What We Bought
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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