The doorbell rings. You open it, expecting your takeout order, but instead a goofy looking dude in a blue jumpsuit and matching hat is holding an arrangement of flowers out at you.
“Flowers for, uhh, Clara Terig-uh-ulsch?” Impressive. He’s butchered your last name worse than most. You glare at him, and he nervously paws at the frizzy hair flying out from under his hat. He stares at you, gesturing with the flowers. You don’t take them. They can’t be for you.
“They can’t be for me,” you hear yourself say.
“But you’re… Clara?” he asks, plaintively, as he checks an app on his phone.
“Yes. But they’re not for me.” You just moved to this damn town. There’s no way Jo would have tracked you down here; you’re not on very good terms after the way that relationship ended. The only people who know your address are your dad and the crinkly old delivery woman at the Thai place down the street. Neither of them seems like a bouquet-based assassin, trying to accidentally (or otherwise) murder your current steady state of emotional avoidance.
“You have to take them!” he says. “They must be from a secret admirer or something. At least read the card.” He points at an ornate piece of paper riding through the jungle of dyed carnations on a stick of plastic.
You roll your eyes and start to close the door. “Nope,” you say. “Sorry, guy.”
“I’ll set them down right here, then!” he says, suddenly defiant.
“And I’ll report you for littering,” you say all deadpan. You don’t really mean it, but you feel a bit bad when you see his crestfallen face.
“Look. I don’t know anyone,” you say. “I don’t want creepy stalker flowers. Just give them to some nice old lady on the street. Don’t tell your boss. Everything works out.”
“Why don’t you just take them and pass them along, then?” he asks.
You stare at him for a moment “…” You’re about to knock the damn flowers out of his hand or slap the guy. You can feel the flush of anger in your cheeks, a strange electricity returning to a long-dead circuit. “Count to ten,” you say under your breath.
He clearly reads the steam coming out of your ears. “Okay okay, I’m sorry Miss, uh Terugul– uh, Clara.” He does a weird kind of pained bow, and tips his dopey little embroidered hat that reads “Freedom Flowers”.
“That’s alright. They’re not for me,” you say, meeting his gaze and willing him to understand. “Now have a good day — and leave me alone.”
“Okay–” he says, and you semi-accidentally slam the door, throwing the deadbolt immediately. “Sorry!” you hear him say as he walks back down the concrete steps. He sounds sincere and you feel slightly bad. But mostly you’re just hungry. Where’s that damn food?
“So, yeah. I know it’s weird to come to one of these and say this, but I’m not addicted to a particular drug. I’m addicted to an act. No, yeah, no… it’s not a sex thing. It’s a flower thing. Don’t laugh, but it does sound like a joke. I understand that. Flowers are my drug.
“Yeah, I know, it’s confusing me too. I work as a delivery driver for a florist. And I can’t stop. I mean, when I get done, I just go home and sit there watching TV, with the demand itching through my scalp. I have a basic need, unmet, crawling around in my belly, unsatisfied by gift giving or relationships or any of that. I’ve tried it all.
“The only thing that works, that gets me high, uhh, as it were… is just, uhh, delivering flowers to strangers. It’s not the joy of seeing the surprised faces, though there is that. There is that… It’s more… it’s like… well, it’s like a weird guessing game. Trying to predict from the arrangement what the story is, getting a window into how they are feeling from how the recip reacts. Cold, apology failed. Giggling, early lovebirds. Blank, confused dementia. Smiles with something hard behind them, a story I can’t quite see the edges of.
“Anyway, it’s got me in a bad way. So uh, yeah. My name is Darren, and I’m addicted to delivering flowers.”
It’s a week later, and you’ve forgotten about the mistaken flowers. So you’re not sure what to feel when you look through the peephole and see that same guy with the blue jumpsuit and matching hat holding flowers.
You open the door, exasperated. “Hi again.”
“Hi,” he says, but before he can get a word in, you start in.
“Look, these are not for me. Can you just tell your boss or whoever to save the money and just not deliver anything to here?” You glare at him.
“Well, uh, look. They are for you. I’ve got a problem.” He sounds so serious.
“It’s not that bad,” you say. “It’s just a case of mistaken identity. I’m sure you get that all the time.”
Then he whips his hat off and throws it on the ground. “No, look. I have a problem. I like to try to deliver extra arrangements to random people. Just to see their reaction.”
“Wait. Have you been stalking me?” Feeling your blood start to boil over, you brandish your phone at him like a sword hilt.
“N-n-no, nothing like that. Just random selection.” He sheepishly points at your mailbox. “Your name’s right there, Clara.”
“Oh. Right.” You blink. “Why the hell are you back? What do you think you’re doing?”
“You just, uhh… you’re the only person who hasn’t just taken the flowers. Everyone else just takes it in stride, the uh, the excitement of a secret admirer or whatever.” He runs a hand through his hair. “But now it’s not very secret. Will you take these flowers?”
“No. I hate flowers. Well, no. I hate killing them to put them on a table,” you say. It sounds stupid when you say it out loud. But he doesn’t get all beaten down. In fact, when you say you hate flowers, you could swear that made him smile.
“Have dinner with me sometime then?” He gingerly removes the card from the arrangement and hands it to you. “I’ll just throw these out, I guess.” He looks at the flowers, grinning, and back at you.
You say nothing, but you can’t stop the smile that begins to grow. “I’ll think about it,” you say.
“I’m Darren. It was nice to meet you, Clara.” He grabs his hat from the ground and does an intentionally funny little flourish with it, and you can’t keep your smile from growing a little bigger. Damn it.
“Bye,” you say, as you close the door, fiddling with the card and failing to convince yourself to just throw it away.
You flip it open. “Your Secret Admirer,” it reads, with the word Secret crossed out and a phone number underneath. And damned if it doesn’t make you smile to think about having dinner with the dopey flower guy, Darren. Get a grip, you tell yourself, as you carefully put the card on top of a stack of unopened mail. You know what happens next.