My neighbour has a cherry blossom tree in her rear yard. I have a cherry blossom tree in my front yard. Both white, pristine as brand new handkerchiefs, joyous, eye-catching, like a painting come to life. When I see a cherry blossom I think of chords on the piano, major sevenths playing songs of love that should be happy but always have a little hint of the plaintive, a little bit of longing for something more.
There are days when I feel like a bit of rusting tin. Breaking down, breaking down in the sun and the wind. Orange and brown and black; holding no light. If you step on me with the weight of your heel I could split into filaments quickly absorbed into the earth.
You get used to it in the end – the darker days. There is a sick kind of familiarity to it which is good because it stops you from lapsing into melodrama like a heroine in a gothic novel stuck in a castle surrounded by iron gates and brambles who is constantly beating her brow and crying : Woe is me.
My neighbour with the cherry blossoms invited me in for coffee on Sunday. She had a man from work there – one of those irritating, politically correct academics who would argue all night that a kettle was a teapot if you let them. One of those people who must be right all the time; even if they offend or cause upset. Even if they are wrong.
When I am in a darker mood these sorts of people come out of the woodwork. It’s as if I’m being tested which annoys me because I think it’s bad enough to be depressed without having to deal with aggravating people at the same time. But it seems to be the way of things.
Anyway, my neighbour and I were talking of our cherry blossoms and her friend butted in with – Prunus serrulata – which is obviously the botanical name for the tree in full blown Latin and I have to say I really appreciate people knowing the Latin names for plants but it’s not something you go into a shop and ask for. Or use endlessly in everyday conversation.
I mean, can you imagine the response you would get to these questions/statements?
Excuse me, do you have a bunch of bellis perennis (daisies) for my sweetheart?
I think I will buy my mother a prunus armeniaca (apricot tree) for her birthday.
I only wear perfume scented with convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) because it makes me feel classy.
This jasminum multipartitum (starry flowering jasmine) is giving me asthma.
If the guy’s obsession with Latin wasn’t bad enough we started talking about 9/11 and I mentioned how sad it still is to think of it. The sense of disbelief that such a thing could happen in our world is incredibly strong. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been affected by it in some way.
This man, this tiresome man, then went off on a rant about how everyone focussed on 9/11 and no one thought about all the people who had died in Iraq or Afghanistan or Somalia or bloomin’ Outer Mongolia in the last ten years. I nearly committed murder in that moment because nothing gets on my goat more than thinking I have to justify feeling sorrow or empathy for things. Just because I feel for those who suffered on that day doesn’t mean I also don’t feel for those who suffered anywhere else or have suffered since. What I don’t get is how someone develops such a warped way of looking at things. How does someone formulate such a perverse point of view?
I started to argue with him but it was like arguing with one of those types who believe in Intelligent Design – you know – that evolution doesn’t exist and the dinosaurs were in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. My son was discussing Intelligent Design at school the other day and made me laugh with his take on it. ‘Intelligent Design is a euphemism for I Am An Imbecile,’ he said. Sometimes kids just tell it like it is.
Anyway (mark two), arguing, irritating, you-are-about-to-get-a-dessert-fork-in-your-jugular, Latin guy then went on to tell me I had no right to feel upset about the events of 9/11. NO right.
So I had to leave. It just wasn’t worth it.
On the way home the sun was shining on the cherry blossoms. They glowed, as if they’d been polished. White on white, clean as freshly-laundered sheets.
They spoke to me. Sang to me. Let me feel what I want to feel. The high parts and the lows. I don’t mind the rusting tin in my head when I can see the cherry blossoms. They let me feel what I want. Let me know what it is to catch the break of another’s heart so that I may grow and become better than I am. Let me breathe.
Without a hint of Latin in sight.