What We Bought
Rebecca Schiff

He bought me flowers and a vase. He gave me the vase three days after he gave me the flowers. I don't know what he thought would happen in the interim, maybe that I would just leave the flowers on the table, and the flowers would die there. He wrote, "Don't forget to trim the stems!" so I guess he thought I would put the flowers in something, like a jar, which I did do, but the jar was not tall enough for the flowers, even after I trimmed the stems, so I had to go out and buy my own vase.

I bought the vase at a complicated store that also sold chrysanthemums and soap. The woman who owned the store tried to show me a vase that cost more than a hundred dollars, a heavy vase with flowers embossed on the glass. For a minute, I thought I needed a vase that cost more than a hundred dollars. Then I asked the woman if she had anything else. She started removing flowers from a cheaper vase. Maybe she had never sold a vase before.

By the time I got the vase from him, I already had a vase. It only cost twelve dollars. I don't know how much his vase cost, but somewhere between twelve and a hundred. I'm going to guess forty. Later, I gave the vase he bought me to my aunt.

"This will look good in your dining room," I told her. "Take it. I can't look at it anymore."

My aunt loved that I couldn't look at a vase a man had given me. Giving her my vase made it seem like gifts from men happened to me all the time, or at least often enough that I would know what to do with one. I had gotten other gifts from other men: a parasol, a record, a box of tea. Those times, I had set the gifts down in the vestibule of my building until someone took them away. The parasol and the record went fast. The tea nobody would take. I watched it sit in the vestibule, next to the mailboxes, day after day. Finally, I brought the tea back upstairs to my apartment and threw it in the garbage.

My aunt told her dinner guests the story of the vase the night she got it, then told the story again a few more times before the vase and the story of the vase stopped being new to her.

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