Cut pretty flowers from their stems

By: Rhys Swainston

* disclaimer – contains content that some may find upsetting

I walk past the café every day. There is a girl who works there to whom I am devoted. She is tall and thin, with short hair that sits tidily on her head. Her face is plain, like mine. There is nothing on it worth seeing, just like there is nothing worth seeing on mine. To describe it could suggest any girl or woman you will ever come across. White skin, green eyes, brown hair. Thin lips covering slightly yellowed teeth. A small brown mole in between her eyes. Anyone.

As I walk past for the second time today, she sees me and waves. She smiles too, but it’s for the customer she is serving, not me. Still, I return the wave, adding in my own smile. The difference is, there is no customer for me to be smiling at. My smile was for her alone.

I never go into the café. I’ve never gone to see her. She waves and smiles, because she is used to doing it. She sees me on my first walk of the day every time, though, she does not always see me on my second. I always go twice; once to see her and once to see the parks near my home. There are two that lie next to each other, two beautiful, complex little worlds in the midst of everything. The ponds and streams in them both glimmer in the sun as they wind their way through the growths of gorse and the spindle and the small osier trees that are dotted along the edges of the grass. Always different, always exciting. Even the grass grows in different shades and lengths, just clamouring for the attention of the passers-by, all too busy looking eagerly at their phones to notice the beauty around them. And then, in-between them, sits a dull, brown-walled café, just like a mole between two beautiful eyes. It’s ugly, and not intricate at all. That is why I will not go into it.

I love the parks, just as I love the girl in the coffee shop. She is beautiful. Not because of her face, nor her body. Nor is it even her personality, since I could tell you nothing about it. I love her because she has a life as intricate and detailed as anyone’s. It is as complex and full as a park. I may not know its secrets just as I do not know the secrets of the parks but they are there. The intricacy and the complexity of her life is enough. It should be enough for anyone.

She’s stopped waving now and finishes serving the customer coffee. I stop too, and peer through the dirty window. The girl she is serving has a life too, I now realise. There is a reason she is buying coffee here, just as there is a reason the girl in the café works there. Just as there is a reason for me to be walking on the road up to a park. And it may not be the reason that comes naturally to your mind.

I’m not here to admire; I’m done with just looking. Beauty is one thing, but what’s a beautiful flower good for if you can’t smell it? Hurriedly, my hands shaking, I walk up to the café door and push through it, my heart beating through my chest. She is there, the nameless pretty thing, and her eyes flick to me as I enter, before returning once more to the customer she is serving. I wait impatiently in line before my turn. Finally, after an age, I’m at the counter. She looks at me.

“What can I get you?” she drawls, almost as if she’s bored. That can’t be right, can it? It’s like a pretty flower not smelling very nice. I shiver with fear.

“… C…” is all I manage.

“What?” she drawls.

“C… Come out with me!” I blurt suddenly. Everyone turns to look at me. One eyebrow over her beautiful green eyes raises.


“Come out with me!” I say, far more confident this time, “Let’s go somewhere, do something. You’re beautiful and I don’t want you stuck here in the horrible old café! Let’s go somewhere pretty! Somewhere that matches your face!” Her small customer service smile drops.

“Fuck off!” she cries.

I leave, my fists clenched in rage. That wasn’t how it should be! That’s not how pretty people talk! Correction. That’s not how pretty people talk to other pretty people. It’s how they talk to me, and it burns me inside, like a knife carving through my very soul! Well, I can show them! Maybe beauty isn’t everything; my fingers dancing along the blade of my pocket knife seem to agree. Always carry a pocket knife around parks; it makes it easier to cut pretty flowers from their stems.

I wonder what the girl in the cafe will look like without her pretty petals…


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