what am I?
“a flower,” he said.
he always treated me like a flower:
he shaped my petals and leaves
until they knew his hands better than my own,
he crafted my lines and lifted me from the confines of my soul;
my light found with new eyes
the imperfections he didn’t like to see
the stems that I grew myself
the thorns made to protect me
he only cared to make me beautiful —
to make a centrepiece out of me,
to put me into a vase among those cut before me.
He only ever called me Rose. That wasn’t even my name.
We met when I was 17. I was sitting alone on a park bench when he began asking me directions to a cafe on the other side of town. When I explained its location and the time it would take to get there, he quickly pulled out his phone and called the person he was supposed to meet. His words made me think he was exasperated, but his eyes said something different. He carefully examined me with intentions I never truly understood until now. He asked sheepishly if I wanted to join him for lunch saying his friend would probably leave by the time he got there. Accepting his invitation was my biggest mistake.
He was a natural sweet talker. Compliments flowed out of his mouth like it was his mother tongue. It made me feel special and beautiful. I was always the odd one out of my family: half a foot shorter than my sisters, hair several shades darker, and skin a little too pale. No one ever believed we were related and they always said it was “too bad” that I got my dad’s genes. He never compared me to anyone. He always said I was a rose among lilies and that roses were special for a reason.
For five years, I stayed with him. I let his words form the reality I saw — about both me and the world. His words became my truth and his thoughts became my own. Like an artist, he sketched out who he wanted me to be. Like a pawn, I followed his every command as quickly as I could.
I only learned his true motivations when I saw his eyes leave my face to a girl sitting alone at the table behind us. His mood seemed brighter and he seemed interested — more interested than how he looked at me moments before. His eyes held the same intentions I saw five years before.
How did I not realize? He didn’t love me, he only loved what he could create out of me. He loved the power he could have and how quickly he could attain it. He loved creating beautiful things. And now that I was what he had imagined, he didn’t seem to love me anymore.
When his eyes came back to mine, he saw my realization. His face quickly changed to reflect indifference as he waited for the inevitable questions. To him, ignorance was beautiful and my knowledge tainted me. My eyes began to water as I sought answers in the depths of his dark eyes. As he started to get up, I only uttered one question before he left.
“What am I?”
“A flower,” he said.
This is a poem and short prose inspired by the Dione Brand presentation on her piece “ossuary VIII.” I got this idea from the line: “the stem of an orange dress,” which created this image of something that was once beautiful and full and now only a portion remains. This created a story for me in which a woman, who does not believe herself to be beautiful, becomes enamoured with a man who says she is like a flower — what girl wouldn’t want to be associated with a flower. What she fails to realize is that she was just at the edge of her transitional phase and that she would have blossomed even without his “help.” She begins to believe that everything good about her is because of his influence, which allows her to become dependant on him and allows him to isolate her from others. In her submission, he is able to make her into whatever he wants her to be — whatever he decides is “beautiful.” In his own process of creating something beautiful, the girl begins to lose herself. This manifests into her becoming a mere shell of who she once was and ultimately breaks her when he leaves. Only when he is gone does she see the person he was and the person she became, which was, ultimately, worse than where she had started.
I potentially want to create a short script from this. Both the poem and prose function as the realization of the girl as to what has happened to her. I want to try doing it as a piece that works with their story line chronologically but also include parts of the realization as if the girl is reflecting on when she should’ve realized that something was amiss.
(This has Dorian vibes but far more innocent on her end. Also posted a week late! Hah!)