This is my account of the Time-Blossoming Birthday Cake.
It was given to me by a cousin I hadn’t met before. George St. James heard about my 30th birthday party from another cousin, Maria, who called to ask if she could bring our relative because he was visiting her in the city and she thought I’d enjoy meeting him.
George not only came with Maria, he brought me a gift — a small, beautiful cake covered in rosebuds. We already had three other cakes, so Cousin George suggested I save it for later.
The next day I took it out of the fridge and noticed the roses had opened a ittle more. Thinking it would be lovely to see them even more open, I put it back.
Two days later, the roses had opened even more. The label on the cake gave the bakery name. When I called to thank them and ask how long the roses might last, they suggested that I come to talk to the baker. The shop was only two blocks away, so I walked. In a tiny slice of a building I knew well was a bakery hardly wider than a hallway. I’d never noticed it before. The baker, a middle-aged man in a white apron dusted with flour and butter, was the only person there.
“May I help you?” he asked, without a smile.
“I’ve come to ask about the roses on my birthday cake. They’re lasting a long time. Of course, I’ve had it in the fridge for three days. If I take them off the cake and put them in water, will they last?”
He shrugged. “Do you know how long you will last?”
I thought it was a very odd way to treat a customer. Though I wasn’t exactly a customer, but I might become one, living nearby.
“Try taking one bud at a time and putting it in a vase. See what happens that day. In time, you’ll learn a lot about the roses.”
He turned away and began to rearrange the displays in his case. Clearly that was all he had to offer me.
At home I picked off one magenta bud and put it in a small cut crystal vase, placed the flower on my coffee table, and found myself organizing the house the day before my party. There was the flower in its vase, but here I was, four days before the present.
Horrified, feeling I was hallucinating or had somehow fallen asleep sitting up, I took the flower out of the vase, went to the refrigerator, and placed the flower in its place on the cake.
And here I am, sitting on my couch, and the phone in my hand tells me I’m in the right date. I tried to call my cousin, but no George St. James is listed in my contacts anymore.
That was Day One of the Time-Blossoming Birthday Cake. Here’s the cake: