On Monday it arrived. A medium-sized box, left outside my door beside a smaller box containing the coffee I’d just ordered from Amazon. I knew immediately what it was, and I felt simultaneously agitated and relieved.
I pushed the two boxes inside my door, turned on the lights, opened the fridge, and pulled out a beer. After a sip, I opened the box from Amazon with my new 2-lb. bag of Peruvian black gold and popped the bag into the freezer.
I pushed the other box, the bigger one, with the shipping label from White Flower Farms, into a corner beside my couch, where it would be safely out of the way.
I’d thought that maybe I would just leave the whole thing there for the month and then throw it out when the time came, or perhaps take the box to the post office with a note marked “return to sender.”
But after another sip of beer, I realized that of course I would open it. Even if I simply threw out the potted Amaryllis, with the bulb that would, if watered and tended, slowly sprout and flower over the month of December, I should at least look at the card.
The flower-to-be was from E., who every year sends an Amaryllis to a handful of people on her holiday mailing list — me her oldest friend from college, her mother, her sister, her current girlfriend, her past girlfriend, and perhaps a few others I don’t know about. I can’t imagine any of the other recipients are more pleased by the gift than I am; it is large and unwieldy, takes up half my studio apartment, and can’t in good faith be thrown out until the thing has flowered and died. But it is her way of marking the season.
This past April, E. terminated our friendship via email, after 38 years. I’d made a sarcastic remark to her 16-year-old daughter about her piggish table manners, and she interpreted it as an “attack”; an attack so vicious that her therapist was surprised she’d even want to remain friends with me, or so she said in that email. Things quickly went from bad to worse. My apology and invitation to call elicited silence. My text to her a month later elicited more vigorous character assassination.
In the months since, I have mourned the loss of what was once life-sustaining. But I also tried, in my way, to look on the bright side. I told myself that now, at last, I would be forced to try to find a relationship. And, of course, I wouldn’t have to deal with the friggin’ Amaryllis anymore.
So when I received the box, seven months after the collapse of our friendship, I was both horrified — horrified to one more time receive this big hulking flower pot with the bulb that takes a month to bloom and several more to die — and relieved that she hadn’t written me off entirely after all.
I tried to go about my business as if the package hadn’t come. I cooked up some pasta for dinner and turned on the radio and puttered around the apartment, but of course it wasn’t as if the package hadn’t come. It had, and I felt that mixture of renewed anger (at this woman who turned on me in an instant and hasn’t yet had the wherewithal or courage or interest or whatever the relevant attribute might be to reach out to have a conversation about what happened) and growing curiosity tinged with hope. Hope that perhaps she did want to renew the friendship after all.
Finally, after the pasta was eaten and the dishes washed and put back in the cabinet, I scissored open the box and removed the greeting. Her note said this: “Some traditions live on!”
I haven’t touched the box since. Though I know that in time I will open it and water it and bring the bulb to life for this, its last season.