By Ulises Amaya
We moved it into the corner where the fronds could stretch out a bit. It was early March but the weather had been so nice for weeks and weeks that we’d grown certain spring was reaching out to us. And when we first laid eyes on the bushy fellow, there was opportunity. “Take me, take me,” it seemed to say, like a pup running corner to corner in its cage and licking at you. That was how it felt at first. We thanked its seller and brought it home. A green palm in our partially lit apartment, fed by late afternoon sun from a westward window. That’s the first and most permanent step. It’ll go hungry for weeks and months to come.
Next, it’s helpful if the weather never gets above fifty and you don’t realize the baseboard heater is drying out the victim. You’ll get a little guff for ignorance but that’s all. It’s important to appear as if you’re making an effort. How could we have known it didn’t like that boiled heat? It was a tropical plant after all. We moved our leafy friend to the other side of the TV, where it had a tougher time photosynthesizing the bland diet sun rays. Then we watered it too much or too little. Trial and error teaches you how to best do a thing and not do a thing. We dried it and drowned it, dried it and drowned it. But it remained resilient. What a fighter it was.
The air finally got warm enough where the heat could be cut and the ailing resident, much depressed, browned, and looking altogether twisted, was repositioned into the corner. We drowned it again and it looked like it might make a new effort to breathe itself into a springy and life-affirming form. But it’s like arsenic. Even if you stop dosing your husband, it’s already been months and his insides have come apart like snapped piano strings. That’s the trouble with murder, especially slow murder of your loved ones. Say you change your mind, and you decide you’d like to take it all back. You can’t. It’s all done and done. Every day you just watch the thing sag down a bit more, occasionally slicing off a limb to save it some effort (or do more damage because you don’t know better). The long thick stem shooting up teases you with its insufferable desire to cling to life. But it never unfurls. It just curves your way like a witness fingering its assailant.
My husband asks me if there’s anything that might be done. He’s been getting yellow around the eyes. And he complains that his skin is dry and flaking, not to mention how much worse his asthma has gotten. I don’t point out the obvious for two reasons: I’d hate for him to feel anxious, and I haven’t prepared my shocked face enough for when they come to collect his body.