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does every story have to have a moral?

A flower for me

April 20, 2011

in random


As I walked out the train depot, I saw his familiar face from afar. He has taken over the position from Mr. Jim, the white-haired veteran whose presence has been a staple at this corner of the corridor connecting people to the bustling city life.

I used to give something every time I walked by Mr. Jim, before he retired, until he said to me one day, “You don’t have to do this every time you walk by me you know?”

I looked at him puzzled.

“I mean, you don’t need to pay to get out of jail every time you pass by me.”

I laughed at his witty reference to the game Monopoly and his prime guarding position. “So I can just pass go?”

“Yes sweetie. I know your heart is in the right place.”

Now it is the new guy’s job to be holding that telltale locked red tin box outside the train station during morning rush hours. New Guy. That’s what I call him inside my head. I have not asked him his name yet.

It was easier for me to ask Mr. Jim for his name because he’s in his 80s, I think, and there was no risk of my curiosity and may I say good manners being mistaken for some sort of brash romantic advance. But the new guy is younger, well, younger than 80, and I did not want to give any wrong impressions. Mr. Jim loved to hold my hand while we talked and I let him flirt with me because I enjoyed seeing the sparkles in his eyes when he laughed.

I have noticed that less people stop to chat with New Guy as they had done with Mr. Jim. I am not sure whether it is because of the missing front teeth that strike people as unsettling. Or perhaps at merely middle age, he has not earned the right to hang that sign above his head that says “I am very old so yes it is ok to talk sweet nothing to me.” I also noticed that very quickly New Guy added a suit jacket and a fedora in addition to his original ensemble consisted of a pressed white dress shirt and tie.

Not wanting him to feel unwelcome in the midst of the ecosystem of harried suburban commuters, I make a point to say hi to him whenever I see him even though I no longer stop to chat.

This morning I stopped to put a folded dollar bill through the slit on the top of the red tin box.

“How are you doing?”

He smiled and I could see the gap in his mouth where the front teeth should have been. It no longer looked unsettling. It felt familiar now. I saw that his smile was genuine through his eyes which warmed my heart.

“Oh. Wait. Take this.” He held up a flower to my face. “Put it in the button hole here,” he pointed to the lapel on my trench coat, “Someone gave it to me but it won’t fit in mine.”

“How come it doesn’t fit in yours?” I took the flower from his outstretched hand and leaned closer to look at his brown tweed jacket.

“Because it’s sewed!” He laughed. I laughed too because somehow it was amusing.

“Well, cut it open or something and I will bring a flower for you next time!”

He looked surprised and then quickly became a bit bashful. “Nah. You don’t have to bring me a flower.”

“We’ll see about that. Thanks for the flower!”

I could almost break out into a song when I was walking towards my office building, with a flower in my hand. All this time I thought I was doing him a favor, turns out it’s the other way around.

I cannot wait for spring to come.