Normally, he is the gardener of the house. I watched him year after year, half paying attention. Seeds, coconut-husk soil; add water and in a few months boom… Chilis. Too many to consume. Habaneros, Thai, Jalapenos, Scotch Bonnets. The heat lamp has been set for a few hours in the evenings, on an automatic timer. Every day it clicks on and off. I think maybe I will go mad. I think maybe this is a gift. In our apartment, I set up to work at our dining room table. It’s not the most comfortable set up. The hard chair cuts the blood flow, just above my knees.
One conference call has ended and tasks have been assigned. We have no idea when we will meet in the office again as a team. The dates keep changing. The company provides status updates, the chains of command feign bold ignorance. We’re never quite sure of what is happening at the top, that’s just how it is. They leave that part out of the marketing campaigns and new hire information packets. We are the masses, with seemingly no control. I look over at the seedlings. If I don’t water them, they will surely die, but how much water is too much? I have no direction and no green thumb. Instead, I have an internal lie detector, razor-sharp detachment skills, and Google.
Days pass and Google says I should sprinkle water on the seedlings and talk to them. It seems odd and just simple enough. No point in everything in the place dying without a fight. I watch a world leader’s disappointing speech, laced with racism and fueling xenophobia. The sun is going down when the heat lamp clicks on, its neon pink glow fills the window sill. The seedlings barely seem to notice the artificial sun. I talk to them in German.
I watch more world leaders deliver heartfelt messages, some connecting over old wounds of oppression, some afraid one decision could ignite political anarchy. I think of all the good people that have died and how cruel it is that some people are so awful, yet they continue to walk the land of the living. They sew nothing, tend no fields and with cleanly manicured hands reap others hard work.
The next morning, I walked into the living room to set up for work. I almost hadn’t noticed the light green stems, reaching from beneath the soil. I moved closer, half disbelieving the hope peeking through each little circle. Are they greeting me with the promise of something new? I feel a gratitude shift, despite being hit with isolations reality.
Will this garden of change impact how I move in the world when this quarantine is over? Should I interact with my guard up and treat others as though they are infected or still carrying the potential disease? It’s hard to say, so until then, I decide it’s just best to keep watering the plants. Summer is coming.
Text: Stacey Michelle Allen
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