No, he can't take them on the subway. Not at this time of day. He'll just have to walk - twenty five blocks in the mid-February cold - but it's worth it, if only to keep the flowers from getting crushed.
As he leaves the florist's he is aware of being noticed. It's the flowers, of course. Roses. Two dozen. Each one as delicate as a wineglass, as plush as a mouth. For a moment he is embarrassed by the vulgarity of the gesture, but he reminds himself that it's Valentine's Day, this kind of thing is expected, he's not doing anything wrong.
Walking down the street, he tries to read the faces that turn to him. Envy, longing, amusement, scorn - emotions that pass like windows - opaque expressions in which he sees only his own reflection, and not the people watching from the other side.
What do they see, these strangers? A man in his mid-thirties clutching an enormous bouquet. A tall, well-dressed man, plain looking but confident, competent, successful, but also sensitive and self-aware. The kind of man who is neither ignorant of his own feelings nor afraid to show them. A little short on imagination, perhaps, even a little old-fashioned, but a staunch romantic for all that. It pleases him, this picture he imagines other people seeing; in some obscure way it makes him proud. As though he had always wanted to become this man walking down Fifth Avenue with a bouquet of roses in his hand, headed for an evening with the woman he loves.
Back at the apartment he leaves the flowers on the side table, changes into something more casual, sees about dinner. Nothing too fancy, of course - he is no cook - but perhaps some wine? As the microwave hums into action, he puts some music on the stereo - Chopin, the Nocturnes - then dims the lights. Perfect.
By the time dinner is ready, the smell from the flowers fills the room. It is a pleasant smell, rich and lazy, though in a little while it will start to sicken. He will have to get rid of the flowers early tomorrow morning, go down before the super wakes up and leave them in the trash, so no one can tell where they came from. Chewing his way through his microwave meal, he thinks back over the walk, remembering the eyes of the others on him, reliving the exhilaration he felt. Imagining how it would feel to really be in love.