Hanged at Dawn



I cried when I graduated middle school. I cried when I graduated high school. I’ll definitely cry when I graduate college. Every milestone disguises itself as the end.

But I know I’m ready to graduate college. I’ve done my growing here and I’ve grown too much to stay. I can grieve for every era but must remember beautiful things lay before and after it. I suggest you savor each step and then let it go when it’s time.

I’ve had an aversion to cut flowers most of my life. I received my first bouquet in kindergarten. A tiny one, a trainer. There’s a polaroid of me squeezed into a sequined and feathered leotard, holding the celebratory ballet bouquet, grimacing. Why are they making me hold these severed flower heads? I thought I danced well.

Cut flowers inevitably and quickly die, even if kept in water. Even if kept in water mixed with flower food or other substances. I’ve heard people use sugar, vodka, aspirin—anything to prolong the process. Why would anyone ever give them to someone they love? It’s an ugly death and surefire abandonment.

I’ve heard that at best, you can keep your cut flowers “alive” for two weeks. I wouldn’t know. At one point in my flower-receiving career, I started leaving the bundles on the counter downstairs, hoping they’d be adopted by some other family member. Then I’d rid my mind of them. If they found a new temporary home in one of my mother’s vases, I wouldn’t look at them until they were gone.

As a young teenager I opened one of my mother’s art books and found a small dried purple flower inside. I asked her if she knew it was there and she said she must have put it in there to dry years ago. It’s called pressing flowers, just one of several ways one can dry flowers.

This greatly appealed to me. Beat the flowers to the punch. Kill them first, pull the plug. No need for botox, hip replacements, transplants—the point was to appreciate them in their death, not in life.

When I was in high school, someone gave me a dozen red roses for Valentine’s Day. I thanked him, and as soon as he left, I tied a rubber band around the stems of the roses and hung them upside down from the top of my window frame. This way, their death would be controlled. When you dry roses upside down, they work with gravity and remain plump and shapely despite their wrinkles. I was executioner and undertaker.

A few weeks ago, a man at my office received an enormous bouquet of bright flowers and I was tasked with delivering them to his desk. I scooped up the delivery with difficulty, and on my way to his office, the tallest flowers rested right below my nose. I smelt honey and perfume and nature and wanted to cry for all their cousins that I let rot without so much as a sniff. All because I knew I’d one day be without them.