I met my first girlfriend in kindergarten while playing with colored clay; she had my favorite color, orange, and I had hers, blue. We traded and then held hands during show and tell. I don’t remember her name; her family moved two months later.
I haven’t been single since.
In junior high school my girlfriend was Teresa. She was exceptionally shy; we spoke about six words to each other in the three years we dated, but we made sure to sit next to each other at assemblies and had pictures of each other in our lockers. I think she was sad when I broke up, but she never said anything.
In high school I dated Sam; we didn’t go to the same school, but he was my first kiss. We ended things when our college preferences didn’t align.
My first experience with sex was my college girlfriend. She was older, and married, but her husband liked to watch. Our relationship never would have lasted.
Then Jessica, Rashad, Kaia, Sam & Kelly, Beatrice, Milo, Matek, Lisa, and the list went on. I would allow myself three days of being single at maximum before I needed to be in a relationship.
I ended my relationship with Dominique to accept a new job across the country. She said she saw it coming. It would be my first time living away from my home town and my friends joked that I took the job because I ran out of people to date.
I settled in to my new apartment very quickly and got to know a few of the neighbors, I wasn’t lonely for company, but I did have my eyes out for my first date. I was well beyond my three day limit when I saw the tall blonde guy working in the gardens around the apartment complex. I could tell he was interested, but I wanted to play it cool. I would smile and wave, find reasons to be outside, and looked up some of the flowers on the grounds.
“I really like the weigela,” I got the nerve to say one morning.
“You like gardening?”
“I’ve always lived in apartments, never had a chance to have my own, but I appreciate them.”
“That’s a shame. Growing your own garden can really be fulfilling.”
I felt like I had already struck out. I didn’t know how to respond and we stood in awkward silence.
“Wine & roses,” he said.
“Most people don’t call them weigela. They call them wine & roses… and I’m Frank” he stuck out a soil-caked hand for a shake.
I took his hand and shook, “I’m Wilbur and I thought you were asking me out.”
“I could be.”
We chatted a while longer; he was a landscaper and did the work for most the buildings on the block. He lived in the condos next door which meant he could do a little extra work here and there. We made a dinner date for that night at his place. He wanted to cook a homemade meal to welcome me to the neighborhood, a rack of lamb, and I could bring the wine.
On my way home that evening I stopped at a local outdoor market and found a wine vendor; the vintner recommended a “nice international merlot with heavy plum and cherry notes.” I took her word that it would be a good one; I liked the picture on the cover of an angel and a demon playing tug of war with a cluster of grapes. I bought three bottles; two for the evening and one to take home.
I passed by a flower vendor and decided to get a bouquet as well; avoiding the red roses as a cliché of love and romance. I didn’t want to come off too intense.
Dinner was planned at seven and I showed up with a good five minute buffer. Frank invited me in with a kiss on the cheek, he had an “I turn grills on” apron, and rushed back to the kitchen. “There should be a vase for the flowers in one of the bottom cabinets,” he pointed.
I found a vase and prepared the bouquet on the table where it nearly glowed in the evening light coming in from the balcony windows. I sat at the kitchen counter smelling the combination of fresh earth and herbs, “can I help with any of the preparations?”
“It’s almost done,” he said handing me a wine corker, “but you can open a bottle of the wine.”
He tossed some sprouts in a pan and checked the lamb in the oven while I poured two glasses of the merlot. I swirled it and sniffed at the rim as we started into some casual conversation: where we were from, family, careers. We finished our first glasses of wine and the meal was ready.
I helped him move the meal to the table and poured us each a new glass of the merlot. He took off his apron and sat down, finally taking a good look at my bouquet.
“I’ve gotten kind of good at reading flowers,” he said.
“Yeah, flowers have a language. Each flower can represent a different thing, especially when bunched together. I got to learn about it during one of my undergrad courses and kept it up because it was fun, like the weigela outside your house, those means ‘yielding to love.’”
“What does my bouquet mean?”
He pulled the bouquet closer and inhaled the scents. Spinning it around he got into an intense concentration and said, “You’ve got daisies which mean rebirth, asters are for patience, and heather is for independence. Yellow roses, those are platonic love. Goldenrod, that’s for growth. Ivy leaf, that… hmmm… I might need to look it up, but I think it means friendship. This bouquet would tell me that you are excited to start a friendship while learning to love yourself.”
My heart squeezed inward. Even without realizing it, is that what I had meant to say? Had I made a mistake? Was this not meant to be a date? Were we just going to be friends? Was he trying to tell me he wasn’t into me? Was I over-thinking this?
“Or it could just be a really beautiful bouquet,” he snapped out of his concentration.
I took a sip of my wine and set the glass down; without reason it cracked and shattered in my hand sending shards clattering and wine splashing across the table.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry,” I tried to clean up the spilled wine and broken glass.
“No, it’s okay, let me get a rag! Don’t cut yourself.”
It was too late, I could feel the sting of wine mixing with blood between my thumb and finger and Frank had seen it too. He brought a wet paper towel and wrapped it around my hand.
“It doesn’t look deep, does it hurt?”
“A little,” I responded, “I’m more embarrassed though.”
“They were cheap glasses; it was bound to happen sooner than later. I should invest in something stronger,” he held my hand and, with a wry smile, looked into my eyes. We stayed that way for quite a while.
The mess was cleaned and my wound was treated. With a bandage and a little antiseptic in place we were able to finish a pleasant meal. I was awkward through the rest of it; apologizing at least three more times for the broken glass. Overall it was a decent night. Frank told me that he was glad we were friends and hoped to see me again soon, gently squeezed my cut hand, and kissed me lightly on the mouth.
When I got home I opened the last bottle of wine, lit a honeysuckle candle, and got into my soaker tub with the lights low. I sipped at my wine and thought about friendships. Usually I would want more and I knew Frank would’ve let me stay the night if I had wanted, but maybe this could be my new start. Maybe Frank and I could be friends first and something greater would develop. Maybe what I really needed was some time to discover who I was. It was time for something real & lasting; it was time to love myself. I’d like to ask Frank out again, but maybe I would give it three days.
I could feel the throb in my hand as the honeysuckle enveloped me. I took another sip of merlot, closed my eyes, and relaxed into the bath.
About the Creator
I'm Jeff Carter; I wanted a unique & personal pen name. Writing offers an opportunity to create and heal. These stories in the bizarre, horror, and magic realism help inspire me to move forward with novel writing. Thank you for reading.