Objects see lives flash before them as they die. He saw it happen, the vase swandiving from the shelf in movie-effect slo-mo, the child starting to realize entirely too late what he'd done.
His heart had been heavy while they'd been apart, but it sprang up into his throat as he first glimpsed her. She was sitting at the monument they both found ludicrous, yet oddly beautiful in misplaced nobility and honor, sunlight speckles filtering through leaves onto her exposed neck below the soft curls of her hair. She laughed merrily as he gave her the appropriate rose, showing him then the vase that she'd crafted for him. Fired, yet the color of earth, she'd sketched intricate freehand patterns into the clay.
"It's yours, I made it for you" she said softly, his mind entranced as always by the simple movement of her lips. "Take it home," she said, placing the flower inside, "so I can see this flower when I wake up every morning."
As they kissed, his mind flooding with the realization that she would always be there, anticipating the gratifying labor of moving her things into his apartment, he realized there were some really excellent ways to say yes.
A procession of flowers, one at a time over months, then years, their beauty accented by the simple gorgeous vase, her natural flowing line echoed in petal and clay, her complex simplicity mirrored in line and vein; it was a portrait of her soul.
The black rose had to have been her idea; their son was too small to understand then why mommy didn't come back from the hospital this time, why she had been wearing the wig for so long. He left the explaining to grandparents in a hotel room; he'd barely made it back to the empty house. A television chattered in a corner, all the radios tuned to different station providing a discordant background better than the silence that had weighted on him, tears flowing without even sobs to break the quiet.
The vase stood on the shelves among the knickknacks and gomi of three lives, yet dominating them all easily with its quiet simplicity. His eyes traced it from its base up the sensuous curve, remembering her before the chemo, before they'd mutilated her too late, trying to stop the spread, along the green stem to the pure black bud, a little of the spray paint black blotches upon the stem.
He laughed, as she must have known he would.
It shatters upon the hardwood floor, and it is impossible to tell who cries harder, man or child.
As he pulls in the driveway after work, his hands rub together, trying to scrape the superglue and clay from his hands, his fevered attempt accomplishing nothing besides affixing the dust to his skin and convincing him the vase was a hopeless cause. The crushed clay felt like crumbled bone to him, distracting him throughout the day, making his lunch taste like ash.
The sitter passed him in the doorway; his son was napping.
It caught the corner of his eye when he put the briefcase on the floor; the dried play-doh colors - out of place on the shelves - crafted into a crude container of blue, orange, and red swirls, a ragged bouquet of dandelions poking shyly from the top.
He was still staring when the soft sound of small soles drew him from his reverie; his son looking at him worriedly.
"I thought mommy would like it."
He didn't stop hugging his son for a long time.
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