Pressing Flowers

I can’t say why but just then I noticed the floral arrangement on the windowsill. And I was struck by the fact that the flowering heads of these shrubs had maintained such dignity despite several months in a crude plastic container. They still retained their elegant original form – the hydrangea especially. Though the pinks and greens had faded the hues were distinct and wonderful. I thought it incredible they could look so good with such little care.

When I was a child my Mam enjoyed showing me simple crafts. Once we cut flowers and pressed them between the pages of a copy book, jotting the date and also name in Irish and English on the opposite page. I thought we’d be able to preserve that natural beauty, scent and all, between the white pages for eternity. But impatience was my biggest downfall and I didn’t allow the flowers the proper drying time. Soon after the pages were pressed tight juices leached out staining the white backdrop. And the foliage and petals once so immaculate now appeared bruised and sullied. I remember how disappointed I was at the result.

So why would anyone bother drying and pressing flowers into a book, only to close them away? At best you’d only ever have a shriveled relic of the former beauty. A waste of time compared with these flowers which had been simply chopped and dropped in water and on display since then; at the time Mia had raised her brows at my choice of “vase” but looking back maybe there was more on her mind.

We’d come through a rough patch. It wasn’t the first time but serious nonetheless. Our relationship was staid, the excitement was long gone. Mia declared that she had changed her mind and now wanted children. I was speechless at first. I’d grown to love our lazy days off, late night binges on box sets. Kids were not on my radar. In fact I never felt as free and content as I did when leaving the home of friends with small noisy children. Who needed that chaos on a full time basis? So honestly, I really struggled to see her perspective on kids but I asked her for time. She agreed.

One other issue had been grating us for a while. And that was deciding if we should uproot and start afresh elsewhere. On wet winter evenings one of us would be ignited with a desire for the sun of southern Europe. And if we spent a weekend with friends in Cork or Galway one of us would rave about a more permanent return visit. Unlike Mia I’d never gone to college so I felt I had missed out on living away from our hometown. So after the talk about children I pushed her to seriously consider a fresh start somewhere else. To reinvigorate things. She resisted at first, said it wasn’t the right time. She asked me to hold off. I pushed on, argued that it’d breathe colour back into us, Mia and Marc. Eventually she gave in. I told friends that my enthusiasm eventually won her over. Perhaps I had just worn her down.

The most exotic location we could agree on was a seaside suburb of Dublin. When Mags secured a new job there I handed in my notice and we started house hunting online. We talked about keeping a herb garden and keeping a room for guests. The choice of location took over our evenings in an exciting way. Browsing the street layer on Google Maps, checking out Trip Advisor reviews of nearby pubs and venues. We stayed up in Dublin on two consecutive weekends to get a feel for where might suit to live. We got in touch with some clubs and sports clubs.

I was also buoyed knowing that my time at my old job was nearing an end: I spent my shifts grinning and if colleagues mentioned it I’d give them a carefree wink. The decision to leave seemed to prompt my normally subdued Manager to go beyond his normally curt instructions.

“You would have made Supervisor if you stuck it out Marc,” he said. I didn’t care but couldn’t resist the opportunity to reply, “Well Carl, bit late giving me that feedback now isn’t it?” Carl ignored the reproach and repeated it several times in the days before I left, “You should have stuck it out Marc, that’s all I’m saying.”

The excitement of packing up and saying goodbyes was thrilling and there was a fresh sparkle in our relationship. And so we closed the door one last time on the wee terrace house. A final leaving ritual was to break small branches off a few flowering shrubs and take them on the move. “To fresh pastures,” I said, as the car sped off. It felt like a brave new world.

Initially it was magic. New places, new people, new possibilities. But three months after arriving Mia raised the issue of children again. I’d been drinking and shelved the proposal quite bluntly. Then she said it was more than kids. Money, ambition, saying she felt like she was carrying us financially. She accused me of avoiding going to meet her friends since we moved. That I always resented her time with them. I called her over demanding, a control freak, a whinger. She talked about how I was suffocating her. Stifling her freedom. That I wanted to hide her away like some little treasure, just occasionally taking her out to show friends. I gave as good as I got and it went on like that. Mia left a week after. A few days later I arrived home to find it strangely barren. It took me a few minutes to realise. My stuff was there but all those pretty things, her things, those pictures and trinkets that make a house a home were gone. And the apartment felt like a shell.

That was last week and since then a part of me has taken to imagining what could have been. If we’d never moved. If I had wanted children. If I had made more time for her friends, her interests. All that stuff. It’s not that I feel particularly remorseful about anything I did, I’m just curious. And then today, just as my mind was drifting again I noticed the flowers on the windowsill, the ones we took from the garden back home. And now I’m wondering if I throw in a sachet of plant food could they last for another few months? Beats closing them away in a stuffy book.

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