Bruised Roses

My housemate, J, had been called away to her home town in Essex where her dad’s health was declining. We heard that their family had gathered in hospital and then that J’s dad had died overnight.

J stayed in her home town for a while afterwards and then, leaving the pocket of her family’s grief, she travelled back to London. The day she got back we were in the living room. We heard the front door open and her exchanging quiet words with her boyfriend before she walked into the flat. She was wide-eyed, shocked, verging on tears. Her coat still on, she was moving through the house slowly, her arms dangling by her sides. She told us she had travelled on the Tube at rush hour on the way here and that people had kept barging past, brushing her sides and colliding with her.

She said, “They didn’t know.” She was stuck on this – the idea that something so devastating had happened to her and that rude and pushy rush hour London would carry on without knowing. “They just didn’t know.” I could imagine her in her coat, wincing through the crowds.

*

I had got up early to meet Natasha and help her carry hundreds of flowers, just collected from New Covent Garden Market, across London. They were destined for Essex, props for a performance. I was carrying an enormous box of roses – my arms were stretched out, my fingers just curling around the far corners of the box. I remember Natasha kept glancing at me, reminding me to be careful – roses bruise easily.

We were changing lines on the Tube before rush hour. We were walking along a platform as a train sounded its alarm, about to close its doors. Just at that moment I was stepping forward and came into alignment with a passageway leading to the platform.

A man had spotted that the train was about to leave and was sprinting full pelt towards it – he slammed into the side of the box of roses like a crash mat. The collision was violent and very sudden but the roses absorbed the shock beautifully. He stumbled back, righted himself, and leapt onto the train before it pulled out of the station.