Back at my high school, I noticed the girls' bathroom in math hall had been updated with flowering trees. Some tropical sect of champaca or ylang ylang I didn't know existed. Elliptic-lanceolate leaves poked above the last labia colored stall, indifferent to the dirty window beyond offering dim radiation. One of the two species had a paneled trunk like bamboo, but thicker. Its leaves looked gilded with dark veins running through golden-green the complexion of key limes, and with their wavy edges, they were almost indistinguishable from the pale yellow flowers growing close to the trunk and covering every branch. I couldn't believe my luck, feeling like I had stumbled upon a floral mother lode, my premeditated theft justified by the thought that their value was being all but wasted on the high schoolers. Why should their clay-and-cream perfume have to compete with the fruity body sprays, menstrual blood, gas, wintergreen gum, and hand lotion cloud left by teenage girls? When I could extract their unusual scent by first extracting them from this restroom. I walked around behind the first line of stalls to try to access the plants, but they weren't visible. On to the second and third rows, which had never been there when I was a student-- they must have knocked out a wall for the addition. I could get to them from here, but couldn't tell if they were potted or growing through the floor. I hoped the people going in and out of the bathroom wouldn't care about the plant removal. The one with the yellow flowers certainly was strange. Long, curly petals surrounded botryoidal balls. I couldn't identify what anatomical part these spheres embodied. The second species's flowers gave off the scent of bread pudding and were fleshy bloodless ivory and puckered into purple where they met the stem. Once I got them outside I realized I was actually in Hawaii. The parking structure had been landscaped like a royal botanical garden. Bananas the size and shape of footballs hung from a canopy of orange blossoms 30 feet up. I spotted some flowers growing right out of the black soil like faces. Neither cabbage roses nor gardenias but undoubtedly related to them as well as to cauliflower. I wanted to dig them up, but I take note of plainclothes security monitoring the gardens. Driving away Buddha's fists the tomato shade of impotent anger and the size of truck tires loomed from telephone poles.
Photo: bearded Iris germanica in the Wild Veil Perfume gardens this summer.
© 2022, Abby Hinsman for Wild Veil Perfume.