"working on my faults and cracks..."

8.25.2010

love is for the middle class


"This is Alfred. He hasn't long to live."

...Or so I was told, upon receipt of my first potted plant. My neighbor was moving, and parting out what was left of the unkempt garden she'd amassed on the porch.

Alfred is a Ficus. In stark contrast to the day I took his wilted fronds in, his small leaves are now as plentiful as the myriad of lucrative sponsorships which adorn his green plastic pot. He currently exists in my universe as Alfred the Ficus, in the same way that Tim the Landlord, Pete the Barista, Vera the Russian Teller, Meghan the Angry Mormon, Wally the Bumper of Fists, and Charlie Wong the Asian Tailor also exist in my life--as characters, but also as strange caricatures of the very roles they fill. I call him Ficus for short, and I hadn't realized he was the first real responsibility expected of me since moving to the Great Mormon Empire, until a few weeks ago when I was on a plane to fly home for a wedding. In the pre-departure moments, as I was buckling myself in, I noticed I was the only twenty-something male in the general vicinity (by which I was surrounded) without a braying child, or an expectant family in tow. Part of me patted my own back, recalling with great amusement the wise words of Patton Oswalt, taking pride in being able to leave the house without ferrying around those precious little "broods of failure." But the other instinctual part of me, less amused by Patton's intellect, instead wondering how I've made it to this point in my life, with only a Ficus to be held accountable for.

Across the aisle, the young (undoubtably Mormon) father patiently read to his daughter, and softly pleading to the crying toddler in his lap, to shut its miniature pie-hole. Two rows ahead, his wife was rocking still another infant of theirs. Mimicking his impressive fatherly undertaking (or unmitigated surrender of any and all "fun" as a twenty-something, depending on your worldview), I quickly thought back one hour's previous, when I'd dashed out of my apartment. "Did I remember to water my Ficus?" And then, "did I turn off the stove?" The latter concern was quickly cut off by "Oh, you mean the stove you haven't used in 8 months? The one on which Ficus is perched?"

Ah yes--the stove which goes unused because I no longer cook, makes for a veritably sunny, and partially shaded platform--perfect for any stalwart Ficus with previous near-death experience. But despite the occasional pang of guilt it may induce, I am still quite lucky. Lucky that the Ficus only needs water, and the occasional pruning, and not cereal, baby food, or time for attention--none of which I have currently at my disposal. My Ficus is a barometer of sorts--following the sun and the clouds, adjusting accordingly, just as he measures exactly the amount of accountability my lifestyle is able to dole out.

Just enough for me, just enough for him, and just enough for now.
 
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