Snowmen and Corsages

Last night, on a whim, I took a walk around campus after dinner. My roommate had gone back to the room, and I wandered the quad with music filling my head. The paths were empty, most students having gone home for the long weekend, and I sometimes sang to the setting sun. A light chill slipped down the neck of my jacket, and I took a deep breath.

Twice I stumbled upon something that made me stop. The first time was when I came upon a dirt-caked, broken snowman. It was simply a cracked ball of snow with a pair of branches sticking out of it sadly. The outside sported a coat of dirt and grass, but the inside gleamed clean and white, carefully preserved like wine in an ancient cask.

I thought about approaching it, about plunging my fingers into the cold just to know what it felt like. But I stayed on the sidewalk and only looked. It felt like it would be offensive and disrespectful to go rifling through the snowman’s insides for my own desire. Had it not suffered enough with its mud-stained outside.

It strikes me now that this situation is much like how people, specifically white people, treat other cultures and histories. How we as a group have rummaged in devastated civilizations so we can expand our knowledge. The Native Americans, Africans, and countless others cracked open like dirty snowmen for our own desires, our own whims. Despicable at best.

I continued on my walk from there and paused when I spotted a white flower on the ground. Picking it up, I noticed a pair of straight pins bound to the stem and realized I was holding a corsage. I pried at the petals, wanting to ensure no insects had made their homes in the flower. As I walked and examined I wondered about this adornment’s origins.

Who had worn it? Who gave it to them? What was the occasion? Had they known each other long before it? Did they like each other? Did they have fun? What happened to dislodge the corsage? Why did no one notice its disappearance?

How many questions lie in something so simple and innocent. A million stories bound up with the straight pins.

In the end, I left the corsage in the grass. I passed the broken snowman without another glance. I nodded along to my music, and I went back to my room.