People wait for upwards of a decade to see the titan arum bloom. For me, the event lined up with some much needed extra credit for my botany course. Everyone was gathered around the bucket sized pod, waiting for it’s arrival nine years in the making.
Like watching a rhino ballet dance the large petal gracefully unfurled. It had a certain regality to it. The green outside curled back to reveal a meaty dark burgundy. The perfume wafted through the green house. Some spectators had to leave, unable to cope with the smell. All I could do is think of the flowers my grandpa grew in his basement.
Everything about that flower reminded me of Grandpa Harvey. He kept the door to the basement locked. He always told us that his flowers were too rare to leave outside or let most people close to. Grandma always bragged that grandpa made the most beautiful flowers. One day, I saw the padlock missing from the basement door.
I had to see them. I wouldn’t touch and he’d never be the wiser. The basement was pitch black, but I braved the stairs. I pulled the overhead string and a few old fluorescent lights flickered on with a few cracks. The smell was overwhelming and I reveled in it. The taboo of seeing Grandpa’s creations made them better than perfect.
The petals were pink and a dark red on the inside with white stamens, the stems hard and white. The petals were stretched tight and varied from tan to green to black on the underside. I couldn’t resist, I snuck up close to get a better smell. Red nectar pooled inside the bloom. Then I heard heavy footsteps on the old staircase, and the crack of my Grandpa’s thick leather belt.
I hadn’t thought of it in years. It must have been blocked out, but Grandma and Grandpa were both gone now. My brain started putting pieces together.
I nudged the girl standing next to me, snapping pictures. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
She grimaced at me, “It’s interesting to experience, I guess.”
“I’m Bill, would you like to go get a drink?”
She hesitated, “I’m Iris. I guess a little mind bleach might be good right now.”
“Iris… at a greenhouse. How serendipitous.”
I shot her a smile and knew she would make the perfect first rose for my collection.