The biology lesson
‘The flower makes pollen in the anthers, do you see?’ Massimo pulled the petals open, gently widening the flower, revealing the delicate strands of the filaments bearing the heavy, ripe anthers, drenched in their golden pollen.
He pointed with the pointy end of the brush. ‘This is the male part,’ he said, stroking the filament from its base up to the anther. ‘You see, Julia? Drawn in by the scent of her nectar, the unsuspecting insect cannot resist, and drugged with desire, he flies in to find the source of this great attraction and drink it in.
'I his helpless state, he brushes against the anthers, and they release the pollen, so …’ and he stroked the tip of the anther with the tip of his brush, which came away with a dusting of the yellow pollen. ‘Are you with me so far, signora?’
‘Oh yes,’ she whispered. ‘Please, keep going.’
He leaned in closer to her, the flower still wide open in his hand. ‘The anther and the filament are the male parts of the flower, but now we come to the female parts.’ He met her eye to eye, and she bit her lower lip as she looked up at him.
‘Please ... don’t stop,’ she whispered a little breathily, for effect.
‘The stigma, and the style,’ he pointed to each in turn, ‘are female parts. The style holds the stigma erect, out of the way of the ovary, here.’
He looked straight into her eyes again. ‘The stigma, when it ready to receive the pollen become sticky, so you see how it glistens? It is ready, and I just have to tickle it lightly, like so …’ and he brushed the pollen-laden brush delicately against the swollen, moist nub of the stigma.
At which point the whole air became so charged with tension, and the symbolism so overdrawn, that he and Julia collapsed against each other in fits of helpless laughter.