I remember sitting on the shiny wood floors of his house crying as we fought–I don’t know what about–but I’d pointed out he never gave me flowers during the argument.
Never one to celebrate official holidays like Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, or even my own birthday, I did enjoy kind gestures. I think that’s why it was something I sought.
I wanted a sign that he loved me.
I wanted to be appreciated.
I wanted to feel special.
I don’t even think it was ever really about flowers–it was more of a metaphor for the entire relationship.
Show me you love me enough to stay.
Everybody leaves me.
Don’t leave me.
Often during a verbal battle, he’d storm out of the house angrily, tired of my shit. It was a brilliant and infuriating power move.
With nowhere to channel my rage after he’d leave mid-fight, I’d pace, or weep, or both.
Once I even threw many bottles of alcohol at a wall after he left, smashing them to pieces. I cut my hand on the glass as I immediately felt shame, humiliation, and remorse for my childish loss of control, and scrambled to clean up my ugly mess.
He almost always came back with a fresh pack of smokes. It was a smart move in hindsight, removing himself from a situation that had become heightened to calm down, but it also triggered every abandonment issue buried deep inside of my soul.
Everybody leaves me.
Don’t leave me.
This time he got his pack of argument cigarettes at a grocery store, bought a cheap bunch of flowers, and dropped them next to me. I was still sitting where he’d left me, head in my hands, quietly crying. The wet plastic around the drooping bouquet clung to the gleaming floor.
“Here are your flowers,” he growled.
Somehow, this hurt so much more than not ever getting flowers.
After we broke up, we saw each other weekly for lunch and sex, even after we were both dating other people.
He told me all about his new girlfriends, sharing intimate information that made me cringe for them.
The one with weird nipples from breastfeeding three kids.
The one who kept her shirt on in bed because a former boyfriend had body-shamed her.
The one he couldn’t sleep with because so many guys walked up to them on dates that were former lovers of hers she became unappealing to him.
I felt awful for them.
I wondered what he told them about me.
We’d always been such good friends, and I think this was why he was so candid with the personal details. I still miss him as a friend to this day. We understood each other from the minute we met without saying a word, and I’ve rarely felt this way. When I hear talk of people recognizing each other instantly from past lives, he comes immediately to mind.
I even dream about him sometimes, so many years later, and in almost every dream, he’s rejecting me. He’s with someone else and I’m still not enough. Never enough.
He claimed to want me back, that he wanted me to marry him, and we were still intimate–yet afterward, he regaled me with stories from his new dating life. It was the most mixed of messages. I went back and forth emotionally because I still loved him, too.
But if we loved each other, why were we seeing other people? And why was he giving me the sordid details of his new love life?
One afternoon while we were in his bedroom, a girl he was currently dating left a bouquet of flowers at the back door of his house. I assume she must have tried knocking while we were busy, but nobody answered. After almost five years with him, I was unsettled to suddenly feel like the other woman in our relationship.
He brought them in and I asked if he’d given her flowers, too. He told me they’d often exchanged flowers. I asked if he’d given the other girls he’d been dating flowers. He had.
I began to cry. He looked confused, I think because he’d mentally placed me into the new role of “casual sex buddy” rather than my former role of long-time girlfriend.
Labels aren’t so easily shaken off.
I couldn’t believe the small gesture of affection I’d asked for during our relationship was now being casually and repeatedly given to women he barely knew. I was supposed to be his best friend. I’d stuck with him for years, begging for scraps of devotion, throwing embarrassing fits when he rejected me–and these women he casually dated got flowers? Just like that?
Silent tears ran down my face looking at the flowers she’d left, and hearing this was the new normal. They were getting the relationship I’d wanted with him, while I was being used physically and emotionally to fill in everything they couldn’t satisfy.
He was bewildered by my pain.
I was surprised by how badly I still wanted a sign that he loved me.
The next time I came over for lunch and sex, he’d bought me flowers. He hid them on the back of his toilet, and asked me to retrieve something from the bathroom to surprise me.
Rather than being surprised, I assumed they were more flowers from another girl. He had to explain that they were mine. It took me a moment to understand what he meant.
The toilet flowers were for me. It was painfully apropos.
I couldn’t take them with me because they would raise questions from the guy I was dating. This realization forced me to see how incredibly broken my ability to maintain relationships had become. I was messed up, and in the process of messing up other people. It had to stop.
We’d gone from best friends in a relationship for years, to a marriage proposal, to broken up, to lunch/fuck buddies with weird leftover relationship issues.
He finally tired of my indecisiveness, of our emotionally confusing situation, and ended it, firmly telling me to stay away forever. He was done. I drove away crying so hard I couldn’t see the road.
Everybody leaves me.
It still hurts.
I’ve told my husband I don’t like flowers, that I prefer plants because they don’t die, but I don’t think he believes me. I think he assumes I’m used to being disappointed in relationships, and sweetly hopes he can fix it.
He brought me flowers for no reason last week. Just like I always wanted.
And now, every time I look at the cheerful daisies meant to make me feel appreciated, I’m unbearably sad inside.
Instead of making me happy, they force me to stare at exactly how broken I am, and to think of all the ways I’ve failed in the past, and of the ways I’m still failing every day.
Flowers look like failure.
Flowers wilt and die, just like relationships.
I don’t want flowers anymore.