He holds a single rose in his withered, shaking hands. He sits on the bench. Hesitant. His body aches. He stretches out his hand to her. His loving gaze traces the wrinkles on her face as it meets hers. He hands her the red rose. The flower’s hue is deep, dark, like fresh blood. A smile spreads across her lips, lighting up her face. There is a twinkle in her eyes. She whispers, “Red? Really?”. He smiles, “Yes. I see you as you really are. And passion and love have no age.” She leans her head back as she lets out a soft laugh.
He squints, peering deeply at her. Ten years seems to fade off her face. She is seventy. The wrinkles are still there, but fewer of them. The scenery changes, and he is sitting next to her in a booth. The small table is a feast of tapas. The sound of the guitar’s flamenco music is accented by the staccato of a woman’s shoes as she dances on the wooden floor. He reaches across the table and touches her hand. Her gaze moves from the dancer to meet his. He hands her the single rose. “Which one is this?” “It’s a Cherry Brandy rose.” “Really?” “Yes.” “Are you going to tell me?” He smiles. “The orange and yellow colors mean that I care the most for you, and I will be here for you, always and all ways.” She squeezes his hand.
Back on the bench, in the park. He smiles, looks up and holds his hand over his eyes to feel the rays of the sun on his face through his fingers. He glances towards her. Another decade fades from her face. She is sixty, and more vibrant than she has ever been. They are looking at the twinkling lights of the city reflecting in the winding Seine River. The distant sounds of the competing accordions are impossible – joyously mournful. They are sitting on a cement bench, her head on his shoulder. He whisks out the Damask rose from inside his long coat. “That is a beautiful pink color!” she exclaims excitedly. “You know what it means?” “No, but you’re going to tell me!” “It is a reflection of your beauty and freshness.” She starts laughing.
The sounds of children playing echo in the park. Her hand reaches out to touch his. Another ten years gently fall away from her form, as if winds were refining the features of a living sand sculpture. She is fifty. He is handing her an orange rose. They sit close to each other in the small, bobbing boat, looking at the reflection of the setting sun on the gentle, rippling waters of the lake. “And what does this one mean?” “My enthusiasm and passion for you.” She intertwines her fingers in his.
His fingers gingerly grasp her wrist. He remembers her supple, firm skin. She is ten years younger, a sprightly forty. They are sitting on a broken tree trunk in the woods, slightly out of breath. He opens his backpack and pulls out a light pink rose for her. Her eyes widen, “You carried it all the way here?” “Of course, I had to give this to you today.” “So, what does the pink rose mean?” She asks coyly. “The happiness and joy I feel when I am with you.” She leans over and embraces him.
Time is flowing backwards, quickly, like pages of a book flipping over by a strong wind. He doesn’t know how many years have been erased. They are sitting on a wooden bench in the porch of the first house they bought. He is holding her tight. She hands him a mint green rose. “What? I am supposed to be doing this!” “I know, but I had to do it this one time…” “Where did you even get this color of a rose?” “It wasn’t easy. They don’t have mint green roses at every flower shop.” “I know! But is it really true?” He can barely contain his excitement. “Yes!” Her face turns a shade of crimson. “We are going to be parents!” He remembers the disbelief in his voice.
He sees her when she is twenty. She has flowers in her hair, and a delicate veil draping her forehead, just touching the tip of her nose. They are seated next to each other, on a decadent, red velvet couch on the stage, facing the multitude of smiling family, friends, and well-wishers. The hall is brimming over with white roses. He hands her three roses. She looks at him quizzically. He speaks very softly. “Well, the yellow rose is for me falling in love with you all over again.” She squeezes his hand. “The lavender rose is to remind you that it was love at first sight for me, and the burgundy rose is to remind you how beautiful you are, even if you are not aware of it.” He remembers her gentle, beautiful giggle.
In the park, he leans over and puts his arm over her shoulders. They hold the single red rose in their intertwined hands. He whispers in her ear, “Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.”
Blog/Story by Zulfiqar Rashid