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Queen of the Night

published: 2013-07-26

She shows up in front of our car. We are about to leave, my sister and I. She looks confused, is what I think. She is almost 80.
She asks whether we’re leaving or arriving, or are we the people she heard in the garden next door? The ones she didn’t dare disturb?
Leaving, we say, with a smile.
Do you have a moment? she asks. Because I have to share this, I really do. It’s my Queen of the Night. She bloomed, only just now.
How long had she been on her feet, wondering who to call?
Of course, we say, and we get out of the car to have a quick look at her plant. I can smell its musky scent well before I see it. And there it is. The Queen of this night.
It opened up at 9, she says. Like last year. It happens only once a year. It will die in the morning.
We are being polite, I think. Until an intoxicating serenity embraces us, and we forgot all about the chit-chat and quarrels we left behind in our family home. We sit down and look at the flower. And we look, and we look.
Shall we take a picture, we ask? With her on it.
Oh no, she says. I kept wondering who to share this with. Last year, I sat next to it all night. It is wonderful isn’t it?
It is, we say.
Would you like some wine? she asks.
Please, sit down, I say. Don’t let us distract you. I think it’s best we go now.
On driving away I consider the old lady, sitting next to her Queen of the Night, fulfilled with its scent. And I wonder whether this might be her last night too.

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