The Whole World Can Become Present

I bought three dollars worth of daffodils from the corner bodega.

The daffodils were the cheapest flowers they had in the plastic buckets outside. I took the best looking of the bunch and went inside to pay.

The bodega was narrow and dusty. There was no doormat, just a folded up cardboard box on the floor. I walked past a small crate of soft red apples and up to the counter stacked high with energy packets, snack cakes, breath mints.

“Just those?” The man behind the counter was short with a wide face and big hands. I nodded.

“I’ll wrap them.” He stuck a big hand across the breath mints and I passed the daffodils over to him.

The man walked to a small, empty space at the far end of the counter. He laid the flowers down and carefully pulled out a sheet of cellophane. Gently, slowly, he bound up the green stems in plastic wrap, looping it around, under, around, under, around.

What’s the point? I thought. It’s three bucks worth of daffodils. Just stick’em in a plastic bag.

But the man wasn’t done. He unrolled a piece of smooth brown wrapping paper and curved it into a protective, maternal cone around the daffodils. He placed a few pieces of tape precisely along the cone’s edge and delicately ran a big finger over each piece until it adhered.

Then finally: “Here,” he handed this beautiful bundle of flowers to me. And they weren’t beautiful because they were the best looking daffodils of the bunch. They were beautiful, I realized, because this man in this dusty bodega had loved them.

And “if you love something enough and pay a passionate enough attention to it,” John Jeremiah Sullivan once wrote, “the whole world can become present in it.”

And that, I thought as I stared at this beautiful bundle, is the point.

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