Cherry Blossom Flurry
by Debra Hori
My son arrives home early from school with a head full of lice. I vacuum, launder, nit-pick, and sob. My 80-year-old mother is in a nursing home recovering from congestive heart failure. And, if that isn’t enough, this is my first Valentine’s Day in twenty two years without my beloved soul mate, Robin. He died five months ago.
Often, when Robin and I walked together, whether we were hiking in the Eastern Sierras or strolling around the block, he showed me what he deemed to be nature’s masterpieces. To his artist’s eye, the natural world was bursting with treasures. He’d point and say, “Look, Sweet Plum, look at this.” showing me a fiery orange rose petal blushing into creamy peach then yellow, or a tree branch casting curious shadowy patterns onto a cracking brick wall. When Robin was on his way home from work, he frequently called me on the phone with our code phrase, “Sunset alert!” which was my cue to stop whatever I was doing, dash outside, and gaze at the gorgeous sky. Robin taught me to love moments like these.
I’m worrying about my son’s hair and my mother’s poor health as I pull into the parking lot. I run into the Chinese restaurant and get my lunch to go. I sit alone in my car, the sunlight filtering through the flowering cherry blossom trees. “Mmmm,” I croon, eating my fried rice from a take out container, careful not to shove it into my mouth too quickly. My tongue finds the spicy tang of ginger and soy sauce as a warm breeze blows in the car window, gently brushing the hair away from my face. I look up from my rice to see showers of white cherry blossom petals floating toward me, a whirlwind of minute winged fairies landing on the silvery surface of my Prius. Petals slide down the side of the car and dance away on the black asphalt. I am in a cherry blossom flurry, a wonderland. I feel the illusion of forward movement even though I am still. Petals find their way through the open windows. One drops into my rice. I pick it out, and look at it balanced on the tines of my black plastic fork. It reminds me of a saucer for a tiny porcelain tea cup.
In the parking lot, scores of jaunty cherry blossoms sweep over the asphalt. Petals shift randomly like tiny sardines, bait balls, I think they are called, that instantly shape and re-shape themselves. I wonder how I came to be in this special place. I hear Robin saying, “Look, Sweet Plum. See?” I smile. Robin sent my valentine after all. Inhaling deeply, my heart playful, I feel renewed. I start the engine and slowly pull my car out onto the street. The lovely petals trail behind me.