I remember the first time I met Sheldon in Melville. It was December, 2019, just before Christmas. He was walking with purpose along 7th Street, carrying a bunch of the prettiest daisies I’d ever seen. I was intrigued by this man who was clearly on his way to a rendezvous.
Love is so beautiful, I thought. Whoever the woman is, she’s lucky.
I saw him again a day or so later, carrying a pot plant. A Poinsettia, to be precise. I pointed him out to a friend, telling her the whole ‘love story.’
‘Look at that romantic guy,’ I said, ‘taking flowers to his girlfriend.’
‘Fabulous,’ she replied.
And then he came over to where we were sitting, and asked if we would like to buy the plant.
How silly of me not to realise he was a flower seller. And had I looked closely, I would have noticed that he was a pretty down-and-out flower seller. Old clothing, broken shoes, one lonely pot plant.
We said no thanks but next time.
The next time was at Poppy’s Restaurant. It was at a memorial after a terrible, senseless, and still unsolved, New Year’s Eve drive-by shooting. The community had gathered to light candles, pay their respects, hold each other and remember the dead.
Amongst all the flowers that people had left behind, was a Poinsettia.
I knew immediately it was Sheldon’s. There was something incredibly touching about this man, who had very little, leaving his plant behind.
I’ve seen him a few times since then.
I saw him on the afternoon before lockdown, where he seemed to be scrambling around. Maybe for a place to stay, maybe for something more. He had a pretty desperate looking pot plant in hand.
And then again many weeks later, when we moved from lockdown level 5 to 4 to 3 and there was some life back on the street.
He looked the same. But now he was carrying fabulous, bright, beautiful flowers. Orange and yellow and blue and red and pink, and I asked if I could take a pic and would it be okay if I posted it on social media.
He said of course and I did, and I also bought myself some flowers.
In the same way that in the beginning I hadn’t realised Sheldon was down-and-out, I hadn’t realised the flowers were artificial.
I sometimes see things but I do not always notice things.
My friend Gilda in Australia notices things. She asked me to buy a generous bunch and gift them to a friend.
I gave Sheldon money. And set up a flower rendezvous.
Doing business with someone who has no address and no phone is tricky. The flower handover hasn’t quite worked out. Missed meetings, late meetings, thorny succulents and the offer of a wall clock instead. It wasn’t quite what any of us had in mind.
Then again, life isn’t what any of us had in mind.
When I see Sheldon in the streets he tells me he is still going to get the flowers.
Gilda is okay waiting. I am okay waiting.
I read that if you inhale the scent of flowers, real or not, just one breath, it is good for your mental health. That the scent is filled with goodness.
That all you need is goodness.
We just gotta take the time, which maybe we do in lockdown 5,4,3,2,1, to find it.