SECTION SIX

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COLUMN SIXTY-SIX, DECEMBER 1, 2001
(Copyright 2001 Al Aronowitz)

THE YUCCA PLANT

In terms of plants, Robert had never felt anything except for the mildest sort of esthetic appreciation, until the Sunday morning at Bebe's apartment, when he sensed that her big, potted yucca was trying to get his attention.

Robert loved sleeping at Bebe's place.  It was small and had an urban feeling, even though it was situated near the top of Mead's Mountain.

Bebe was one of those women who was more magician than mortal and could carve out a feeling of spaciousness and grace in the most challenging environments.   Her bed was tucked into an alcove between two walls and lavishly made up with silk-covered comforters and fresh-smelling sheets of soft Egyptian cotton. The foot of the bed faced the best feature of the apartment---a view of a red maple tree. In summers Bebe kept lace on the window to filter out the green glare; in winter she hung velvet curtains in cornflower blue because the snow depressed her.  But in the fall she left the window bare. 

On the left side of the bed was a red brick wall with an antique-framed, black and white photograph of Bebe as a Lolita-ish ten year old wearing her mother's straw hat and sunglasses.

On the other wall was a built-in bookshelf decorated with a few pieces of earth-toned pottery, stacks of colorful coffee table books, a reading lamp, a small deco-shaped alarm clock and the aforementioned enormous yucca plant with its tropical yellow-tinged green leaves.  

Robert woke that Sunday with a shaft of sun falling on his cheek. Everything was familiar and cozy: the smell of Bebe's dark, freshly brewed coffee; the sound of her shower and the softly playing Bach. Robert stretched and blinked at the primary storybook cheer of the red leaves against the blue sky.  He buried his head back in the soft pillows and drew up the covers and nearly drifted off again but then---

The call was unmistakable.  His eyes flew open and the plant was so close it was nearly touching his nose and Robert could not imagine how he could have taken it for granted for so long. Not so much ignored it as viewed it as an inanimate object, part of the furniture. Another one of his lover's elegant decorating touches.

And now he could see that the plant was not only most certainly alive, but actively regarding him with a sort of benign, plant-like affection.

Bebe's shower stopped and she was humming along with Bach.  Robert decided to employ the logical, component-by-component method that his goal-oriented office management consultant had taught him.

The plant was alive. Okay, no problem, anyone could deal with that. That part, at least,


Plants are
living beings---why CAN'T
they communicate?


was absolute fact. The plant was communicating. Okay. Why not? Didn't plants thrive when talked to sweetly; didn't they shrivel when you played Nine Inch Nails?  Yeah, but wasn't that a one-way deal? Weren't plants supposed to be the receptors? 

Robert sat straight up in bed. He suddenly wished Bebe would put some damn shutters up. The whole sunny view was alarmingly cheery, as if a huge Mr. Rogers might sail through at any moment.

He looked at the plant.  Shit, that was it.  Its leaves were looking ever so slightly singed. Too much sun. It wanted Robert to do something about the harsh fall light.

"Hi sweetie."  Bebe was wrapped in a towel, with a perfumey steamy haze coming off her face, bending over Robert, bestowing a toothpastey kiss on his brow.  Too many smells.  Boy was he thirsty.

Robert shot his hand out, past Bebe's body, and felt the dry dirt around the plant's base.

"Shouldn't you water this thing?" Robert said. "And isn't it getting just a bit too much sun?"

Bebe sat on the bed. The smells! The thirst! But at least she was partially blocking the sun from the window. The relief!  She leaned forward and her hair dripped a little on Robert and her eyes sparkled.

"You crazy thing," she said. "What's gotten into you? You're positively domestic!"

"I'm serious," Robert said, hopping out of bed. He felt instantly regretful when his heavy feet thudded on the floor and sent jarring reverberations through the air.  He went into the tiny kitchen to get some water.

"Why are you tip-toeing?" Bebe sat on the edge of the bed, rocking with mirth. "Darling, are you okay? Has something happened to you? 

"Everything's just fine," said Robert, pouring water into the parched soil around the plant.  "I don't know what you're talking about." And so began his new life with woman and plant.    ##

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