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The Scent of Roses


The Scent of Roses

There are roses in my garden. I sit and breathe their fragrance as the
pale summer evening softly dips to night, remembering. I remember her
face. Not beautiful, not even extraordinary, but hers. The years have
rolled and ravaged but her face remains unlined in memory. My first love.
Oh, it's easy to say that now but back then, in the fecund hothouse of my
youth, I couldn't manage it.

She loved roses. And now, through the placid ripeness of age and summer
evenings, so do I. The floribundas and the hybrids, the ramblers and the
teas, I love them all. There is something in the swirls and folds of
petals, the dusky pinks and subtle reds that is quintessentially female. I
was so blind when I was young.

It was so long ago. We were seventeen. I saw only the immediate, she
saw roses. I can see it now in every perfect detail. The slow sweep of
the river, the solemn, ancient oak that watched over us. I had flung the
rug between the roots, brushing away the acorns with my foot. We were both
trembling. I quivered with anticipation, she with love. I unwrapped her
like a child opening a Christmas gift, all eager hands and excitement,
rough, exuberant. The present that she gave me would only be offered once
and she chose me.

Oh, I regret it now. Not the gift but the manner of its acceptance;
swift, frenetic, blundering. I know I hurt her but she made no sound.
Ramming my maleness into her, clutching, grasping, thrusting, sweating,
lost in the madness of the moment, I didn't see her at all, she was a
cipher. My eyes were filled with lust and conquest, hers held only love.

It was over quickly, of course. She smiled at me and traced her fingers
down my chest. Her face swam into focus and I felt stricken, ugly. A
sense of overwhelming loss engulfed me. Offered a flower, I had trampled
it to dust with bovine stupidity. She kissed me. "Was it good for you?"
was all she said. I couldn't hold her gaze. Words hovered out of reach
within my mind. I stretched a smile across my face and nodded. I hid
within her hair. It smelt of roses.

That was the last time I saw her. I hated her for what I'd done. It
sounds irrational now. It was irrational then. Only the sense of loss was
real within me. I didn't understand. I don't know what she thought but I
can guess. If only I could have explained. You see, the crime was mine
and mine alone. I didn't need her forgiveness, just my own. It rankles

Now I have found a kind of peace in the scent of roses.


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