The Syntax of Flowers

Abigail Mandlin

There’s something intrinsically depressing about eating cake at three in the morning. 

            Ice cream, you can get away with.  There’s never a bad time for ice cream.  But cake implies parties which then implies other people, and nobody eats cake with other people at three in the morning.

            Not this time anyway.

            The table feels a little bare with only one slice of cake unsymmetrically placed at the head, so she pours herself a glass of wine and sets it at the corner, feeling just a touch better about herself.  Because with the accompanying drink, it feels more like a meal and not the guilty binge in the middle of the night that it actually is.

            Fondant roses give way with the first bite—chocolate and cream and broken dreams—and for a moment, she just allows herself to feel.

*   *   *

Grocery List:

  • cake
  • ice cream
  • flowers(?)
  • Dr.’s appointment on Friday @ 10:30

                                               Thursday @ 9:30

*   *   *

Subject: Thank You for Your Application
Prosetry Submissions <>


The Prosetry Team sincerely thanks you for your application and for your continued support.  However, we’re sorry to say that we were unable to include you in this project.  We received many incredible applicants, and unfortunately, space constraints forced us to make hard choices.  We understand that it took a great amount of effort and courage to apply and wish you the best in your future endeavors.

—Prosetry Team

*   *   *

This is How to Be Okay

This is how to be okay:
You’re not.

You’re not,
You’re not,
You’re not.

And that’s okay.

*   *   *

            “Stop writing shit on the clock.”

            She stops.  Stares.  “I am not ‘writing shit on the clock.’  No one is here right now.”

            “But someone could be here right now,” he says, aggravatingly, imputatively.  “So stop it.”

            She slides her notebook under a second, more professional-looking notebook.  “Yes, sir.”

*   *   *

            “I want it to say ‘fuck you’ in flowers.”

            She meant to put that far more delicately, and yet, it just comes out of her mouth like that because she is apparently awful.

            The mousy florist looks at a loss, and she can hardly blame her for it.

            “Do you… want it to mean ‘fuck you’ in flower language?  Or do you want me to physically spell out ‘fuck you’ with flowers?”

            She blinks.  She hadn’t anticipated this.

            “Surprise me?”

*   *   *

            In the end, it only says fuck you in flower language—petunias for anger, yellow carnations for disdain, orange lilies for hatred—and she should probably send the florist a thank-you card considering she doesn’t harbor any particular affection for job hunting.

            Predictably, he loves them anyway because he’s apparently never searched a thing on the internet in his entire life.

*   *   *

Why Me

They say that you should live for others;
They say that you shouldn’t leave them alone.

But what they don’t tell you—
What they fail to mention—
Is that in the process of living,
The life you save might end up being your own.

*   *   *

            “It just… sucks, you know?”  She watches her therapist uncross her legs only to cross them again.  “I mean, I write and I write and I write, but it’s all so… meh.”

            The therapist adjusts her glasses.  Takes a pause.  “Is this really what you wanted to discuss with me today?”

            “Yes…?”  It doesn’t come out nearly as confident as she means it to.

            The scrawling of a pen.  “Listen… If this is really one of your main concerns…  I don’t think you need me anymore.”




            And just like that, it clicks.

*   *   *

            She cries.  She cries with how happy she is because why does she deserve to be this happy?  What about her is different today than it was a year ago?  A day ago?  An hour ago?

            But she’s done questioning miracles, so she sits before a keyboard and bleeds out a eulogy to her hour-ago self.

*   *   *

What You Do with Bad Memories

Someone stronger than me Will have to dig up what I have buried;

Someone stronger than me Will have to fight through the thorns and the brush.

Because where there was once scorched soil
I now tend marigolds,
And I don’t intend
To dig them up.

*   *   *

            And she is free.

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