We got back home today from Chicago. I spent some time there, although it wasn’t expressly a vacation. For my family, I guess it was, but they’re getting old, and it didn’t seem as exciting as it could have been. What do you want. I was free from them for quite some time. I feel like a teenager. I’m twenty-five.
I made it my business to visit Maggie; Magdalena, officially, in her apartment in Logan Square. I lived there myself for a year; at that point it was just on the cusp of becoming popular. Now, as I saw in my visit, smoothies named after the neighborhood have almond milk and kale. You take a guess which way the neighborhood went. It used to be mainly Latino.
Nevertheless, it is growing in full swing, so it seemed, with more shops occupied than when I had left and less abandoned retail spaces. Maggie lived in a lovely apartment complex named Schubert Square that was down the block from my old one; I had lived there on my own, however, as she had still lived in her terrible apartment in Wicker Park. The place was clean; I wondered what my complex looked like; if there were still hideous things that lived there; if the residents screamed bloody mirror or just belied their fear with the muffled sounds of a few thumps from the floor above. I had stood outside her apartment, half in expectation, half in awe, holding a bouquet of flowers I had bundled together on the T, leaving a shower of petals in my wake as if walking out of someone’s wedding. There were no florists open because it was a Sunday, and I yielded to a chain grocery store as the only option to purchase flowers; I stood in front of the flower stand, my eyes passing from my phone to the rack as I assessed each blossom and its meaning. The idea itself bloomed in my head a while ago: at some point, I was to send her flowers, probably in the mail, although this visit warranted a gift, even if it ruined the surprise and vagueness that so inculcates a feeling of beauty.
Maggie was one of the friends I could do that with: I could still be my old-school self because she had known I was sharp enough to possess modern sensibilities. She had cued me in, too, speaking one day about the language of flowers in Victorian England when I had mentioned the flower-giving ritual. I settled on two bouquets: purple tiger lillies and pink snapdragons. It was nearly perfect. I don’t make pretensions to know the meaning of every flower or even some of them. But if we both know there is a system, I will do my best to act within it (especially if it is a system of both semantics, courtesy, and art).
Yet something told me that the first thing in her head was not what they meant but that they were beautiful on their own.