A Good Day
The young man awoke with a smile and rolled out of bed. He tugged on a clean pair of jeans and the blue button-down she liked so much. After a quick breakfast, he brushed his teeth and ran a hand through his short hair. Gorgeous, he thought with a grin.
Outside, he breathed in the sharp fall air. He chose to walk, deciding it was too beautiful a day to waste any moment of it inside a cab or bus. He turned his face to the sun, its warmth contrasting deliciously with the cool but gentle wind that danced through town like a phantom child. Summer was just a memory, but winter was hardly a thought.
It was a good day.
As he walked, he noted that the streets were nearly empty, but it seemed to him that the few pedestrians who shared this day with him also shared his smile. They looked happy, content.
They all mirrored the way he felt. He was going to see her. Those simple words, that simple thought was enough to give the corners of his mouth a touch more altitude.
Having covered three blocks, he came to a corner. A florist had set up shop there recently. Through the window, the young man could see a veritable Garden of Eden crammed into such a tiny space that it seemed summer itself was hiding within. Among the splashes of orange, red, white, green, blue and yellow, the young man noticed a floral explosion of purple.
His mind wandered.
He remembered the purple daisies.
She’d never received flowers. It’s what she had said. He simply could not believe it. How was it possible that a woman as pretty, as beautiful as she could have spent twenty-one years of life without ever receiving a single rose, a single tulip, a single carnation? It was a travesty, an affront to all that was natural and logical. She had laughed at his mock rant, not knowing that he’d meant every word.
She worked at a small coffee shop just off campus. In addition to the hung-over students in need of caffeine reinforcements to fight back the alcohol invasion they’d suffered the night before, she served mainly retirees who came to the shop not for the coffee, but to soak up a little youth. And so, she thought the first four daisies had been from one of them. Maybe a kind old man who thought she looked like his long-dead wife. They had been delivered to the shop at noon sharp, just as she was beginning her shift. Four purple daisies. No card.
The following four stems arrived two hours later. By then she had taken to glancing about the shop, looking for a knowing look from one of her elderly patrons. She found plenty of wistful smiles from the older women, plenty of bemused looks from the older men, but no signs of conspiracy.
Eight daisies. No card.
The third batch of flowers was delivered—by the same increasingly confused driver—at four in the afternoon. There were only three blooms this time. She added them to the eight she had already received, bringing the total to eleven. Who sent anyone eleven stems?
The chime above the door sang its tune and he walked in, he held the twelfth and final bloom before him.
They had only been out on two dates by then, and so his gesture was a decidedly bold one. But she liked bold and it had worked beautifully. Love had followed just a step behind that bouquet. They were together from then on. They were each-other’s.
Now he entered the florist’s shop and bought her a dozen stems of the purple daisies. She would like that. The flowers were a memory. A memory that further widened his smile.
A memory that reminded him of the time before the bad days.
She had always been somewhat quiet. She could be lively, even boisterous, when the time for it came. In fact, to most, she was the proverbial life of the party. Celebrations rarely began until she made her appearance. She brought them together. She gave their storm its strength, turned a gust into a hurricane. But, he knew, she always stood in the eye of those hurricanes she created. As they all whirled past her, laughing and cheering and smiling and loving, she watched from deep within herself. Only he saw past the disguise. Only he saw her.
Though they never lived together, he spent much of his time at her apartment, a small two bedroom. She had given him a key and, since he finished work and classes before her, he tried to be there to greet her when she came home. For some time, he was met with a smile and a kiss. Soon, though the kiss remained, it had dried and numbed, while the smile had disappeared altogether. After about two months, the kiss had joined the smile and she would simply sit next to him, silent, unsmiling, distant. He tried to talk to her. He asked questions. He let her know he was there, anytime, if she needed to talk. All she would say was that she was sorry and that she’d had a bad day.
Eventually, she took to retiring to her bedroom upon returning home from work. No kiss, no smile, even the shared time in front of the TV had been omitted. On her way to her bedroom, she would give him a tired glance and her words would drift back to him on a sigh, “I’m sorry, I had a bad day again.”
She began seeing a therapist. It didn’t seem to help much at all. After a time, she found it difficult to go outside. She wanted to stay in bed all day. At times, he let her. He called her boss and told him she was sick. He did not feel as though he were lying. Neither one of them had used the D-word . . . but he knew that to avoid naming it did not make it any less real. After four missed work shifts and a week of missed classes, he decided to give her some tough love. As tough as he could muster, anyway.
It was a fall day much like the one through which he now strolled when he pulled her gently but firmly out of bed. He had heaped clothing in her arms and tugged at her pyjama bottoms, hoping to elicit a smile or maybe even a laugh. She slowly pushed his hand away and dressed herself without a word. He took her to the park. It was too cold for there to be many people. He knew this was what she needed. She needed to be outside, but far from people. Later, he would bring her where there were a few people. Then a few more. He would work her back up to normalcy. Normalcy. Would she ever know it again? Would they ever know it again?
They sat by the river as it carved its babbling way through the park. The sky was mirrored in the water’s surface, a grey-blue streaked with thicker-lighter greys. She stared at the water, he stared at her. Her eyes were distant, filled with thoughts he no longer understood. His eyes were wary, filled with a concern only she could foster in him. He slipped his arm around her shoulders and she leaned upon him and wept. Through her tears, she said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry . . . it’s all just bad days . . .”
But the next day was not a bad one. On that day, she asked him if they could return to the park. She asked it with a smile. And his heart soared, it took flight and crossed the sun and brushed heaven.
They went to the park. They went to the park every day. And every day her smile grew wider. And every day, the bad ones, the bad days, seemed farther and farther away. Whatever weight she had been carrying, it had fallen from her slender shoulders. She walked more surely, head held high. She could not yet create hurricanes, but tiny dervishes seemed to follow in her wake now.
Those were good days, and he remembered them fondly.
Now he came to an intersection. He glanced toward her apartment complex, still smiling, and walked right, away from the edifice. As he walked down the road there were fewer and fewer buildings until, finally, they disappeared altogether. Trees lined the road now. Tall and strong with blazing manes. The young man breathed in the paradoxically vibrant scent of dead and dying leaves. The breeze kicked up, ruffling his hair and running its cold invisible fingers through the daisy petals. He laughed softly.
It was a truly good day.
He could see her from here.
He looked back over his shoulder, he could still see the very top of her apartment building. His smile faltered a little as he remembered the last time he’d been there. It was nearly eighteen months ago and he had let himself in with the key she had given him. He wanted to surprise her. She had been so happy lately. He wanted to make her happier still. He had bought tickets to Vienna. She had always wanted to see Vienna. The bedroom door was open a crack. He pushed it open.
She lay on her bed.
She looked peaceful.
There were two empty pill bottles.
One on the floor.
One on the bed, by her right hand.
The note said I’m sorry.
The note said I had a bad day again.
He knelt by her grave and placed the flowers before her marker. He ran his fingers over the cool marble. He smiled at her inscribed name. He smiled at the inscribed date of her birth, the date of her passing. He smiled. He smiled because, wherever she was, there were no bad days. There were never ever bad days.