"Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence." ~ Audre Lorde

The walled garden is filled with enormous camellia trees, whose white, red and pink flowers generously extend their symbolic message of love and affection. Almost blending in with the abundant foliage, an old man, Armand Germont, is patiently tending the plants, although the crisp autumn chill is biting his fingers. With 48 years of persistent, daily care, he has singlehandedly turned the garden into an impressive sanctuary for camellias.

While pruning, weeding and fertilizing, Armand is smilingly talking to his flowers, “Unworthy?” he says, “Fallen? No, darling, you are pure perfection!” “I will always love you.” Like mantras, he keeps repeating the same words. His devotion is revealed by them, as well as by each one of his gentle movements.

-o-o-o-

When Armand was a young man, Violetta Valery entered his life. With a beautiful camellia flower decorating her coiffure, she instantly became his “Lady of the Camellias.” Her past as an escort for rich, older gentlemen didn’t matter to him. Once their souls entered the same orbit, time gracefully yielded to the present moment.

Both of them instinctively knew that they were created for each other. Still, Armand’s father soon convinced Violetta that her past would destroy the future of his family. Because of her love for Armand, Violetta stepped back, sacrificing her happiness for the honor of her beloved. Armand was unaware of the reason for her disappearance until rumors about her sickness reached him. With a bouquet of camellias in his hands, he rushed to her bedside, only to meet a pale and weak Violetta, violently coughing.

After her death, Armand never again cared for women. Instead, he became obsessed with camellias, studying them, cultivating them, communicating with them; trying to understand their wordless, hidden messages.

-o-o-o-

In the late afternoon, as the sun connects with the anticipating horizon, Armand keeps working, happily unaware of time and space. Just like all other days, a woman appears in the brick building’s garden door and calls to him, “Monsieur Germont! Supper time! Sister Genevieve is waiting for you with your pill and your evening tea.”

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Fuji
Fuji (@fuji)
1 month ago

A beautiful and perfect story, Christer! You’ve woven literary and operatic references seamlessly into your own unique tale of the eternal nature of love. I’m so glad to meet Armand/Alfredo again, as an old man “happily unaware of time and space” in spite of all the drama of his youth. The title is also perfect, with its multiple references, including joyous redemption and perhaps even a reunion of sorts.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock (@linda-rock)
1 month ago

Such an emotional story Christer. How sad the sacrifice Violetta chose to make when Armand loved her unconditionally. All those lost years when they could have lived happily together. Such a bittersweet ending. Their story went straight to my heart.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary (@carrie-oleary)
1 month ago

What a sad but beautiful story Christer. True love never dies, and this comes across in your story well as we see Armand in his latter years, still talking to the love of his life through the camellias they’d both loved. Thank you for sharing.

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Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe (@eric-radcliffe)
1 month ago

Hello Christer, I have not been able to read or comment of late because my computer has been in for repair, and there has been so much activity that I feel I have been away for years – so much to catch up on. I feel like I have been thrown into the deep end with so many excellent stories to read. When Love makes a sacrifice it stirs in us feelings of heartfelt regret, for there can never be enough love in this world. The past is what it is – the past. If only we could all live in the Now!
Beautifully written and expressed, Christer.

Culture Dragon
Culture Dragon (@culture-dragon)
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric Radcliffe

Hi Eric – Really glad you are back, we have all missed you! I am also trying to get back to writing, especially hope to return to my favorite art of handwriting script. I just read this story from Christer which ignited some renewed inspiration. When I read above that “time gracefully yielded to the present moment”, it seemed unfortunate Violetta could not be truly present with Armand. You are correct Eric, this bittersweet tale above reminds us to live in this moment, and not be haunted by the past.

Culture Dragon
Culture Dragon (@culture-dragon)
1 month ago

Yes Christer – you are wise to remind us that the loss Armand and Violetta experienced may have been the necessary fuel for Armand’s future obsession. “After her death, Armand never again cared for women. Instead, he became obsessed with camellias, studying them, cultivating them, communicating with them”.

So the study of language is my obsession, haha, and handwriting is something I lost, which I hope to find again in this digital age. This is why I volunteered to hand write our Voice Club community Haiku submissions. At the moment, I am just learning handwriting again using a “Digital Pen”, so my script is quite messy and uneven. Maybe with practice my digital pen can closer replicate the old, authentic, pencil and paper. You can have a look here at some script samples where I used a digital “apple pencil” : https://voice.club/haiku

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Juma
Juma (@juma)
1 month ago

Hello Christer. This is an exceptional story, made even more so by some of your responses to readers’ comments. I could not agree more that unrequited love is the basis for much of our great literature, music, art. The Tristan-Isolde theme, the love/death legend, has inspired Shakespeare, Messiaen, Wagner, and countless others. Your take on the Dumas Camille, however, is even more profound. There is a love, as you said, deeper and truer than romantic love or physical attraction. Your hero Armand has found that kind of love, and is indeed a happy man. I find this story celebratory rather than bittersweet. Your Armand is more highly evolved (and older!) than my nameless husband and wife in “When the Bough Breaks”. I purposely did not give them names, because they are very young, and only beginning their combined journey. They haven’t earned their names yet, as some Native American traditions would suggest.

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