From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

Glads on Monday

It’s Monday and I’m leaving a meeting near my house and decide to take advantage of one of the perks of living in town: sneaking home for lunch.

I bank around the curve toward my house and suddenly remember I had procrastinated a little too much over the weekend and had neglected that dreaded of all chores: rounding up the week’s groceries. After a quick turn into the grocery store, I discover no parking spaces in the first aisle of the lot. Quickly spotting an open slot in the next aisle two cars away from the sidewalk, I’m feeling rather smart as I smoothly idle in, slide the shift into first, pull up the brake, turn off the motor, jump out and head for the store.

Then I see the car.

In eight months of dating my recent girlfriend, I had never experienced the spontaneous, unexpected encounter. And now, ten days after she had called things off, I practically walk right into her car.

Every relationship has its rhythms. Ours, for some reason, had always peaked on Mondays. A couple of weeks after meeting, I had stopped by the store en route to dinner at her house and purchased a colorful bunch of gladiolas. Life was good back then. Not only were glads on special, but I discovered upon presentation that they just happened to be her favorite of all flowers.

Knowing a good thing when I found it, I would stop off every Monday, even those we didn’t have a date. If she were at an aerobics class, I would sneak in her kitchen and arrange them on her dining room table near her back door for her arrival. She would always call and act surprised and appreciative. And I would always feel so coy.

As I step on the threshold of the electronic doors and grab a wobbly grocery cart, I suddenly recall a scene from the movie Ghost when the recently widowed heroine is confronted at odd times by the spirit of her late husband. I scan the checkout lines and don’t see her, so I know I have a chance to pull off the plan: grab the glads, sneak up behind her in line and embarrass her in front of the checkout boys.

As I round the banana counter, I suddenly find myself two carts behind her. She evidently had arrived moments before. The best vector for cover is directly behind another shopper who is directly behind her—so I slowly trail past the blueberries and the orange juice. The glads are just ahead. Surely, she won’t grab a bunch for herself, will she? My heart skips a beat as she lingers next to the display. If she reaches for a bunch, my plan will be foiled. I watch her eyes as she rolls past the long stalks banded in colorful array. I see a sadness roll over her face as if a mist had drifted in from the rows of moistened lettuce. Her mouth, so often bright with a soft smile, is taciturn. She turns and heads for the shelves of bread.

A moment of doubt falls over me. Maybe I’m being too cavalier with the raw wounds of the break up. Or is it a break up, after all? Life gets so messy when we entangle ourselves with others’ expectations. Perhaps, I’m being pushed away just enough to be given a wide berth to display my need for the other. But is that really her style or am I recalling the drama of an earlier entanglement? Maybe I should abandon this farce and wander down to another grocery and pick up my basketful of items in solitude. But a chance for romance is not to be squandered, even in the sunset of a sweet good-bye.

So I abandon the cart by the ferns and grab a double bunch of glads. I hide behind the other shoppers until she makes the turn at the fish counter. But she isn’t going left. She is doing a complete turnabout and heads back my way. I suddenly fall to my knees in front of the French loaves. She is two feet away, just on the other side of the rye. The woman beside me is beginning to grow nervous. The moment is falling apart. What am I doing here, I begin to ask? In Ghost, this other woman would not be able to see me at all. It would be so much smoother on celluloid. Perhaps romance has betrayed me again.

So I cash in the suspense and pop up in front of her over the breads and hold out the glads—water dripping on the cellophane wrap. “Here,” I say, to the great relief of the other shoppers around me. “You forgot these.”

The look of terror leaves her face and the eyelids fall again in pain. But she smiles and tilts her head and her shoulders drop. I place the bouquet in her cart and put my arms around her. She melts into me in that sweet way I have come to miss. She is at a loss for words. And I am relieved the moment has been pulled back from near-collapse.

There is not much more to say. We manage a little smile and inhale the sweet scent of the last glads of this all-too-short season.

Chris Schroder

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