was what the the cashier said as we entered the automatic sliding door, my hand in his pocket. A few steps closer, she murmured “so sweet,” the sparkles in her eyes above the mask following us, glinting appreciation.
I wore a dress with floral patterns to mirror the botanical garden in flushing. We found one massive, lone, blossoming Sakura tree. On our way back, flushing buzzed with life, a sort of low hum that was subdued, content, flattened, fitted onto America. We passed this Hong Kong goods store that had everything strange and familiar.
And all the times those four words could seem flippant, nosy, or uneasy, this was not the time. Coming from this short haired, middle-aged Chinese lady wearing a green Hong Kong grocery store vest, in the outskirts of Queens, these words poured onto me like sweet improv harmonies, not because they were complements, but because they were complements.
They came like cold, fresh air after a 15-hour plane ride. Like sweet sugar rush, or how I imagined the summer favorite of my mom’s childhood: iced cane sugar water. Pure, unadulterated high.
Like finding that one, pink beckoning Sakura tree, when you look for something botanical, in a landscape just a bit behind its botanical mission, just a bit subdued, flattened, fitted.
My practiced apathy paused at not knowing what to do. I wish I said “hi beautiful” back, in the immediate, outpouring way that these words vibrated my core, subdued to a low hum. I didn’t know how lucky I was to remember unfiltered love and aimless walks. To see a Sakura tree, on my birthday, with a Vermonter who rarely saw Sakuras in his life.