A while back, my and my dear best friend Clarissa were talking about a picture she snapped at a park. A single rose laid on a bench. We talked about the meanings behind it and where it came from. Our conversation led to an epiphany. She’s a poet. I’m a writer. We should both take this rose and write about it. First up, I have her beautiful take on the picture.
It’s Sunday evening, and I want to spend some time with my boyfriend. I put some vegetable trimmings in a plastic baggie and we head to the park. I want to feed the ducks, he wants to play pokemon. It’s a good compromise. It rained earlier, so the ducks are digging in the ground for worms. I share from my baggie with a little girl who seems more scared of the ducks than anything else and then we walk a loop around the pond. One of his hands is in mine, the other holds his phone. He almost catches a squirtle, but it breaks out and runs away. We walk up through the rose garden, underneath the arches. On one of the benches, there sits a single rose. A half-full Pepsi bottle is on the ground next to it. I look around, but don’t see anyone close by. I pick up the flower and hold it to my nose. It smells good, but the end of the stem is starting to brown. It’s been here a while. Forgotten. I picture a couple, walking through here like we are. He breaks the rules and picks her a flower. But why did she leave it behind? Maybe it wasn’t a couple. Maybe it was one person, and the rose held a memory. Maybe a young man walked through here and picked the flower for himself. He sat on the bench while the scent brought him back to times he’d nearly forgotten. Maybe he was so caught up in nostalgia he got up and wandered away through the rest of the garden. Maybe the memories were too bitter and not sweet enough to dwell on. Maybe he set the rose there on purpose, leaving it, his memories, and his soda bottle behind him.
I carefully place the flower back where I found it, taking care to leave it in the same way it was. I think about taking the Pepsi bottle with me to throw in the trash, but I guess I’m hoping the person who left it there comes back. For the bottle, the rose, and the memories that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Now for my version.
Jessica sat down on the park bench. Normally her lunch hour would be spent eating a small salad
in a meeting with boring men talking about boring statistics. Today was the first day in months
she had time all by herself, and it just happened to be the most beautiful spring day. She had
gotten a hot dog from the vendor right outside her office building and walked two blocks to the
entrance of the park.
Here on the bench she closed her eyes and took in the fresh smell of the trees. For a moment her
cares flowed away. Finally at peace she looked down at her hotdog and began to open the foil
wrapping. That’s when a glimpse of something red caught her peripheral vision. She hadn’t
noticed anything on the bench before she sat down, but now laid down gently next to her purse
was a beautiful long stemmed red rose. Jessica stashed her dog to the side and picked up the rose
to smell it. It was very fragrant, the petals were like silk, and the thorns had been carefully
plucked. This was no ordinary rose she thought. She looked all around and none of the nearby
people had roses. Maybe I just didn’t notice it before. She gently set the rose in her purse and ate
The next day, Jessica was swamped again with meetings as usual but she thought back to the
rose. Since she had placed it in a coffee cup the day before it was all she could think about. How
could the rose just suddenly appear?
It was a few weeks before Jessica was able to go back to the city park but she had done just as
she had before, gotten a hot dog from vendor and found the same bench. She was nearly finished
eating when an old lady with a big basket of roses appeared behind a tree. The old woman was
placing a rose on a bench much like the one Jessica was sitting on. She must have been in the
park that day. The old woman came closer to Jessica.
“Excuse me, ma’am, I couldn’t help but see you placing a rose on that bench over there.”
The old woman stopped and stared at Jessica.
Maybe she didn’t understand me? She pointed to the rose on the bench. “Over there, you’ve
placed a rose.”
The old woman looked at the bench. She then reached into her bag, pulled out a bright yellow
rose, handed it to Jessica and then began to walk away.
“Ma’am I didn’t mean I.. Hey!” When she realized the old woman was not paying any attention
and sat there dumb founded. Is she deaf? Does she speak English at all?
The middle of summer had come and Jessica was given a week’s vacation. She decided to take a
walk every day and made sure the park was in her journey. That’s when she discovered there
were roses scattered throughout the park on benches. That little old lady comes here every day to
put roses on benches, why? It wasn’t until Friday when Jessica saw the lady again. “Hi there, I’m
sure you don’t remember me but you’ve given me roses. I just need to know why you place them
The old lady smiled. She handed the bag of roses over to Jessica and started walking.
Dumbfounded once more, Jessica stood there a minute. The lady just kept walking and it took abit for Jessica to catch up. They continued the walk through the park and the old lady pointed to
benches that she wanted the roses on.
They continued down the streets, placing roses on bike racks and fences and door stoops. There
didn’t seem to be a pattern and the old lady never said a word. As dusk approached the roses
were gone. Jessica looked up as she placed the last rose on a bench and the old lady pointed to a
green house across the street. They walked in together and the old lady pointed to a table. Jessica
took this to mean that she should place the bag down there.
“Your name is Jessica, you work at the law firm.” The old lady smiled and sat down on a stool
near the table.
“How did you know that?”
“I keep an eye on the neighborhood. Being an old lady has its perks, you become friends with
everyone since everyone is so sympathetic. Like you. You didn’t have to help me today.”
Jessica giggled. “To be honest it was mostly to figure out why you were placing roses.”
“Ah, but those who’ve asked before aren’t persistent. I hand them a rose, they ask ‘why’ and
when there is no answer, they go about their day.”
“The law firm is a great job, but isn’t as interesting. So why?”
“To bring life to those around me. I watch this neighborhood, so solemn. I want happiness. That
first day that I laid eyes on you, your sad little hot dog on your lap, you didn’t seem so happy.
But every day since, you’ve had a smile on your face. From a simple rose.”
“You take care of this garden all by yourself?”
The old lady smiled again. “I had a helper once, but he found such happiness that he didn’t need
me anymore. Moved away.”
“That’s almost heartbreaking.”
“No dear, inspiring. He improved himself.”
Jessica thought for a minute. Who knew one simple act of kindness could create such an effect.
She smiled, “I’d like to help.”