NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 61

“Thank you so much, Miss…?” “Marty. Marty Kline. I don’t have my mother’s last name because, well, I’m supposed to be married.” She laughs. “No…I am. Wonderful hubby and kid.” Fresh off of his full-time work as a managing sludge collector at the wastewater plant, Tony emerges from the walk-in cooler near the cash register. His face reminds me of a chocolate coin. The kind with the gold foil tiny fingers peel off mostly at Easter time, when good grandfathers delight grandkids with the wealth he thought he’d have and they think he does. I know he would be tickled pink if I ever had a pregnant belly. “Any man working in a flower shop gotta commit to three things: gossip, the soaps and male bashing,” he says. “Now, Tony, you know…” I tease. “Oh, I know. I do know. I’m just glad Stella ain’t here to add to the confusion.” “Oh sir,” Marty says, “I’m sure you’re one of the fine ones.” BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 59 “Tony stop…you’re gonna scare away our customers.” Tony throws up his hands on the way outside. “It’s my fault. I know. I shoulda took my daddy up on his basketball scholarship tip, but I could barely read and the teachers only passed me ‘cause I brought ‘em apples. Now I’m supervising shit and getting bossed by women who make me take shit to make up the difference.” “I love you Tony,” I shout to the back of the store. He winks at me. We are each other’s playthings until we go home to our spouses, though he has a son named after him and some grandchildren to boot. They’ve come in sometimes, and they resemble him. Marty’s face is blotchy and wet from laughing. I laugh with her, until I realize: she’s crying. She puts her hand over her mouth. To catch her breath. Each sniffle is staccato and sad. She was a proud woman, now ashamed. I grab my stool from behind the counter to bring it out front for Marty. I nick my hip round the corner of the pine counter as I set it down for her. She sits, then turns slightly to look for Tony. He hums while he fusses with the flowers in the display buckets outside. Snipping and snapping and tearing and humming. When Marty sees how absorbed Tony is, she lets her shoulders drop and she wails her own tune. It is a scene I know well. It’s one to turn my illusion of happy expressions in the faces of flowers, each one alive and everchanging depending on where the sun touches it, into what the plants really are: expressionless ornaments, purposeless balms, signs of human derangement to set our moods by. Stella is prepared for these breakdowns, with a packet of tissue near the cash register. Marty composes herself. It is the type of scene accompanied by tip toes of raindrops on a tin roof in black and white movies, or a wooden swing forced back and forth on a porch in a stage play. The black cordless phone chirps several times behind the counter. I leave it alone. “I do apologize,” Marty mutters. “I came here to thank you and now I’m just keeping you from your work…oh dear. At least I can wipe my own nose.” “Mrs. Kline,” I tell her, “you’re totally fine. You aren’t the first person to break down in here. We deal with a lot of celebrations, but that’s just one 'B