The Orchid Shop
"I was waiting, for some other time, for some other life, to be settled, to be ready, to be worthy."
Late at night, it was a relief to get out into the street and the world outside my own mind, the people going places, the lights on in the restaurants. A rat scurried across the street and under the doorway of a building under construction. On the bridge over the river, a young man with a leather jacket and a ponytail was playing the clarinet with a case open at his feet, collecting cash. The chipped paint on top of the green wood of the bouquiniste stalls. The gulls lifting into the air above the water. The helpless moon cut in half, bright but divided.
There used to be an orchid shop on the rue des Petits-Pères, that I went out of my way to pass by. It was small, and painted a luxurious sort of aubergine, and the windows were packed with blooms. Inside the flowers were perfect, potted and immaculate, white, pink, purple, and yellow.
I still go out of my way for the orchids, even though they aren’t there anymore. I still pass by expecting to see them. The façade is still painted the same deep purple, but there are no flowers inside. I never felt I was in a position to buy one. I travel too much. I was waiting, for some other time, for some other life, to be settled, to be ready, to be worthy. I never even went in.
I walked into the Tuileries as the darker part of the evening fell, the clouds above tinged with pink but going dark gray and blue, the gold of the Tower reflecting off the clouds. I walked under the bare trees and saw the lighted carousel and the horses going round, and one ostrich, and an old fashioned plane, and an old car, and a dirt bike. I looked for zebras, but there were no zebras. I guess Zebras aren't good to ride anyway. A pack of Portuguese teenagers tumbled by. On the carousel, there was a man with a small child, and a woman riding on one of the horses alone. I stood for a moment as a series of ghosts emerged from the trees. These lives I didn't live. These worlds I don't inhabit. The orchids I didn’t buy.
People who have not smelled many orchids will sometimes say that orchids have no scent. But they do have a scent, a subtle and complicated perfume, just not the kind you can buy in a supermarket.
Up through the winter gardens, and through the covered passage, and towards home I went, taking my usual automatic detour to visit the orchids that aren’t there anymore.
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