The stigma was always the most interesting part of a flower to me. It was never due to its reproductive importance or some deep-seated feminist sentiment, but rather because of its functionality. The stigma serves as a gateway, one through which precious pollens are delivered and sent to the ovaries within the flower’s central pistil, a structure surrounded by its petals. When I’d seen the stigma in diagrams and drawings in science class, it was just an indistinguishable shape with a thick, smudged outline. Seeing it on a real plant was much different. One that always lingers in my mind’s eye is that of a pink lily, a triangular structure with a deep yellow color that evokes images of honey-turned-cream. It held the center throne of the lily’s display of beloved petals as if it were the heart of the plant, beating with the lifeblood of its posterity. Its yellowish surface was covered with a sticky coating for the purpose of rehydrating dry pollen for fertilization, but to me it was like magic, like it could give life to everything it touched. If the most beautiful flowers happened to have the most effective pistils, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Not many would be keen to hear inner thoughts like these, not even my own mother. Especially not my own mother. She would rather me go to and fro school quietly, to bring up any kind of jargon if only to recite the rote passages and bland fact bits I’d been force-fed in class. She values my education but only to the most surface-level degree. Like many other “old adolescents”, I don’t have the slightest clue of what she wants for my future, and from what I can gather, neither does she.
My mother chimes in and interrupts my self-exposition. “Look Lucy, they’re hiring. I think this would be a great job for you. Grocery stores have flexible hours, you know, and this would be a good first job to get you started.”
I follow her hand as her index finger points towards the jerking automatic doors to a bright orange sign, inscribed with “Currently Hiring”, plastered to the wall and glistening as I try to will it away.
I reply with, “I don’t know about that.”
“Oh, it’s easy work. And I’m sure they’d hire you. These places tend to bring on cute girls your age.”
I can’t tell if she’s pitying me or if she’s hopelessly, utterly blind to how unsightly I am. If Keira Knightley were a lily, then I’d be a rafflesia.
Mother always gravitated towards the vegetables and fruits first. Through one convoluted coping mechanism or another, I find a way to enjoy the produce section. It’s colorful, what with the taut skin and glowing red hues of the hand grenade tomatoes, and the shifting green-screen shades of cabbage and okra lining the misty sprinkle machines. On some strange level I, somewhat shamefully, feel a bit of a connection with these crops. We both wait in limbo to change, or be changed. In both cases, what lies ahead could very well be the worst thing to ever happen to us. Though, unlike vegetables, I have the freedom to be forced to listen to incessant spouting about my procuring a job and making more friends.
Like a Ferris wheel motor, we pass rows and rows of freezer doors, all Heaven-lit cockpits full of frozen occupants with courses set to American suburbia. These cold aisles always arouse a bit of excitement from me. According to my mother’s ever-static routine, freezer doors mean we are nearing the end of this grocery shopping vexation. The thought of leaving this claustrophobic, homogenized cardboard cutout prison block inevitably overtakes my thoughts.
That is, until something vaguely familiar graces my peripherals in one wave of motion. Startled, I turn my head swiftly to confront it.
There’s nothing, save for an empty cart garnished by a bouquet.
Photography by Sumner McMurtry