in hats make sure we have enough water, and that there are no green insects devouring our flesh. My only worry is that I often hear sharp cries as our comrades down the line are severed and taken. This cold, silver “snip” invades my dreams at night, shivering me until the sun caresses me awake.
I am told that we’re often portrayed as the paramours of nightingales, but I have never seen one. The only birds that come here are pigeons and they, no devotees of beauty, ignore us. The bee is a much more likely candidate, although he doesn’t sing well. Bees are pleasant company, and gentle as they take what they need, but afterward they just take off, tipsy, buzzing their goodbyes as they return to their queen.
One day, they come for me. It isn’t like my dreams – the silver blades are not cold, but burning hot. I cry out as my flesh is savaged. I writhe in my executioner’s hand until the wound is soothed by fresh water. Drop by drop, the shock and panic leave me, so that I become interested in my fate.
My journey is quick: a bumpy ride in a truck, a few hours in a shop, and I am again plucked with my brothers and sisters, wrapped, and taken by car to a pretty café with romantic music. I am jammed into a vase of water and placed on a table.
A woman unlocks the door and people flow in. Throughout the afternoon, humans sit in front of me eating, reading, and talking. They don’t look at me, but rather at their food, their phones, or their friends. Until late evening, when a man and a woman sit on opposite sides of me, and I feel myself pulsing on waves of electricity. A candle burns below me and its heat is making me uncomfortable. She moves the candle a few inches away and I open myself further in gratitude. She smiles and runs her thumb over a petal, lightly touching the tip of a thorn. A connoisseur – or perhaps, judging from her picked cuticles, she needed a way to occupy her fingers.
Her hands and lips tremble as she sips her coffee and sets the cup down, rattling the teaspoon on the saucer. When her companion turns away for a moment, she applies a scarlet layer of synthetic confidence to her lips, and then leans forward, resting her chin on her hand.
His pupils dilate as he leans forward, resting his chin on his hand. He smooths a dark curl back from his forehead and smiles, gripping his own cup.
Their conversation is not noteworthy, but I mark glances through lowered eyelashes, a nibbled sandwich, lipstick on a coffee cup, fingers skimming over sleeves and brushing away nonexistent dust specks.
As they stand to leave, she casts a glance over her shoulder, grabs me from the table, and tucks me into her purse. I fear she may have received a cut for her haste. I am forgotten in her purse until morning, when she gasps and sticks me in a vase before hurrying to work, leaving me to survey my surroundings.
I begin to fade and droop. A petal falls as she smooths a dark curl back from his forehead and smiles.
Perceiving my mortality, she hangs me upside down in the hallway until I am rigid in my brittleness. I am enthroned on the mantle. There, I chronicle their lives.
I am there when she announces her promotion at work. I see their children arrive and grow up – all but one. I never felt my lack of water as I did in those days, when I had none to shed in sympathy with them.
Years pass, and deliver another generation to run and frolic below me. Then Chronos takes the man, when his curls are no longer dark – I endure.
Until one day when my lady fails to wake up. I am taken up for the last time by her adult daughter and placed in her hands as she sleeps in her final bed. The sound of tools, not sharp but blunt this time, signals the end.
We are left in darkness and fall apart together.