It is late, humid, and all day the clouds have been looming above, withholding imminent rain. The night was supposed to be wonderful but small or large obstacles loom in the way, unfortunate events and the approaching deadlines of the future seem to suck the life out of you with each passing minute. You’re angry, or sad, or tired, or maybe you feel the intensity of too much emotion all at once, just overwhelmed. You feel helpless, want to scream in a public place, tear buildings apart, wash the streets in a flood, push over the steel girder skeletons of buildings barely formed. Here’s your mission:
1. Take a deep breath. Breathing brings you to the present when your head is spiraling off your shoulders. If you’re with a friend, commiserate together. Scream a little. Kick your legs and arms like crazy. Yell in public and make a scene. Breathe fire together. Take another breath.
2. Here’s your first option: you can go home, be mad off and on in remembering whatever little irritant set you off and let it rattle your bones, echo inside your skull, for the next 3-7 days. Over the next several years maybe it’ll still make you mad, a small annoyance, a mosquito you swat away from your ears. Maybe you’ll warm to it, and like a cactus you’ll think it’s kind of funny. It’s kind of cute. It’s almost lovable in how ridiculous it looks, covered in needles with a secret soft inside.
3. Your second option: Go buy 20 roses. Bring your friend with you. Strategize together. Split them into two bouquets of 10 and walk down the streets. You’ll look at strangers in a new way, calculating, quietly nodding your head in the direction of individuals who pass you without a second thought, whispering, “That one?” At first you are too cautious. Everyone deserves a rose and no one needs one. Everyone is drunk and smiling and stumbling down the streets and you want to be in the subways, where its hot and humid and tumultuous and there are tired weary faces waiting to be brightened. You and your friend walk further.
4. The first is one is hard, like ripping off a bandaid. You attempt to pass it to an old woman supported by two older gentleman but they are barricades surrounding her. Your friend jumps in front. They think you are selling something. But she smiles, accepts the rose. It gets easier. A man on a bike, awake and delivering food into the early morning. A girl who glances at the roses but sleepily walks on. You are running and jumping ahead, each rose is an electric shock of adrenaline. Some people, a man with headphones on, a girl at a bus stop, wordlessly accept them in confusion, smiling only after you pass them. You don’t need to wait. Keep moving.
5. Two teenagers chase you, catch you from behind. The girl asks you for a rose and your friend instantly outstretches her hand. The girl accepts it, smiles, and hands it back. “I just wanted to give you a rose. I think what you’re doing is great. We followed you for several blocks, to catch up with you.” You force her to take the rose back. You wish them a good night. Your friend smiles. It’s right, it feels right.
6. You see homeless people on the street. You realize this is small, insignificant, a drop in the water, a moment in time that will pass and leave little to no impression for anyone else but you, and maybe your friend. You think of all the people in the world, the people right in front of you, the people asleep on the street and wonder if it’s misguided, too naive. But then you pass out three roses, one to each security guard, and they call after you as you race ahead. You and your friend are plotting. It needs to be bigger. It needs to happen again, tomorrow, next week, it needs to be for the people asleep on the street, packs of food and necessities, it needs to have words attached to it, paper messages, love letters from strangers, you and your friend can be anonymous messengers in the night of sincere good will, can direct it into shadowy corners of the world.
7. The last rose your friend gives to a man in a corner store beside a train station and he smiles and waves, looking at the rose with wonder as you slip away. You and your friend feel elated, pretend that you are both being electrocuted as you walk down the stairs, shaking and shuddering and grinning like mad. You part ways on the same train going in opposite directions. The commute is long but the trains are fast and you look into tired faces, look at the weathered hands of an old man who coughs quietly beside you, wishing roses were infinite, wishing there were more roses, there could never be enough, 7 billion roses. Walking home on sore feet feels like floating and the faces of strangers are now bright shining headlights, your mouth twitching in and out of a jittery smile, knowing the night will be long and sleepless but full of illuminated shining pillars of being.