I was not aware of the hands of the clock pushing forward until the sun set on me. I parted the blinds and watched the first neon street lights blink. Suddenly, two cars passed by, with their indicators flashing. At a distance, the sun had disappeared in the horizon and the redness in the sky was signalling the end of the day.

Out of guilt and a considerable degree of annoyance, I picked up my briefcase and stormed out of the building. I stopped at a shopping mall and bought six red roses. I also ordered all the frills to go along the mini bouquet. I chose the prettiest ribbon and wrapping.

The salesgirl smiled knowingly and her smile asked a question that she did not need to ask in words. I let my smile answer and said: “Yes, it is for that important person.”

She asked me if I would like her to sprinkle the glitter on the flowers and I hesitated. She filled the silence by saying: “If you have to go all the way, then go all the way.” I shook my head and said no to that frill. She seemed disappointed, but bright glitter would not be needed for the hands that would receive these flowers.

As she was preparing the bouquet, a man who looked like he had a rough day walked in. He was uncertain, nervous and shuffled his feet as he walked in the shop. He was also disturbed to say the least. For a moment, I suspected he thought he’d mistaken the flower shop for a therapist’s consultation room, the way he kept looking at me and the girl.

The salesgirl was not more than 20, but she had the talent of handling all sorts of people, who walked into her territory. She put the ribbons down and walked to the counter to meet the man. With a smile only reserved for troubled children, she asked if she could be of service. I thought that was a mistake. A girl as sweet as her should not have put herself in the path of an angry man. I was not strong enough to tackle a guy, who was towering six feet and half if that’s what she had in mind.

I backed off a little and braced myself for any eventuality. The only weapon that was lying around was six-inch scissors and the thorny red roses. All I went there for was to buy my wife a bunch of flowers and rush back to her. I was not prepared to be rushed to the hospital to end up home with six stitches instead of six roses.

The moment that followed made me ashamed of my wild thoughts. The man’s voice, when he spoke, was gentle and his mannerism was exemplary, though his eyes could not shed the wild look in them. He too wanted flowers, but did not exactly know what type.

When the girl asked for what occasion, he dropped his eyes like a blushing bride. And when he looked up, the wild look in them was replaced by the softness I never thought a guy of his disposition could ever have.

So I was kept waiting as the girl went through all the various flower combinations with the gentle giant. Of course, he was served first and I had to be content to be second best in the favour of a skilful salesgirl.

I drove back home with the roses and got a peck on the cheek for my troubles. It is funny, what a man would do when the guilt starts gnawing at his conscience. They can turn a giant into a big softy.

The writer is an Oman-based freelance columnist. This article has been reprinted from the Khaleej Times.