Until I Looked
Sunday, May 16, 2010 2 Comments
I zipped my fly, buttoned my jeans, and stared at that stupid plant. It was short, plain, and hadn’t had any flowers in the entire time it’d been there. It seemed like the kind of plant grown for the sole purpose of sitting on bathroom countertops like ours. Well, mine. But the plant—the plant was Mitchell’s.
Mitchell was the quiet one, the one everyone wanted around even though he didn’t say much. His plants spoke for him. Mitchell loved gardening, and in the four years we lived in the brownstone, his plants had become fixtures just like the kitchen faucet. It always seemed like at least half of them were blooming. “Give it enough time, enough love, anything’ll flower. Even that,” he’d tell me, pointing to the sink plant.
I never really minded the indoor forest. I would’ve rather had a dog, but I kept my mouth shut whenever a new planter appeared. Except when we had people over.
“It must be a lot of work,” someone would mention. “Brian, don’t you help take care of all these?”
“Mitchell won’t let me, he knows I’ll kill ‘em all if I get the chance,” I’d say as he walked by to put a plate in the dishwasher. “When it comes to green stuff, I bet the only thing I can’t kill is grass and that stupid sink plant.”
He always said the same thing, so quietly that I only knew by watching his lips. “It’s not a sink plant, it’s a snake plant. A bird’s nest snake plant.”
On the nights we fought—most of the nights in the last year—I pictured sending it sailing out the bathroom window onto the sidewalk. I’d pick it up while I yelled, eying the window locks, and I’d start to threaten to do just what I was imagining. I’d turn to him to show him how serious I was, but he’d have already left for the guest room.
He was like that. I never knew he was gone until I looked, the same as when he walked out. No note. Just that one stupid plant. I looked at it every time I brushed my teeth, used the toilet, took a shower. Every time, I willed it to die, to leave me alone. To stop reminding me that Mitchell was gone and had tricked me into keeping this thing of his I hated.
It’d been four months, and as I flushed the toilet, I decided to just do it.
I slammed the window up and heard kids on bikes cruising the sidewalk. I grabbed the edge of the pot. I’d played college baseball, I could put the plant under all those wheels.
Instead I stood there, staring, until my arm started to cramp. Chucking the thing outside in broad daylight with kids around was just too public. I closed the window and screamed as loud as I could, sliding to the floor. I had to do something. I ripped the sink plant out of the dirt.
I lifted the ugly, fragile thing for a better look. I’d torn the plant almost completely away from its roots. What was left shivered in the air, dirt dusting the front of my shirt. I’d thought it would be root-bound by now, but the compact chunk of white veins still in the pot told me that despite all Mitchell’s attention, the sink plant refused to be happy. “You left it on purpose,” I accused him halfheartedly, holding his little green letter to me and crying.
Copyright 2010 by Chelsea Fiddyment