Flower Girl

Alyssa Oursler

On New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, I am waiting to board a bus that will drive me towards the ocean. A woman and two young children are waiting too. And the woman is, more or less, telling the children to get their shit together, because the bus is about to arrive. 

The children—a boy and a girl—won’t stop fighting. The little girl is a bit older and has a cheetah print backpack. I have my headphones in, so I don’t hear the origin of the argument, but I watch as the mom scolds the girl and picks up the boy. He cuddles his head into her bosom, closes his eyes. 

There is a seat between mother and daughter, and strangers take turns filling it. An elderly lady with a suitcase sits down. The boy’s eyes remain closed. The little girl starts silently crying. I'm watching people from out my window. The elderly lady leaves. 

I see a man in a blazer and a hat like a paper boy would wear. He is dancing at one of the bus stops. Not crazy dancing, more like a slow-motion electric slide, and it makes me smile. A couple stops later, there’s a different man in a different hat, this hat reminding me of the kind worn by rows of men dancing with canes. There are big flowers in the hat. He is carrying a big bag. And he boards our bus. Intrigued, I pause my music. 

The little girl is still crying but stops as he approaches. Do you want a flower? he asks and hands her a light purple plastic flower before she can answer. She and her brother, his eyes now open, are mesmerized. The man asks the little girl if he can sit next to her; she says yes. He asks the little boy if he wants a flower too, then pulls one off his hat and hands it to him. He asks their names, speaking as if they were adults, as if this were all totally normal. 

By this point, Brandon and Tatiana’s mom is smiling too, perhaps out of wonder. She is looking at this man like he is some kind of guardian angel. Brandon says his favorite color is blue; the flower the angel has given him is yellow. The angel tells Brandon that he can tell blue is his favorite color but points out the yellow detail on Brandon's jacket and explains that the yellow flower contrasts blue nicely. Do you know what contrast means? he asks. 

Tatiana tells her mom that her flower needs water, but the angel assures her it will be fine until they get home. It’s a hearty flower; feel its stem, he says. She nods. As the angel turns back to Brandon, she bends the stem a bit to test it. 

Somehow it comes up in conversation that Tatiana is a princess. The angel says that’s wonderful, as he is in fact a prince. That means your mom is a queen, too, he says. The royal family remains mesmerized. 

The angel prince gets off a few stops later. As he carries his bag down the steps, Tatiana yells after him: What’s your last name? And I swear to God, he goes: Grimm! G, R, I, M, M—like the brothers! as he does a magical wave good-bye. 

A few stops later, another little girl gets on the bus with her father and sits diagonally from the royal family in the other direction. She is holding two brand-new toys: a pink tea set and a pink house. But even as the father scoops his only child onto his lap, this little girl can’t take her eyes off Brandon and Tatiana’s flowers.

Alyssa Oursler is a writer and artist based in Minneapolis.