Shea and I always seem to talk about vegetarianism. I applaud him for it, but at the same time, I can’t quite wrap my head around it.
“Isn’t that like cannibalism?” I ask him.
“Not really,” he says. “Well, maybe a little bit. Well, OK. Yes. It is. But I never eat relatives, that is, unless I can help it.”
I realize he’s joking. But still. What kind of plant eats other plants? Would it be better if he were a flesh-eating plant, like a Venus fly-trap?
He is kind of a Venus-trap. Lately, at the end of every conversation, he blows me a kiss. It feels amazing–like a rush of, I don’t know, phytohormones, or something. I buzz from head to toe and feel like I might be sprouting leaves.
He blows me a zinger of a smooch before my midterms, and when I’m riding off to take my first exam, all I can think is how I’m so zinged-up on phytohormones that I’m going to ace this test.
I think phytohormones must make you smarter. At least they make me happier. And a happy student is a good student, right?
I come out of the exam to find a woman in a witch hat, hot pants, and go-go boots doing a rain dance in the courtyard.
My plant-kiss high has worn off, but I feel like I did all right on the test. As I was leaving, the professor said to me, “You’re on the Dean’s List,” and she showed me my name.
Now that feels pretty good.
Shea’s out raking leaves in the rain when I get back to the dorm.
“Wanna play hop-scotch?” I ask. Neither of us is very good, but we have a blast.
While we’re playing, Shea says, “You make a pretty cool friend!”
“Really?” I ask him.
And he says, “Yeah. You’re my best friend. Who else is crazy enough to play hopscotch with me on a cold foggy night?”
I notice that when Shea’s happy, the air feels thick with alkaloids, and it makes me feel happier, too.
Other living things seem to notice this, too. A little squirrel comes to watch us play, and it isn’t at all timid.
This term feels so much different than last term. I’ve got two best friends, and that makes me feel more comfortable around everybody.
When you can be yourself around people, that’s when you’ve got a chance to gain true friends.
Shea stops to blow me another alkaloid-laden kiss.
“Shea!” I say. “I feel so goofy when you do that!”
“I know!” he says. “That’s why I do it!”
My phone rings.
“Aren’t you going to get it?” he asks.
I answer. “It’s Cid,” I mouth to Shea. “And he’s asking me on a date.”
“You should go!” Shea says.
“Really?” I ask Cid to hold on for a sec and mute the phone. “For real?”
“Sure!” says Shea. “Cid’s a great guy! Go! Have a good time!”
So, really quickly, I figure that Shea’s just being a plant, sharing his good feelings with everyone around, and so those kisses, though they make me high, don’t really carry any significance more than Shea’s overflow of good feelings, and maybe, just a general fondness for me. It’s like a rose–it’ll bloom for anybody.
I unmute the phone. “Sure, Cid,” I say. “I’ll meet you at the quad in a few.”
I guess I’m still high from Shea’s wonder-kisses when I ride to the quad. I see this rainbow arcing over the campus, and six geese fly towards its center, perfectly framed.
The heavens open just then, and the hills rush out to greet it, and I’m coursing below, riding along a string of destiny that will bring me to the secret of the Universe, if I just have the eyes to see and the spirit to decode.
Everything sparkles, lit up from the energy within.
I see Cid standing across the quad and race over to him to share this vision.
“It’s like everything is alive!” I tell him. “And that’s what’s art for, so that we can describe this shimmer of energy that animates it all!”
I tell him about the rainbow and the geese and the earth opening up and the heavens showering kisses.
“Was your mother a llama?” he yells. “What kind of doped-up nonsense are you spouting? I guess next you’re going to be painting rainbows and V-shaped geese! What then? Happy kitties? Tragic clowns? Have you lost your edge?”
He’s lost all respect for me.
“I can’t believe you said that,” I say.
“And you didn’t even dress up. This is a date. Put on some make-up, or something.”
“I don’t wear make-up,” I say.
“I’m thinking of leaving soon,” he says.
“Don’t bother,” I say. “I’m outta here.”
I take off. I don’t need to be treated like that.
That’s for sure.
As I ride home, I realize I actually feel sort of glad this happened, in a way. It helps me choose. Now I know not to choose Cid.
When I get back to the dorm, there’s Shea, raking the maple leaves. Does he feel sad when leaves fall? I can’t wait to ask him and to hear what he has to say, about leaves and autumn and anything, really.