How To Plant A Human Bean
“How do you plant human beans?” I asked my father. He had a strange look on his face, as if I spoke in humour. “I’m not kidding, father.” I responded to the grin beginning to form across his mouth. Why does he think of me comically? Often he comments about me being ‘inconveniently’ clever, I don’t even know the word, but I like to pretend I do. He sat there in the garden stool, trimming the leafy things. Twice he glanced at me, as if to see if I was insistent enough to remain standing, a vegetable I plucked limp in my hands.
“A human bean.” he weighed the odd phrase. “Wherever did you get the idea that you could plant humans?”
I looked at him strangely now. The answer was obvious to me, why has he not realised this?
“Humans are living things.”
He was digging the soil, what was it that he could be searching for in a pot? “Yes, we are living things.” He kept disturbing the dirt until he seemed to have located something which he threw in a nearby sack. After this, he turned to me, “Your point being?”
I frowned in confusion, “Father,” I pointed to the green stemy flowers he was about to return to the ground. “you plant living things.”
He looked immediately at his hands, then swiftly at me. And as if I misunderstood my own argument, he chuckled. But why, is not my answer sound?
“Why do you laugh, father?” I sulked. Nothing was funny.
“You cannot plant humans!” he shook his head in amusement. “And what of animals? How would you plant a bird?”
“I don’t like to talk about birds. I like plants.” I turned my face away, brows furrowed. He finished settling the flower to its place. Upon observing me, he took off his gloves and apron, then beckoned me near.
“Come now, don’t pout.” always he does this whenever I mope. It’s a technique.
“I want to plant a human bean.”
He reached for me, locking me around his arms. In a gentle manner in which I knew him of, he wiped my hands, noticing they were soiled from all the gardening attempts. He removed the carrot from my grasp.
“Why, of all the plants in our garden, would my daughter choose a human to grow?” He spoke to the vegetable.
“Father. . .” I whined a little.
He sighed. “. . . well then,” I brightened at these words. I knew I had persuaded him. “let’s plant a human bean.”
I jumped in glee.
He took a small notebook from the bench. “Which human do you want to plant?”
“Father.” He waited there, the pen ready in his fingers.
“Father.” I repeated. “I want to plant you, father.”
His eyes widened, the colour in them as vivid as the leaves around us. “Me?” There was a smile by which I remember him so well.
I nodded in reply.
“Me it is then. How would you plant father?” he added a sweet tone to his voice.
I looked at him as blankly as I could, then shrugged. How could I know that? I was seven.
“Do you not know how to plant yourself?”
He stared at me. I stared at father. His mouth hung open.
“Wha—” he erupted in a fountain of laughter. I was surprised.
“I haven’t the slightest idea how to plant myself.”
The following afternoon, I ran straight to the garden, tossing my school bag on the floor.
“Father, I’m home!” I clutched a notebook to my chest.
I found father as how I imagined him to be—sitting on a stool, an apron stained with earth tied to his back, similar to how he kept his long hair away from his face. He was in a study of flowers.
I paused a breath. Why now, I do not see him as how I did yesterday. “Father. . .” The catch of sunset in his eyes, the fumble of his fingers. Nor how he handled the tools, or the hue of his skin. All of it seemed common—like the ones I meet outside the house: the neighbour, the mailman, the maids. All that father was—I glanced at my notebook—they all seemed. . .
“Like a human bean’s.”
I was lost in thought. My feet took steps I wasn’t conscious of.
“Yes, father.” I raised my eyes to his. This man whom I call father. What was the difference between this human from other humans? They are all contained in a same body. They are all planted by the same method. How could I separate him from the rest of the world?
“How was school?”
I handed him the notebook. Immediately, he scanned the page where it was opened, his hands automatically adjusting a rose-bed without the need of his sight.
I kept my stare. It was weird. I never thought gardening a human would cause me to confuse him with someone else.
His hands stopped.
“How to plant a human bean.” he read my notes. I had studied father’s books all day instead of paying attention to class. He removed the gloves and took it to continue his reading:
How to plant a human bean:
1.) Seed — pick a human you like
2.) Soil — bury the human’s feet under a home where it can grow.
3.) Light — is happiness, give the human light by making him laugh
4.) Water — if thirsty, teach the human how to cry so it can drink from the pool of tears, be careful not to drown them
5.) Air — do not place next to another human, they must have equal room to breathe
6.) Prune — trim the nails and cut the hair
7.) Pests — cure its wounds and clothe its scars
I 8.) Weed — pluck the enemies which try to steal its house
9.) Speak — talk to the human so it wouldn’t be lonely
After reading this, father, the man in front of me, whom I am so familiar and near, smiled. But how I saw him do this like it was the first time.
“You’ve done well.” he patted my head.
I remained troubled. “Father,” I began, not breaking my study of him, “how do I know that the human bean I planted is you?”
He looked at me thoughtfully.
“How do I know that, when humans have no colour like roses or sunflowers? When they have the same number of branches? Or when none of them takes root in a pond like water-lilies?”
Father stroked my hand. “Why these questions at a young age?”
“Father. . .” I was sorely concerned by the possibility of planting another human than father.
“Father thinks that if he plants a violet, the flower cannot be other than violet.” said he as a comfort for a while. Knowing how easily I get ill-at-ease by myself.
It was another afternoon spent in the garden.
I never understood father’s thoughts. Even now, as I kneel before him. A grown human bean. From that memory of our garden, I based my life on the nine instructions I wrote as a child. Whenever I was fond of a human, I would begin the steps. I do it without error. I had a pot collection of my own. Yet at some point, it was amiss. I couldn’t quite balance their growth. I haven’t quite mastered gardening like how father did.
Father, what has become of this human bean?
I lay a palm on the ground. “Oh father.” I see his name engraved on a stone, where his remains are deeply planted under the flowerbeds.
“What if the human bean withers away?”
I was in our same garden. I strolled most of the afternoon away, observing how he cared for my memory of the shrubberries and herbs. It was meticulously exact. As if father wished to preserve here the time. I wanted to pick a flower for him. I found his box of tools from underneath a row of pots and from it, fished a pair of scissors, when I caught a familiar name.
“Violet.” it said. The handwriting was terribly familiar too. I picked it up. It was a notebook with my name on it. Immediately, I knew it was that from a decade ago.
My father, he kept it.
I walked back to his grave and sat.
“Do you remember this, father? Perhaps you do more than I. As a child—no, even at this age, I am afraid that the human bean I planted is not you at all. What was it that you told me of violets? How could you not mistake me for another flowe—”
My thoughts went blank. On the paper I saw ten instructions. Ten—I only wrote nine.
It was not of my handwriting. It was father’s.
10.) Love — remember to plant the human bean in the garden of your heart.
I clutched the notebook to my chest as I did long ago and cried. “Oh father.” I understood his meaning. He could never mistake me for another human bean. I realised what this place was to father. Why he had carefully maintained this space. It was his heart.
“I am forever planted in yours.”
Even with tears, I could see clearly our garden of violets.