By Isabelle Orr, Entertainment Editor
After moving to a new apartment, I invited over a friend whose taste in interior decorating runs unparalleled. With a couple of throw rugs and an empty photo frame, he can turn a cave littered with animal bones from the Late Triassic era into a clean, bright space suitable for a home office. In contrast, my natural inclination for sloppiness meant my past rooms had a similar theme involving a lot of garbage bags, crusted-over plates, and mattresses on the floor.
I brought my friend over to my new apartment, anxious to see what he would think. He paused by the window, stroking his chin thoughtfully.
“Plants,” he said. “I would fill this entire room with plants.”
My friend, a bona-fide plant fanatic, had been banned from buying any more plants after he had let a sheer mass of them grow to become a small jungle in his living room. I had watched him frantically compare ceramic pots on Amazon as if he were buying stocks overseas.
Personally, I had been thinking something along the lines of buying a decorative pillow and calling it a day. “I could never take care of a plant.”
“All this space,” he said, waving his hand with the confidence of someone whose concept of decorating wasn’t a pile of dirty laundry on a chair. “You will get a plant. I’ll take you.”
Buying plants had become popular in my social sphere—or had always been popular and I had missed the memo. Lots of friends and acquaintances had talked about being “plant parents,” something that seemed to me like a waste of time and money. Most of my disposable income was spent on clothes or food, things that gave me instant gratification and a sharp burst of serotonin.
Over the past year or so, my friends had slowly begun to work towards goals that seemed as out-of-the-blue to me as buying plants. One friend had settled into a salaried job as a designer and told me about her plans with her long-term boyfriend.
“We might move to Victoria, buy a condo there,” she told me over brunch.
“Back to the island?” We had both attended high school in Nanaimo and moved to Vancouver to escape a town where the only activity was drinking in a gravel pit.
“To be closer to my parents.” My friend had driven us to brunch in her Kia Soul. “And David really wants kids.”
Children? I started hyperventilating into my hash browns. She wasn’t my only friend with plans for her future—another had decided to start marine training to become a deckhand, one was a nurse with a five-year plan that included two sons and a daughter, and another was finishing his master’s and becoming a professor. In contrast, I once wore a full-piece bathing suit to work under my clothing because I had run out of clean bras and underwear.
The people around me had collectively held a meeting while I was in the bathroom and they’d decided to start doing things with their lives. I felt adrift in half-baked plans. I thought I might go back for my master’s degree, teaching degree, or travel abroad. I was never sure enough of anything to move towards any concrete goal.
I went to meet my friend at the greenhouse, squeezing through the aisles of plants.
“This one is good for low light,” he explained. “This one needs direct sunlight. And this one needs sunlight, but not directly, and not too strong. And only once a week in the winter, but every third week in the summer. And you’ll need to buy a bigger pot and repot it when it begins to grow, otherwise it’ll run out of room and strangle itself.”
The concepts of math and responsibility made my head spin. I couldn’t take care of this plant. I couldn’t even take care of myself! It would die, small and brown, and I would have to bury its sad corpse in the backyard like the dead hummingbird my childhood dog brought me.
My friend saw me start to panic. He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me like a doll. “Isabelle,” he said. “Just water it. It will take a long time to grow. It doesn’t happen just like that.”
The long fronds of a two-foot-tall, spiky fern grabbed at my hair as I walked by. Each leaf was striped with three different shades of green. I checked the tag, which read TROPICAL PLANT and didn’t help me in any way.
My friend grabbed a frond and inspected it. “This one is good.”
I lugged it 15 blocks home and put it at the end of my dresser near the window. Outside of my room, my friends were falling in love, finding careers, and making their lives their own.
I watered my plant. We both needed time to grow.