Liz had always loved plants. Her entire family loved plants. She’d grown up with a large garden, tended lovingly by her father. Their house had been surrounded with flower beds that her mother worked in every day. Her aunts traded landscape secrets and took day trips to green houses. Her weird Uncle Craig owned a large Christmas tree farm. The entire family had green thumbs, the lot of them.
It should come as no surprise then that Liz’s apartment had turned in to a bit of a jungle. She lived alone- she’d never been one for pets- but that was fine by her, because her plants kept her plenty of company. She had tiny succulents and huge potted figs and everything in between. In each and every pot was a popsicle stick with a name scrawled on it.
She worked for a large corporation in IT. Her job wasn’t terrible, and she was seasoned enough to see that. She wasn’t happy, but she’d given up on finding happiness at work. Happiness was at home, amidst leaves and vines. Each morning on her way out the door, she gave several of her plants a nice drink of water. Since her plants had different watering schedules, she felt like she spent more time watering than doing anything else, but the before-work-water was always a nice one. It was her last bit of heaven before the mind-numbing work that lay ahead.
Liz froze, the watering can hovering over the fern. Had she just heard her plant thank her for watering it? Absolutely not. That was crazy. Plants were plants. They couldn’t talk. But then she had read a study about plants reacting to the sound of caterpillars chewing by releasing bitter chemicals into their leaves, so there was some kind of thought process happening…
No,” Liz said, straightening up, denying the weird thoughts from even entering her mind. She sometimes talked to her plants, and imagined what they’d say back. Had she been doing that? Her thoughts just tricked her into thinking the fern was actually talking to her. That it could actually talk was crazy, and she knew it. She finished her watering and went about her day.
The incident with the fern was the first thing that popped into her head the next morning, but given some distance from the situation, she laughed it off. How ridiculous she had been. Was she really so lonely that she confused her own inner voice for a plant? Apparently so. That would have to be remedied. “And quickly,” she thought, as she sat up and stretched, “Before I start asking Betsy what I should wear.”
Liz got up, had her coffee and a quick bowl of cereal, and made herself presentable for the office. She watered, grabbed her keys off the counter and was headed out the door when it happened again.
“Have a good day, Mama.”
Liz froze with her hand still on the doorknob. She had been thinking about the fact that she might be wearing two different socks and trying to decide whether that mattered. There was no way she morphed that into “have a good day.” Taking a deep breath, she took a step back through her open door, closed it slowly, and turned around.
Betsy was sitting in her hanging planter, as usual. Why had she ever bothered naming her fern? Who names their plants? She took another deep breath and slowly moved closer to the plant, keeping the counter between them. “This is insane,” she thought. But she said, “I’m sorry. Are you… talking to me?”
Nothing. No reply. To her surprise, Liz felt a little disappointed. She did live alone, after all, and had always loved having her plants around. She could create her own secret garden filled with friends. She glanced over at her oven clock. 7:42. She really needed to leave or she was going to be late. She turned back around and headed for the door again. Her delusions would have to wait until later.
“Of course I’m talking to you. Who else would I call Mama?”
The voice was so clear, so distinct, that Liz knew it wasn’t her thoughts. This was real. She set her keys on the counter, pulled her phone out of her purse, and dialed her office number. The answering machine picked up. “Hey guys, it’s Liz,” she said. “I’m not going to make it in today, I’ve got a bit of a situation at home…”