I admired her habitually.
The first time I saw her, she was watering the rich red tulips outside her window. She gazed down at them and the thick eyelashes of hers fluttered downwards. She looked contented and shy- watering the plants as a duty to the observers walking along the streets, she dared not to burden them with an unsightly flowerbed. The second time I saw her, she was in line at the bakery. She was furrowing her bushy eyebrows in contemplation over the sweet breads, but she went with the dark rye bread instead. The third time I saw her it was the afternoon and she was napping on the desk in her kitchen- her face peaceful and the cigarettes in her ash tray cold.
After that it became habit. I would make sure to wake up earlier than her to catch a glimpse of her watering her tulips while wearing her silent morning eyes. I set up my breakfast on my balcony before she set her tea and asked her about her day. We ate breakfast together (but separately). She was my secret pleasure, one I could keep polished and untainted by the confusions of my regular life. She was the most simple thing I had, with her simple voice and simple gaze.
I sat on the balcony smoking, wondering what she would think of me if she knew that I always thought of her at this point in the night. The point where I have just finished tidying up the day off my body and the uncleanliness layered upon my delicate skin, only to go back out into the night to tarnish the delicate femininity of it. I figured she wouldn't think much of it, strolling along un-bothered. I put my cigarette out.
She did not water the plants early that morning. She did not wake until afternoon, actually, and when she did it was not like she was awake at all. She sniffled pathetically and sneezed vehemently. I cooked a pot of red lentil soup and added the mint from my flower bed. I went to her building and walked up the echoing marble stairway to her door. I knocked kindly. She thanked me repeatedly for the soup and fell asleep on her couch as I cleaned the remaining dishes and watered her beloved tulips before silently leaving. Her breathing was silent.
I rooted up all my basil, mint and thyme. I placed them all into pots to sit on the table. In the flowerbed, I planted yellow tulips. I figured that since she only ever saw those red tulips, she might enjoy a change of scenery. I hoped that she would see my action in this kind and generous way, instead of the truth of what it was. I planted all the tulips selfishly to steal a part of her for myself- I did not ask for it nor did she permit me to do so, I just took it. I took it with the intention of keeping it for myself.
I feel shame in this act- but no regret.
In my isolating business attire I rushed out to work to find the orange tulips on my door step. Sharp inhale. I silently undressed and changed back into the calm of the day, and took care to plant the tulips in the flowerbeds. She did the same that morning, and we passed the day with idle chat. I went over for tea that evening and we smoked and talked about the weather.
That night was something completely of our own- it was our night rushing through the lingering smoke rising from the cigarettes we smoked together.