Jan wanted so much to be a plant person as she walked the aisle of the local plant shop. Row after row of lush green house plants in all shapes and sizes. There were two tone plants that purified the air, plants for beginners, low light plants, plants who need water every day, low maintenance plants, and trendy plants. It was like a tropical jungle in here between the big leaf palms, cascading ivy’s, and big bushy ferns.
So much life. It was calming.
Something about having a healthy house plant elevated a person from cold and uncaring to model citizen and contributor to mankind. You can trust a person with healthy house plants. They know how to take care of things, Jan thought to herself.
Jan’s apartment was so empty. So void of life. The last time she had guests, she heard them whispering after she went to the kitchen and they thought she couldn’t hear them.
“No house plants. It’s weird.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing. She’s probably free watering them in the tub.”
“It could be worse. She could have plastic—”
“Ack! Don’t say it. I mean, how reliable can she be if she can’t even keep a plant?”
That last comment hurt. What did it mean anyway? Jan prided herself on being reliable, on time, and available if her friends needed her and here they were, questioning her reliability because of her lack of plants? She couldn’t handle the feeling of wondering what else her friends said about her when she had her back turned.
And yet, here she was. Standing in a jungle of plants, trying to decide which poor plant she was going to spend $50 to take home only to watch it die a slow death from lack of water and attention. It wasn’t like she enjoyed killing plants. It just happened. Today wouldn’t be any different. She would choose a perfectly healthy house plant herself or have one recommended by the staff. They would give her detailed instructions, as usual, like “this one needs to be in a window” or “only water once a week by setting the pot in a large bowl of water so it can draw the water it needs from the bottom” or “be sure to trim off any brown leaves.”
What’s the old saying? “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”? Jan knew she wasn’t literally going to hell for all the plants she’s killed over the years; but still, it wouldn’t surprise her if plant murderer was on the list of charges come judgement day. They were God’s creations too, right? As Jan fantasized about meeting Peter at the pearly gates and hearing him list off all her plant victims by species and date of death, she was interrupted by the sound of a plant store staff member’s voice.
“Back to try again?”
“Huh? Oh yeah.”
“You know, some people just aren’t plant people. It’s okay.”
“You’re not a plant person. It’s okay.”
“But I want to be.”
“We all want to be something.”
“My friends think I’m unreliable.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Do you have any pets?”
“God, no. They require care and feeding.”
“That explains the plants.”
Something about this staff member was different than the others Jan encountered. She couldn’t help herself from talking.
“I’m not a bad person.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
“I just don’t think about watering them and then I over water them…”
“I mean, I have a hard enough time getting myself to drink enough water…”
“Look, I’d really like to help you; but I’m afraid the help you need is above my pay grade.”
“I can’t in good conscience sell you any of these plants as I cannot bear to think of their premature deaths. However, I can tell you’re pretty desperate, so—”
“You’ll help me?”
“I’ll do whatever you say! I’ll stick to the watering calendar this time, I promise!”
The plant staff member turned and began walking toward the rear corner of the plant store near a large window. Jan followed obediently behind them trying to contain her excitement. She felt like a child following her mother after being told she could pick out one thing at the store. The anticipation grew within her and she felt hopeful for the first time.
“I think one of these will be more amenable with your aversion to watering.” She heard them say as they turned and swooped their arm in front of a large display like a product model on The Price is Right or Vanna on Wheel of Fortune. There, before Jan, was a big beautiful display of large and small spiky, fuzzy, and smooth plants. The staff continued, “These are cacti and succulents. They need little water and can actually go quite some time without it. Some stay green, some bloom flowers, and some go dormant but will come back.”
Jan glanced over the table. There were so many shapes and sizes. “You think I will be able to keep one of these alive?”
“I make no promises, but, yeah, I think you can do it.”
“Thanks for giving me a second chance.”
“More like 20, but you’re welcome. Let me know when you’re ready to check out.” The staff smiled and then walked away.
It was true. It probably was the 20th time she had bought a plant from here in the last couple of years. She looked at all the cactus and succulents trying to figure out which one she would take a chance on when she caught a glimpse of what looked like a dead stick with giant thorns poking out all over it. At the end of the stick, there was a smaller spiky dead looking branch with a few small green leaves and three tiny pink flowers. It looked so menacing and delicate at the same time, she thought. Jan carefully reached through the gauntlet of spikes and thorns and wrapped her fingers around the small pot holding the dead looking cactus. She brought the pot closer to read the label.
“Euphorbia milii?” Jan set the cactus back down on the table so she could Google the name. “Crown of thorns, huh. This is what they put on Jesus’ head?” The thorns looked like inch long super sharp needles. She imagined a circle of them being pushed down onto his forehead and shuddered. She couldn’t help herself and her pointer finger slowly made its way toward one of the spikes on the plant. She touched the tip of her finger to the spike and pulled it back quickly.
“Ouch! Jesus. Oh sorry, Jesus. Oh my God, what am I doing? I mean, sorry God.”
Jan stood there admiring the small crown of thorns and everything it represented. She was intrigued by this plant and how it could look dead and be alive at the same time. Jan knew this was the right plant for her. It was going to redeem her for all the ones she had lost in the past.
She would be forgiven.
She would be worthy.