Ritual

So you want to seduce her, you tell me? And you know that for a girl like her, flowers just won’t do. At least no ordinary dozen of roses, or those stargazer lilies mama used to love so much we’d have to pick them up on our way home from church every Sunday. No. A girl like her likes flowers like her; broody, awkward, strange. 

She likes orchids. The kind that don’t do too well in tight spaces or with too many faces around them. She’s smitten by Birds of Paradise, so much so that when you bring them to her door one evening, feet shuffling at her doorstep, she’ll forget to tell you that in her backyard, dozens of them have built homes next to the ivy creeping up the stone walls. The same ivy she has talked about trimming for months now, but can’t seem to get herself to because wild things should be left wild. Untamed. Unbroken. 

She’s not like papa, who couldn’t resist taking his shears to the small garden that divided itself on either side of our entryway. Bursting with yellow star grass, rosemary, primrose, peppermint and the best rose bushes in the entire neighborhood, the garden was papa’s most prized possession–after us and mama. Every Sunday, after he had neatly cut the edges off mama’s lilies and placed them in one of the vases, he would tend to his garden. Knees in dirt, cooing his plants into perfection with the soft clip, clip, clip of his shears. 

What is that? Yes, I am getting quite carried away. Of course she likes nice dinners! But who doesn’t like a good meal—the kind that satiates your appetite and senses in one seating? Besides, if you get it right, she might just remember that, 

“on the right night and
under the right light
any idea can seem like a good one…”

(1)

Even love.

Why do you look surprised? Of course she’s read Yrsa Daley-Ward, sat with her words in her breath and on her lap. Did you think you were the only one who lapped up the insides of that plenteous red book under moonlight and across cities? Your body bumping against the train’s seat, heart thumping as you sat next to a passenger who suddenly resembled,

 

“… the tall dark stranger
those warnings prepared you for.”

(2)

Red bone against white salt sit on her dresser, hip to hip, like the two sisters she imagines Nayyirah and Yrsa to be. Sometimes she likes to imagine them creating together, sitting in living rooms filled with light and angular furniture, Nayyirah bringing a teacup to her lips, tea string still dangling over its edge, while Yrsa fidgets a notebook on her lap, moving her mug over the coffee stains to her left.

And did you know that much like you, on those crisp fall mornings when she found her pen couldn’t move over its pages and you found your fingers couldn’t find the right words, she too had turned to ritual?

 

“with
the water bowl balancing
on my thighs

she soaked the flowers

until
they become words”

(3)

Then she had written.
And you had created.

 

But where was I? Yes, yes, take her to dinner. Somewhere nice. One of those places where the waiters appear at your side before you can lift your head to catch their eye. But not so nice that she glosses over the menu in a succession of bitten lips and crossed legs, trying to find the one item whose ingredients she can fully identify. No, not those kinds of places. They make her nervous and when she gets nervous, the hand holding her wine glass gets heavy as it tilts towards her mouth. And when she reaches for the bread basket, she sometimes tips the whole thing over setting off alarms that send her arms in all directions as your table explodes in commotion. Really, all she wants is to be somewhere comfortable.

A girl like her likes familiarity. She likes that oversized couch that sits in the corner of your living room, feet tucked under her while Nina Simone reaches across the room and asks the very question that sits on your tongue.

 

Do I move you, are you willin'
Do I groove you, is it thrillin'
Do I soothe you, tell the truth now

 

She’s the kind of girl who wants to hear you say “no,” to taking her home after your first kiss because she knows that electricity can be spurred out of thin air. And what a shame to waste all that energy. She’s the kind of girl who likes to watch you fuss over her dinner in your kitchen. Giggling over how you lay the plates on your dinner table and tell her “it’s ready!” Or when you sit on her kitchen counter, socked feet dangling over her cupboards, as she makes you the only thing she knows how to make well; coffee.

But I am getting carried away with all this talk of bread baskets and finding the right night to soothe and groove each other. What I mean to say, quite simply, is this: if you mean to seduce her, you must do it with words. Not the slick ones that roll off tongues before they have been fully tasted. The other more gentle ones dug from that place that hesitates before it speaks. That place that knows you are each other’s only for the time you have. So tell her. Tell her now. 


(1) yrsa daley-ward. "artichokes." Bone.
(2) yrsa daley-ward. "intro." Bone
(3) nayyirah waheed. "ritual." Salt.

Feature image by Emily McCartney