Allison Mass
Allison Mass, NIU

Allison Mass graduated from Barrington High School where she worked with the Nuance Literary Magazine, the COLTS Leadership Group, and National Honors Society. She is also involved with the Honors Program, Circle K International, and Intramural Soccer. She enjoys running, reading, playing piano, and listening to music. She intends on becoming an elementary school teacher so she can teach children how to read. Writing “The Rose” was significant for Allison, providing healing as she documented an important time in her life.

I lay the roses in the long cardboard box today. I tightly wind the yarn on the sides to secure the lid and squeeze it into my closet. It’s the night before I leave for college, and I don’t want to return on Thanksgiving or probably sooner, to find them sitting on my dresser—a reminder of what I will have forgotten.

*

He fumbled for words as we stepped out of the theater into the freezing air that night. We waved goodbye to his friends, and I said, “Nice to meet you!” He said the same, which was odd because I was pretty sure he had met them before.

When we made it to his car he said, “I’ve got something for you.”

“Oh you do, do you?” I grinned.

He gently pulled the pink rose out of the backseat where it had been resting, so as not to be bent. “Will you be my girlfriend?”

I smiled, “Yes, of course.”

*

We are finally moved in, and my roommate and I are sitting at our desks kicking our feet. Outside our window, students are making their way down to the Husky Bash. Though it doesn’t look like the most enticing event ever, we hear they give away free stuff, and we’ve been told that as college students you must always follow free stuff. So we do.

*

On my eighteenth birthday, he took me to The Cheesecake Factory. We found a spot in the waiting area, and a few minutes later a couple of rosy ladies walked in. There was barely any room left on the couch, but the most outgoing of the bunch winked and asked, “Mind if we squeeze in?” So we scooted over as far as we could, and sooner or later we were waiting there, kind of staring straight ahead, as that’s all personal space would allow. “Nothing wrong with being too close, right?” the lady smiled at us. We lightly laughed back, and, out of the corner of my eye, I could tell she was still looking at us. Perhaps she was recalling fond memories. That was fine by me. When he got up to return our buzzer, she nudged my arm, squinted her eyes, nodded her head, and grinned in his direction. And I agreed. That night he gave me the second rose, and I put it in my vase with the other one, seven months dry by then, but I’d never seen anything lovelier.

*

So, here we are at the Husky Bash, and, yes, there is a lot of free stuff. I’m balancing four t-shirts on one arm and cradling magnets, pencils, flyers, and etc. in the other. Luckily, my roommate spots a booth that is handing out their free items in bags. It’s the We Care Pregnancy Clinic. Hey, it doesn’t even matter, we say to each other—they’ve got bags. Turns out, this is also the place where everyone’s been getting roses, too. We each grab one, and finally we can pour everything into a bag. The roses stick out the top, and we joke that they’re from our boyfriends.

*

It was our one year anniversary, and there we were sitting in my driveway seriously considering spending it apart. It was the untimely culmination of a long few weeks. He had left the headlights on and the car running, and those stupid, squeaky windshield wipers of his were still going back and forth, back and forth. “So am I just going to leave then?” he asked. To be honest that’s really what I wanted, and I know that’s what he wanted too. We were within seconds of that actually happening, but it was our anniversary. So he came in. He didn’t know that I had saved the roses, and as I ever so softly set them on the table for our centerpiece, the driveway seemed far away.

*

Her alarm clock sends me shooting straight out of bed—it’s the first time I’ve heard it. Before we know it, we’ve been shuttled over to the Academic Convocation where there is an overwhelmingly large amount of cheering and singing going on for the morning. After the ceremony, we shuffle along with the crowd and before we know it, we are smack dab in the middle of Friday Fest. There’s booth upon booth of free things; there are flyers swirling overhead, free pens in our face, and pamphlets under our feet. Sure enough, here’s the We Care Pregnancy Clinic again. They yell above the noise, “Want some information and a rose!” My roommate and I shrug at each other, why not? Back in our room, we sort through what we’ve accumulated at all of these bashes and fests. We each have two beautiful roses, and we hang them on our still empty bulletin boards. I hope she doesn’t notice me staring at them.

*

Every so often I’d change the water in the dead roses’ vase. Standing over our utility sink at home making sure no one was around, I’d take a warm, damp paper towel and run it down their stems. I’d untangle the petals that had fallen from the twigs and rest them on the beach towel I had folded on top of our dryer. I’d scrub the vase clean and rinse it until I was certain there were no suds left. Then I’d settle the roses back in, arranging the fallen petals into the vase too. I’d put the full vase back on my dresser and turn it just right so the roses would bend over my bed, as they had since when they were still pink.

*

In the spirit of being social, we leave our door held open with a scrap piece of cardboard, and before long our neighbor from a few rooms down walks in. We get to talking, and he asks us how we met. My roommate and I look at each other, by now pretty used to answering this question. Directness has gone over best, “Um, through our ex-boyfriends.” We all chuckle, who would have guessed?

*

I never wanted to be in a relationship that was ended and restarted within the day. That was reserved for the weak, for fake relationships—not for me. But there I was in that freezing room Jewel has for flowers, standing in front of a bushel of pink roses. I picked out the best one, paid for it, and they tied a nice little ribbon around it for me. I knew it would be cheesy, giving it to him, but I hoped he would catch the symbolism. He didn’t. And the worst and hardest realization I’ve ever had to make was I didn’t care.

*

I’m remembering when I first met my roommate: double date, Buffalo Wild Wings, sitting across the table from each other, our boyfriends sitting to our rights. I’m remembering when she asked me if I wanted to be roommates, and how she may still not know that I was going to call her with the same question. I’m remembering all of the stories warning against rooming with someone you know, and how glad I am we never paid attention to them. I’m remembering phone calls, concerts, chocolate parties, laundry parties, cleaning parties, runs, late nights, not sleeping, and laughing. I’m also remembering late nights, clinging to the belief that something good will come of this, and I’m realizing that it has.

Published by Aaron Geiger

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