Two weeks ago, I spied those splotches of blood against the white concrete, the roses scattered across the sidewalk. I imagined it was a fist fight or a knifing at most. There are clusters of men here at any given hour, men in cheap leather jackets, chain-smoking and waving roses in the faces of everyone that passes. Rosa, ne nada? They ask, what no roses? This is how Russian grammar works, in the negative form. It is not, “do you want roses?”.
Each day, I make an excuse to pass on this side of the shopping center, to see if the blood and roses are gone. They remain for almost a week, a defiant mess. And then, they are abruptly missing. It is like nothing happened here.
On the next day a collection of bouquets rest where the sidewalk meets the wall. There are a few candles that have burned down to nubs and gone out. The flowers pile up, yellow ribbons flapping the wind. I wonder who he was, convinced it was a man. Maybe he was one of the many illegal immigrants, and he got into something with the police. There are always men with thick black hair being stopped, hard faces asking for documents, heads being shoved down as they are pressed into the back seats of police cars or even packs of them lead into buses.
The faces on the sidewalk here are the same, tea sipped from clear plastic cups, the short rows of bright fluorescent lights, the cold rooms stacked with carnations, tulips and those grotesque roses.
The smell of lilies comes up from the men passing, mixing with sweat and smoke.