I peered through the bridge gate. It was a golden rose. Funny. You never see golden roses randomly. But there it was. A golden rose with the most graceful petals. I crouched down and tenderly rubbed one between my thumb and fingers. It was like velvet but teeming with life despite having already been plucked. The intensely gold petals reached out to me like self-assured, delicate fingers, merging together into an ornate palm, all supported by a strong, emerald arm. Looking at them made me feel more confident somehow but still reminded me how small and weightless I was compared to the bridge on which I was standing.
Hoping it was somehow extending from a magical vine that had survived the smog, rattling, and chorus of harried curses from road rage, I stuck my fingers between the grates, feeling for a root and finding only the metal buzzing back. No trace of a beanstalk. The rose was precariously balancing on one of the tiny pieces of metal. An urgent fear suddenly sprang from me that if I didn’t snatch it up, the humming of the bridge would move it just enough that it slipped through the bridge and to the river below. Gingerly, I pulled it from the grate and, ignoring the occasional sigh of other pedestrians stepping around me, stood up with it, turning the stem between my fingers and imagining a pinwheel.
It couldn’t have been perched that precariously and been there long. I looked around me at the stream of heads flowing along the bridge’s footpath for one that wasn’t looking down at a phone or caught in conversation with a companion–for somebody who had cared enough about the rose to place it so carefully but with either the disregard or calculated intention of designating a space with such heavy foot traffic, knowing it was like balancing over a blend, ready to be blended into a polluted river. Maybe an Instagram photographer going for an urban secret garden vibe. Nobody stuck out.
Who would take so much time to place a rose like that and yet leave it with such an uncertain, and likely unattractive future? Adienne and Bill walked up to me.
“Ey, watcha got?” Bill asked, glancing down at my hand delicately cupping the flower while she twisted the city map between her fingers.
“Rose.” Adrienne peered over my arm silently.
“Uh. Okay.” Bill uncrinkled the map and studied a nearby section.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Waiting on you to exit whatever magical moment you’ve created in your head.”
“Not magical.” I said, “But look at this perfect rose. I feel like somebody left it here to be found.”
“Like a scavenger hunt?” Adrienne mused.
“No, like for me.”
Bill looked over at Adrienne and rolled her eyes. Adrienne smirked lovingly and shrugged her shoulders, “American exceptionalism.”