In a few days, Christmas bells will be ringing, but this is not a story about Christmas. This is a story about what Christmas brings. The feeling of belonging and flowers.
Ana sells flowers on the 37th Street of New York. She says that single stems and custom bouquets are her specialities, but I have never bought flowers from her, so I can’t vouch. However, every time I bring her a single stem of Tulip from Rockefeller Centre, she blushes. Who gives flowers to a florist? She says, and I would defend myself by saying, everyone should.
She spends her days giving flowers to strangers with a smile on her face. They would pay her, but I know that is not why she does it. It is her mission to fill the loneliest corners with flowers. Flowers bring serenity, she told me. I grabbed my phone to google what it meant. Serenity meant calmness. I must have come across this word while I was preparing for GRE. I must have, but time fades away the memories. It has been three years since I finished my Ph.D. and joined as an assistant professor at New York University. Now, when I meet Ana, I always greet her with a single stem of Tulip. Just like her, even I want to fill the world’s loneliest corners with flowers. The corners of our hearts that pretend to be happy.
Ana was raised in foster care. She had a lonely childhood that she seldom wants to talk about. On the inside, no matter how much I deny, it has been a lonely life for me as well in this foreign land. The coldness can make you numb. The weather comes and goes, but a hundred thousand people living around you that make no notice of your existence can leave you cold from inside.
Life is crazy in New York. Everyone is running behind their dreams, and nobody has got time for anybody. And then there is Ana. On my first day in New York, when I was unable to find my way to the university, it was Ana whose eyes rested on mine. It was the morning before Christmas, and she made sure that I reach where I belong. She locked her store and showed me the way. She said to me, no one should be lost & lonely, no one should be parted from where they belong. Thousands of miles away from home, I felt at home because of Ana. I felt belonged because of Ana. The next day was Christmas, so I bought a single stem of Tulip from the Rockefeller Centre and gave it to Ana. She said, who gives flowers to a florist? I said, everyone should.
For years Ana has been a part of my life. I see her every day. Every evening I make sure to bring a single stem of Tulip from Rockefeller Centre for Ana. Who buys the flowers for the florist from the florist herself? Not me.
Newspapers read that this was the coldest Christmas in the history of New York. Although this had nothing to do with my story.