Anticipation: III. Lavender
Ishaan’s lavender bloomed a month ago, maybe more. I call it Ishaan’s, but it precedes him, having taken root long before he rented the house. At night, the alley half-light washes out the dusty purple of its flowers. Seeking its shade, I sometimes reach out to break off a branch. I slide the stem through the unfastened buttonhole of my shirt (I am almost always more formal at Ishaan’s) to give myself something like a boutonnière. At the whim of a passing fancy, I play the part of the flâneur.
Lavender is what we wish would linger. In my mother’s garden, where other plants grow, I read that it is better to cook with dried lavender flowers than fresh ones. I think of the way they hang, brown and pale. Lavender names a color; how remarkable that it becomes more fully itself as it grows less so. At my collar, the blossoms turn brittle as the stem slowly toughens. Nevertheless, it will still be there when I remove my shirt at the end of the night.
Lavender is what will not linger. Picking my shirt off the floor in the morning, I can no longer detect the flowers’ subtle scent. Rub them between your fingers: They are not yet dry. Feel the way they crumble against your skin. What else remains? Just this, the tactile sensation of tiny petals particulating under pressure. For a moment, the smell returns, but it goes again as quickly as it appears.
These days, I carry a sachet of dried lavender with me almost everywhere, carry it against a future of uncertain sensations, unknowable smells. It is a small thing, a linen pouch dyed pale blue with indigofera. My mother bought it for me when I complained that the lavender soap would not linger. I, in my turn, bought the soap in memory of a lavender ice cream that ice cream I ate once in Ithaca. It was imperfect, that ice cream, the syrup ill strained, but it stayed with me. Take me back to the creamery and I would have eaten it all.
I love lavender because it does not linger. Cancer lingers. We can only ever survive it, remain vigilant. Lavender haunts us, vanishes, blooms again. What do I anticipate? A color, a smell, a texture, a taste. Lavender. Just that.