I suck at growing things.
Well, I guess I can make a plant come out of the ground…let me rephrase:
I suck at keeping things alive.
Which so diametrically opposes my general desire in life — live! Thrive! Be healthy! Flourish! But left with a plant and no written instructions, I will do murder.
I once brought home about 15 plants from an office…they were all the same kind of plant, with reddish-green leaves and a sort of pinched, cubicle-suffering air. I imagined my bedroom flowering into a veritable Garden of Eden. I would move gently from plant to plant, singing softly, bestowing beatific smiles at random.
Had they not been forced to come home with me (plants are not known to make verbal protests) they would have been thrown away. They’d been lined up in the trash room like so many manufactured rejects.
In my defense — the plants were clearly already on the way out. The earth in each pot was cracked, and the leaves hung limp. No matter. I would heal them. Mother Green Thumb and…all that.
So I got them home, strewed them around my room, watered each with what I hoped was a practiced eye, and went away whistling.
A couple years ago, when a friend of mine was moving, I noticed he hadn’t packed a lovely large vase filled with sticks. Are you gonna keep that? I asked, pointing. No, it’s yours, he said. Sticks. Sticks that are already dead!!! There’s no way I could fail!
Sadly, that was not the experience of the 15 poor specimens I dragged home. Instead, they witnessed the gradual demise of my confidence, and, ultimately, themselves. I’m sure that’s considered torture in some cultures. Making plants watch each other die.
After a week of bathing them in soothing tones and way too much water, I realized that maybe that reddish cast was actually disease. My roommates nicknamed my room Ebola.
Which is why I’m stunned — nearly flattened — that this orchid is still alive. I’ve done virtually nothing to it, and it grows. It continues to blossom. It lives. A couple days ago, I carefully tossed a few drops of water at it. I held my breath and then ran away.
When I was given an orchid years ago, I immediately flew into a panic. I ran and bought Orchids for Dummies. I did everything I could to massage the famously sensitive plant into flourishing. But it must have known it was doomed, because it offed itself after a few days.
So this time around, I’m just staying out of the way. I eye the orchid suspiciously, and I swear to the plant gods, it’s eyeing me back.