Flowers from an Ohio Girl


At four a.m., we sat in her tower room, beneath heavy wool blankets, sipping coffee from tall thermoses.  She lived in a lighthouse.  There were no pictures, only portholes offering slivers of bright sky.  The room was filled with finches who lived inside intricate birdcages.

"What's next?" I asked.  This was for money, this camping out, although she called it a social experiment.  I needed to save for tuition next fall and she seemed harmless.  She was unexpectedly beautiful, with long tapered fingers and pale-water eyes.

"My father bought me this place," she told us, "isn't it nice?"

"It's nice," I said.  The blankets were the sort of blankets I imagined people used in disasters, something a rescue team would throw over you.

It was me, and two other people, guys our age who must have just come for the hell of it.

"Let's read," she said.  "I think we should read some Grimm's.  What do you think?"

It went on like that for the rest of the weekend.  Nothing bad happened, but I kept waiting for it.  When we left, I had to pee very badly.  She kissed me on my forehead and I wanted us to be friends. I felt we could be friends.  I got a ride with Javier, one of the guys.  He asked if I wanted to grab a beer or something.  I said I was tired.  When we drove away I closed my eyes and saw her, very small, moving, a little doll behind those pretty round windows, singing to her finches.

"What a freak," Javier said, "Do you think her father fucked her or something?"

"Maybe she's just doing what she really wants to do.  If I had a lot of money, I might live in a lighthouse," I said.

"Where did you grow up?" he asked me later.  We were eating lobster with some of our new money.

"Ohio.  Mostly."

We concentrated on our lobsters.  He was very handsome.  I imagined him with the pretty princess, at the top of the lighthouse.

"I feel as if I ought to do something for her," I said, "I don't know."

"Listen, Jilly," he said to me.  I'd told him to call me Jilly and not Jillian.  Nobody called me Jilly but I thought it was cute.  I was starting to like him. "I guarantee you, as soon as you were out the door, she did not remember your name."

We talked about his mother, who lived in Saskatchewan.

"Where is that?" I asked him.

"Canada.  Everything up there is clean and open.  You wouldn't believe."

"Don't they have ice castles in Canada somewhere?  I think I saw that.  In National Geographic."

"I think they do."

I liked him now.  We walked out to the boardwalk, listening to the birds and the water, and I couldn't look at him, only parts of him; his chin, his angled shoulder, the heavy watch at his wrist.  I asked him what he did.

"Flunked out of police academy," he said.

I held onto the rail and looked down at my white knuckles.  It was always like that when I really started to like someone.  I couldn't look at him.

He gave me a card that said Javier Martinez, Graphic Design.  There was no logo, which struck me as odd.  If he designed things, why were there only the words?

When it was wintertime, and I was living in a different state, I sent Marguerite daisies to the address on his card.  I looked out my window at the snow falling on trees and rooftops, and I thought of him.  We had a conversation in my mind: I told him my grandmother used to say daisies were the friendliest flower, and he told me about his grandmother.  I thought I could recall his eyes.  They were an interesting auburn brown.  Perhaps.  I washed dishes and watched the window panes steam up, as the snow kept falling.  

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