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Drama Fiction Happy

“So, did you decide on one?”

I was bending down to look closely at the beautiful selection in front of me when my enthusiastic salesperson’s words brought me back to earth from my deep reverie. I stood upright without breaking my gaze and said, “They are all so beautiful, I don’t know which one to choose.”

Standing in that humungous plant nursery, I started to contemplate the day I had which led me here. I had just moved to this city a week ago, a fresh start so to speak. I had recently lost my job, as the company I worked for went under and my girlfriend of a long time broke up with me the very next day. Was there any correlation between the two events? I leave that to you to figure out.

So, when a cousin recommended me for a similar job but in a really really far off city and it materialized soon after, I took it in a heartbeat. I came out here, went apartment hunting and started my job and well, that’s pretty much it. The only problem? It's too lonely out here.

I am not usually the type who complains, but it was apparent to me that the recent events in my life had left me with a lack of company and perspective.

“Why don’t you get a pet?”

A good-natured colleague of mine had given me a suggestion today, just after I had mentioned that I lived alone. Mind you I hadn’t mentioned I was lonely, but I think it was a fairly obvious assumption.

“Thanks man, but with our jobs, I don’t think we are going to have that much time to maintain pets”, I replied, eliciting a chorus of agreement from the rest of our lunch table.

“How about a cat? They are pretty minimalistic in their requirement for attention.”

“Or you can get a hamster!”

“How about a tortoise? They just sit in one place”

And so it went on and on, everyone pitching in their best recommendations. But none of them took my fancy and I was about to say that when someone chimed in, “How about a plant instead?”

And that was how I found myself in the nursery, clueless and confused.

“I think you need some more time to browse, please call me if you need me”, said the salesperson as she started to walk away to attend to another customer, probably someone more decisive in nature.

I started making rounds amongst the vast variety of green, almost hoping some plant to get up and call upon me. I was starting to toy with the idea of getting that tortoise instead when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a frail old man with a full white beard.

“You seem to be in a pickle. Might I suggest something for you?”, he said, in a surprisingly strong voice.

“Sure, I don’t think I am making progress here anyway”, I replied, not showing my hesitation on the outside. I know I wanted a plant but accepting suggestions from a mini-Gandalf was not in my comfort zone. He beckoned me to follow him to a different area of the nursery which I thought wasn’t open to the customers. The area was dimly lit with just a single bulb providing luminescence over a small table, on which sat a small plant with larger than average leaves and a single white bulb shooting out at the top.

The old man brought a small bottle out of nowhere and started spraying the plant with what I assume was water. Without even looking at me, he said, “Do you know that people tend to take the plants home that most resemble their personality?”

Now, this intrigued me. “That can’t be true. If that were the case, all the jocks would end up buying trees from the Amazonian Rain Forest”, I replied, hoping my companion wasn’t a jock in his lifetime.

The old man chuckled a bit at that and said, “You would be surprised at how many people living the same lives are so vastly different on the inside.”

Perhaps it was the wise-sage-like look of his, but he did make sense. I can’t even recall how many times I had realized that all my friends, who had lived almost the same lives as me, went to similar colleges and were working similar jobs, were so different from me. Like none of them even lifting a finger to help me out when I lost my job and most of them openly choosing sides when my girlfriend dumped me, not mine that is. Call me old fashioned and maybe bitter, but I tend to be ‘friendlier’ with my friends.

While I was wallowing in self-pity in my head, the old man continued, “But most of us choose the wrong plant. We should not choose a plant which mimics our nature, we should choose one which mimics how we want to be.”

Okay, now I did not realize that choosing a plant was going to be this complicated. Probably should have gone for that tortoise instead, because my cloud of confusion was nowhere near dispersal.

“What if someone has no idea what they want to be?”, I said, fully expecting the old man to sigh in defeat like my parents used to when they couldn’t get something through my thick head.

To my surprise, he just smiled at me, put down his spray bottle and said, “I know, that is why I brought you to this magical plant called Byta. This plant will be just exactly as you want it to be.”

See, this is why you should order things online. Now, I am generally an open-minded individual, but this was seeming more like an elaborate and expensive sales pitch to me. With as much politeness as I could muster, I said, “You know what, thank you so much for your time. But I don’t think I want to take any plant today.”

The smile on that man’s face did not falter, almost as if he was expecting me to say those words. He picked up the plant from the table and walked toward me as he said, “I can respect that. But please listen to my offer: take the Byta and go home. You don’t have to pay anything, consider it a gift from me.”

A free plant? Sure, that’s a bargain I could get on board with. Surely he thought that he would give me a free plant and that would encourage me to buy more later. But since that was in my control, it seemed like a good bargain to me.

“I am not sure they would let you just give this plant to me”, I said, as I took the plant from him.

“They should, I own this place after all”, he replied, winking at me as he handed me the plant.

Back at home, I suddenly realized that I knew nothing about taking care of a plant. Sure, it wasn’t as difficult as taking care of a pet, but I am sure there was more to it than water and sunlight. I took out my smartphone to call upon the wisest: Google.

I tried searching for ‘Byta’ but apparently, no one on the internet knew of such a plant, which could only mean that I have an extraterrestrial plant. I gave my plant a look, expecting it to grow teeth and devour me, but thankfully that didn’t materialize. With a sigh, I got up, kept the plant on the table in my drawing-room, gave it some water and went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up and got dressed for the office but I wasn’t looking forward to it. I liked my new job and the people seemed friendly, but still, I was having problems connecting with people. They had helped me get a plant the previous day, which was a very nice gesture.

My plant! I knew plants don’t grow overnight but I was excited to see the progress. I went out into the dining room but the sight which awaited me was disturbing. Not only it had not grown, but it was also starting to dry up and the leaves were drooping down. Even the single flower bud on top looked like it was starting to wilt away. Maybe the old man had given me a defective plant for free just for kicks. I immediately called up the nursery and requested to speak to the owner.

“Hello, young man. I assume this is some kind of emergency”, said the old man from the other end of the line. I explained everything to him, what I had done and what had happened to the plant.

“Hmm..”, he said deliberating, probably scratching that thick white beard of his and continued after a moment, “You know, plants aren’t that different from people. They are not supposed to dry up in just a night but the process quickens when they are in an unfavourable environment.”

“What do you mean? I kept it in a nice place and gave it water, what else could I have done to make it favourable?”, I retorted.

“Sometimes, the circumstances are not in our control. What is under our control is how we react to it. Do you want some pointers?”, he asked me, knowing my response full well.

“Of course I do!”, I said, and the old man proceeded to give me a set of directions to follow.

The first part was easy: sunlight, this I could do even before I leave for the office. I opened the curtains in my drawing room and kept the plant in a bright spot with non-direct sunlight, as directed by the old man. As I opened the curtains, my eyes fell upon the spectacular view from my apartment. I remember my housing agent saying something about this but I had always kept the curtains closed. From the large window of my 15th-floor apartment, I had a beautiful view of the huge lush green park with a small lake in the middle. I could see very tiny ducks swimming around in the lake and people taking their morning walks around it. Beyond the park was the gorgeous skyline of the city, with the sunlight peeking in from between them. For the first time since I came here, I left for my job with a smile on my face.

“Hey, Morning!”, I heard a voice from beside me while I was getting a coffee in the office. I turned to see my colleague from the previous day who had suggested I get a plant for my house.

“Morning!”, I replied with a smile, “thank you for your suggestion yesterday, I got myself a plant.” He beamed at that and we chatted for a few more minutes before he said, “I have got to run now, I have a meeting. But a bunch of us are going out for drinks tonight, would you like to join us?”

Normally, I am much more apprehensive of socializing invitations and so I was surprised at myself as I replied, “Sure, I would love to join you guys. I have some plant stuff shopping to do, so I will meet you at the bar directly.” We shook hands and went on to complete our set of calls and e-mails for the day.

I left the office a little early and went directly to buy the fertilizer and a spray bottle as the old man directed. He said that while sunlight and water were a good start, fertilizer would keep the plant safe from any pests going ahead.

“It is important that their long term health is taken care of, very much like us”, he had said.

While walking out of the shop, my eyes fell on a small diagnostics clinic advertising full body checkups at a discounted rate. I looked at the fertilizer in my hand and thought, if plants are like us, what if I need some fertilizers as well?

I immediately turned and walked inside the shop to book a full-body workup. In there, I also saw a pamphlet for a gym near my apartment. I looked down at my flabby stomach and decided to grab one of those pamphlets. While I was walking out of the place, I started remembering how my mother has always been after me for taking better care of my health and I never paid much heed to her advice, which made me wonder what made me do it today.

Once I reached home, I put down the fertilizer in the pot, sprayed some water on the leaves and got dressed to meet up with my colleagues for drinks.

“Hi! Am I late?”, I said as I greeted my colleague who had invited me.

“Not at all, let me introduce you to everyone”, he replied as he took me around the table, telling me the names of a bunch of people which I would forget the next day. He was a hit with everyone because he was just as friendly with everyone and not just to their face. I immediately took a liking to him, he was the kind of person I wanted my friends to be like.

“Oh and let me introduce you to our new programmer. She has also just moved here, I think you two would hit it off.”

The first thought that popped into my head as I met her was that I didn’t know that programmers can look that good. She was almost as tall as me, courtesy of her heels, slender, with jet black hair that came down to her shoulders. She was dressed conservatively yet fashionably. Did my heartbeat just go up a little?

I must have been mute for a while because my new friend had to nudge me to bring me back to earth. The three of us were chatting about the company, our jobs, and our hobbies.

“My new place is amazingly spacious, but even after setting it up it still feels a little bland”, said the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life.

“Why don’t you get a house plant?”, I said almost immediately and stupidly added, “I have the contact of a great plant nursery nearby.”

My friend gave me a look and I thought he must be jealous of me stealing his idea but instead he said to me, “Actually, why don’t you accompany her to the nursery? You have become an expert on them by now.”

I knew that meaning of the word ‘expert’ would probably need to be changed now, but I also knew another thing, which was that this man was going to be my best friend here.

“That would be great! Can we go tomorrow morning? I will treat you to lunch as a thank you”, she said gleefully.

Looking at her killer smile, I wanted to ask her how many kids she wanted, but thankfully I kept quiet.

The next day was a Saturday, but I was up at 6 AM. After a long time in my life, I was feeling genuinely happy. I went to my new gym, came back for a shower and had a hearty breakfast. I checked in on my plant and was pleasantly surprised to see it had perked up very well in just a day. The leaves looked healthy, and the flower had blossomed beautifully. I intended to inquire more about my plant from the old man today while I was there ‘helping a colleague' shop for their plant. I might suggest she get a ‘Byta’ as well, because magical or not, it had changed my life in just 2 days.

When we reached the nursery, my gorgeous companion insisted on browsing the entire selection with me. I politely excused myself after a few questions from her, lest my ‘expertise’ be exposed. I went around to find the old man while the enthusiastic salesperson from my earlier visit came around to help her.

I found the old man in the same area he met me earlier, tending to some plants. He immediately perked up as he saw me and invited me to sit on a nearby chair. I accepted his invitation and requested him to accept the payment for the plant he gave me. It no longer seemed a fair bargain to me.

“I must admit I was skeptical when you said that it was a magical plant, but indeed I have seen some miracles in the past few days. But tell me one thing, is this plant so rare in nature? I couldn’t find a single reference to it anywhere on the internet.”

The old man chuckled and said, “That is because its name is not really Byta. It’s just a common houseplant, you can find it in any shop.”

I was confused, why would he tell me all these stories and then give the plant away for free. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

He must have sensed my internal struggle as he said, “I didn’t know your particular situation but over the years I have seen many young people like you come in to get a plant. But in reality, what they are looking for is an anchor for their changing life. Plants not only provide company but also perspective in life. I know it sounds corny, but it is true.”

While I was digesting his words, he got up and brought me another one of the same plant and said with a smile, “Byta is just Swedish for Change.”

I chuckled at that and said, “Thank you so much”, and I looked at the plant he had kept in front and continued, “but I don’t think I want another one so soon.”

“I know”, he said with another wink, “but I think your lady friend could use some ‘Byta’ as well, don’t you think?”

April 25, 2022 17:58

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