I may not have walked away with a ring, but at least I will have the flowerpot
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
— John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
Let us have a moment of silence to honor the real casualties of the shidduch system, the forlorn and forsaken ceramics. Many a time and oft have I heard the tragic tale of a mug, serving platter, or owl figurine, painted in awkward companionship with a guy you barely know and whom you shortly learn you will never see again.
You take time to process. Maybe you cry, eat a pint of ice cream. You wonder: If I had worn a different dress, used a different mouthwash, chosen a different seat in the venue, would he have said yes?
Then, after a while—
Okay, I’ve made my peace; goodbye, Zevy, goodbye, Dovid, goodbye, Yitzchak Yeshaya. I guess we weren’t meant to be. I still hate you a little, but I can learn to let you go.
But my flowerpot! My heart aches for my flowerpot.
It’s Tuesday. I got a no from Eli Novak Friday morning, about 96 hours and thirteen minutes ago. Not that I am counting.
I have four full days’ worth of mourning under my belt now, and fortified with coffee and the flippancy engendered by hours of grappling with all my deepest insecurities, I have arrived at a momentous decision.
I am going back for my flowerpot.
I deserve that flowerpot.
I may not have walked away with a ring, but at least I will have the flowerpot. What I will do with it I do not know. It doesn’t matter. The point is that he may have taken my dignity, but he can never have my flowerpot.
It’s Tuesday and the store is open. That flowerpot is mine.
The lady at the front, an artsy-looking 50-something with a nametag reading Josephine, disagrees. “There was no reservation for that name,” she insists.
“I know,” I tell her again. “It’s under Novak. I was here with a… friend.”
I don’t like how she’s looking at me: from under her lashes with a sly little sideways grin. She makes no move toward the shelf on which the fired objects are stored. I’m so close. Get out of my way, Josephine.
“He was arrested for grand larceny,” I say, because it’s been four days, and I can see the flowerpot from here.
Josephine’s face floods with color. “I’m so sorry!” she gasps, fumbling for her calendar again. “How awful! Are you okay? Novak, you said? Last Thursday?”
“Yes,” I answer, and if I feel a twinge of remorse for my massive lie, it is easily assuaged by the satisfaction of watching her lunge for the flowerpot so quickly she knocks Eli’s nearby dolphin figurine off the shelf. It hits the floor with a dull clunk but unfortunately does not break.
“Oh!” She stoops to pick it up and glances at the name on the bottom, then up at me. “What would you like me to do with this?”
The frame freezes. I’m looking at her, with the flowerpot in one hand and the dolphin in the other, and I realize that they are our fragile single hearts; the brittle, errant, authentic selves we haul out on dates to subject to critical inspection and, frequently, rejection. The dolphin is Eli’s stony, misshapen little heart, and I want to seize it from Josephine’s hands and throw it against the wall repeatedly until it shatters. Until it looks how I feel.
Until he feels how I feel.
Then, blindingly fast, another fantasy sequence, hot on the heels of the first: I take the flowerpot. I turn to go, only to meet the eyes of the red-faced Eli, who has just walked in to pick up his dolphin. He has the grace to look apologetic but not enough to turn around and leave. I maintain eye contact and, very deliberately, raise my hand to shoulder height and drop the flowerpot, my heart, vessel of a future, to the floor. It shatters on impact.Eli looks stricken. I burst into tears for the nth time in four days and flee the studio.
The video feed syncs up again. There’s Josephine in her canvas apron and combat boots, lined face framed by frizzy gray braids. She’s breathless from standing up so quickly and is still clutching the two pieces. She places the flowerpot on the counter, and I pick it up automatically, still eying the dolphin. I doubt he’ll come back for it; I could take it — and smash it — and he’d never know.
“Keep it,” I say magnanimously, and stride out, flowerpot in hand. Because I am a big girl, and I got what I came for.
That is the truth. And the truth is beautiful.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 841)
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