Heberto

There is a plant in that front room which some would call a living room. But I don’t do much living in there. It’s kept dark during the day. I have hung heavy blankets over the curtains. This darkness is in case I decide to watch movies or television. But I have largely lost interest in that. There is a plant in there in a large plastic pot by the shrouded bay window at the front of the room, which is the house’s front which faces the street. It is an areca palm, which I have sentenced to eternal darkness like some villain in a Superman movie. It was once tall and flourishing. When I was in my last relationship all those years ago, I lived in a large apartment complex of many buildings. It was pretty landscaping. There were rolling hills. Only infrequently would terrifying things happen there. I remember an escaped convict with a gun. I remember a hurricane. There was an apple orchard behind us. A gym was included in the deal. It was right across the street from my building’s parking lot. I’d take my old boombox over there and exercise at three in the morning when no one else was around. I liked looking at the exercise equipment when no one was using it. I could see them in my mind’s eye on display in museums of the future as curious relics. There was also a community swimming pool in summer where I would go to lie in that one ridiculously floral chaise that hid under the shadows of a tree whose large trunk was just outside the pool’s fence. I’d lie there and read Nabokov in the shadows. Sometimes I’d study people. I’d wonder.  But I was a different person then. I’m much more about darkness now. The areca palm is still alive. It is tortured, but it began dying long before I darkened this room. There is still a central shoot of green coming up with new leaves, still wrapped up, like an unopened umbrella, that seems to survive only on the light that glows within those dark curtains and their coverings. Can you take nourishment from the light that lives inside another? I think you can. Nourishment moves in strange, mysterious ways. Am I somehow nourishing you right now, or will you immediately spit these words out? Sorry. The curtains covered by heavy blankets look like Rothko paintings when it is sunny outside. But even darker. The light seems to nest in the curtains and does not really penetrate into the room, but a little gets through. So I water this plant for no real reason. It’s like religion. It’s kindness with no real explanation behind it. But it is alive. A little bit. It’s behind the big screen t.v. that looks more like a Rauschenberg glossy black painting than a Rothko. It’s quoting the same period, anyway. The same school of alcoholic painters. So the dark room has a weird consistency. It’s trapped in the middle of the last century. I fill a Garfield coffee mug from the seventies (is Garfield dead?) from my kitchen tap, and I walk into the dark room to water the palm that refuses to die. When I step into the room, it’s like walking into a dark painting, not looking at one, but entering one, where the possibility of form and the doubt of form are having a strange conversation. It’s like stumbling around in a movie theater when you come in late for a show, that weird excitement and fear that there might be a killer or a lover only a few inches away from your one and only body, the only one you will ever truly possess, as you look for a place to settle your adrenaline. I always think someone might stab me or kiss me in those moments. I do know I feel very alive then. I think about the pointlessness of what I’m doing, being life support for a largely dead plant. Maybe this is one of those romances with the past. We all have those. I can’t even get behind the television to prune back all the dead parts it still carries. There are weird little beads that form on it and then turn white or some off-color like white. The dead fronds fall behind the television set. I think of Beckett and his ideas about pointlessness and his clear love of the rituals of pointless existence. I feel a certain fondness towards the dead man. So maybe I am paying homage to Beckett by watering this dead plant. But it is a little alive. Just a little. I think I also like walking in the darkness.Walking into the darkness. Don’t underestimate the importance of the little thrills in your life.  I think I like that feeling of not knowing form which the dark room gives me. It’s like beginning a sentence. If you stop and examine the phenomenon, you will see the greatest thrill of a sentence (if you are the one speaking or writing it) is the moment before the sentence unfolds, when you feel the compression of form and energy that is bidding you to unfold it, to speak it. It’s like the chrysalis of a butterfly the moment before that final deshicence. The white cracked shell of yourself lies on the floor of your mind. The sentence is birthed, flies off. You are generative. Yes, I like walking into that dark room where form is negotiable. The word is nescience. I think nescience brings something good to our lives. Nescience can be almost erotic. I feel my body’s tiniest hairs hearkening to the darkness when I walk into that room. It’s the cat inside of me. It’s quite possible the dead plant will outlive me. But I know it will die immediately after I do. Because nobody will invest time into it who doesn’t know the plant’s backstory. I can’t write anyone on earth and ask him or her to save the largely dead plant. I know we are inextricably tied together in this pointless bond. But we all have people we carry like this too. We all carry some dying things on our backs. When I see someone who isn’t carrying anything like this on his or her back, I realize that person is either very lucky or very sad. It could really just go either way.

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