Jason’s fingers trembled, even before he stepped foot into the daunting building looming over him, its large green letters imprinted on the slabs of brick, the paint slowly pealing off the second ‘w’. He slowly began to make his way towards the sliding glass doors, closing and opening every few minutes, drawn to each other like magnets. A shudder wriggled up Jason’s spine as the doors slammed themselves behind him, the contact vibrating through the large stained tiles and through his body. An electric harmony of noise greeted Jason’s ears, each individual sound demanding to be heard.
As he strode through the highly air-conditioned supermarket, he heard the stout teenage girl shouting at her mother from the deli about her older boyfriend and how they are ‘meant to be’. He heard the tear of plastic bags as the cashiers stocked items into their grey linings. He heard the beeps that echoed from each counter once an item had been scanned. Attempting to block the noise from flowing into his ears and keeping his eyes firmly on the ground, so as to avoid eye contact with the intimidating figures in front of him, Jason weaved his way through the aisles, past the toilet paper, past the Asian spices, past the array of soft drinks, until he found what he was looking for.
Each flower stood out, each with a different colour and scent. With so many bouquets to choose from, Jason remained in front of the motionless plants for what seemed to be an eternity. He had never liked making choices, and would avoid the task at all costs, but he had to make a decision. He couldn’t let her down, not again.
As he examined the bouquets intensely, the choice overwhelming him with anxiety, Jason removed his gaze from the stand of petals and exchanged glances with two young girls whispering and pointing in his direction. Are they staring at me, he wondered? What are they saying? I bet I look stupid standing in front of these bloody flowers. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the girls stride away, and with a sigh of relief, he let go of the breath he wasn’t aware he was holding.
Looking down at his watch, Jason knew he had to speed up his shopping trip. He couldn’t arrive at the hospital empty handed. He wanted to bring her something. Something that showed her he cared. With the impossible choice weighing down on his shoulder, Jason forced his eyes shut, and grabbed a bouquet at random.
Walking towards the cash register, he could feel the second-hand ticking in his watch, the vibration pulsing through his veins. Not enough time, not enough time. He kept telling himself. It was only once he reached the young lady at the cash register that he looked at the bundle of flowers he had chosen. Orchids. Had he picked the right ones? Would she like them? Would his mother smile when she gave them to him, and radiate with happiness at the thought that her son had bought him orchids? Or would her already forlorn face shrivel and decay even more at the sight of the flowers?
Struggling to breathe, Jason reached into his pockets to find some change for the expectant lady, who was holding her hand out patiently, her smile sagging at the sides. Jason, already in a worried state, grew more panicked as he couldn’t find another twenty-cent coin to complete the expected sum. In a flurry he pulled off his ripped jacket, searching the pockets once again.
“Are you okay?”
Jason could only just hear her voice but chose to ignore the question. Can’t she see? I’m not okay.
The beating of his heart grew faster and faster. He struggled to breathe. He tried to hide his panic, but he knew that with in seconds, he would spiral out of control. There was one thing to do. He ran. He ran through the door and around the corner of the street, leaving his bouquet and pile of coins at the counter.