A Bum Green Thumb
On the afternoon of my goldfish’s funeral, you give me a ZZ plant.
I am angry with you because you refused to give a eulogy.
“For you,” you say and press the plant against my chest.
I wrap my hands around the ceramic pot, holding it like a squirming toddler.
You mutter something about “virtually indestructible” and “impossible to kill.”
You always underestimate me.
I am tired of you thinking I need to be surrounded by new life.
First, it was the puppy. His death was an accident but due to my negligence. I left the back gate open, and our neighbor flattened him with his truck like a souvenir penny. You yelled at me for laughing. I wasn’t laughing because he died; I was laughing because, even though I never told you, I named him Pancake.
Next, it was the goldfish. I elected not to name him but still found myself calling him Fish. After Pancake, I couldn’t let my attention wander for even a moment. I fed Fish too much without meaning to. The food collected at the bottom of his tank and rotted. You said the toxicity killed him.
I tell my therapist about the ZZ plant at our next session. She takes your side. Of course. She says I should welcome distractions. She says distractions might help me forget about the accident.
“What accident?” I ask.
She shifts in her chair and the leather shrieks.
I like the cruelness of this question. I like forcing her to say what really happened. I like to make her face the reality.
You can get away with things like this when your mother slits her wrists. It’s one of the few perks, I suppose.
Now, it’s the ZZ plant with its dark green leaves and low maintenance attitude. I don’t water it for the first week. I want to test its resiliency. The soil dries and cracks, but the plant still stands vibrant and lively.
For the second week, I water it daily. I fill an empty milk jug and drown the plant with cloudy water. The plant is unfazed.
I carry it outside and place it where we buried Pancake and Fish and Mom’s ashes. The plant isn’t meant to withstand direct sunlight, but its leaves stay firm and peppy. Worse, they look greener, and I can see new buds beginning to sprout. I pluck the new growth and crumble it between my fingers.
I shove the plant into my closet where no light peeps through. I leave it there for two weeks, completely undisturbed. When I come back for it, the plant is more radiant than ever. It is mocking me with its steadfast determination.
I throw the plant against the wall. The pot cracks on impact, sending bits of broken ceramic and clumps of dirt scattering.
You come into the room and look at the mess.
You return with a broom and a dustpan. You don’t ask me about it, and I don’t explain.