“How was your date?” Shea asks.
“Awful,” I say. I tell him about the rainbow, the geese, and feeling the hills receiving the universe’s kiss, and then about how Cid yelled at me when I told him about that.
“It sounds like a beautiful experience,” Shea says, “like transcendence and inspiration wrapped up in a lettuce leaf, just waiting to be devoured!”
“Cannibal,” I whisper, and Shea laughs.
“Look,” he says, gesturing towards the squirrel who plays by our feet. “There’s eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.”
“Is that his name?” I ask.
“His Plant name.”
“Do you have a Plant name?” I ask, as we play hacky sack.
“Yes,” he says. “Do you want to hear it? ooOoooshaaaaamayyyyiiiiiiiopapa.”
“That’s a beautiful name,” I say. “Do I have a Plant name?”
“Yes,” he says, “only it’s not audible.”
“Then what is it?” I ask.
“Chemical. Feel…” and he emits a phytohormone wash that makes me feel like I’ve just stepped into a home made of light.
“Is that my name?” I ask.
“This is how I feel every time I walk in the forest or among the plants in my garden.”
“That’s because the trees and plants know your name,” Shea says. “They greet you when you walk among them.”
Before bed, I play the guitar, making up a song. Plant talk is like music, vibrations through the air, available to all who might receive them. I wonder if maybe I’ve been listening to Plant all my life, and just didn’t realize it.
In the morning, Shea tells me that he dreamed of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.
“He’s our friendship totem,” Shea says.
After breakfast, as I’m heading upstairs to my room, I see Shea and one of our dorm mates in the front room. He’s blowing her an alkaloid kiss.
She seems to like it and they lean in to each other. I tell myself, “Don’t get upset. It’s not like Shea’s your boyfriend. He’s just your best friend.”
“Do plants marry?” I ask Shea when he and I play frisbee in the parking lot.
“No,” he says. “You know how plants mate, right?”
I think about it.
“The males just broadcast their pollen out for any open flower to receive,” he says. “That’s not exactly the type of thing that a marriage can be built on.”
Later, when he blows me a kiss and I feel my alkaloid high starting up, I remind myself that it’s different for plants–it’s not like it means anything.
After supper, when we’re heading out to play more frisbee, Shea says, “So, yeah. Plants just like to broadcast their love widely and freely,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have special relationships.”
“So if spousal relationships aren’t the special ones for plants, then what are?” I ask.
“Friendships,” he says.
I think of mesquite trees that offer shelter to young saguaros, beans that climb up cornstalks, mugworts that thrive beside nettles.
“Especially best friends,” he continues. “Do you know who my best friend is?”
I shake my head.
When we head inside, I get a text from Anoki. He’s having a party and he wants me to come.
Riding over there, I think about friendship. So, I’ve got two best friends now, Shea and Anoki, and they both seem to actually like me. Now that I’ve got best friends, I don’t feel like anything’s missing in my life. Maybe I don’t need romance. Maybe I’m like a plant, and friendships are the special relationships for me.
Anoki’s party is a swimsuit party. As usual, Anoki is surrounded by women, this time, by women in swimsuits, and I can’t even get close enough to say hi.
As I’m leaving, I get a phone call.
“Hey. It’s Ray. Ray Wise.”
I’m trying to think who Ray Wise is.
“You know. I met you at one of Anoki’s parties?”
OK. I figure it out real quick. Little guy, glasses, kind of a nerd. Nice guy.
“Anyway, I wanted to know if you wanted to go out.”
“When? Like now?” I ask.
It’s late on Sunday night.
“Yeah,” he says.
My first class doesn’t start until noon.
“OK,” I say. I’ll never know how I feel about romance if I don’t give it a try, after all.
I meet Ray outside the comic book store.
“It’s so beautiful, with the snow falling,” I say. “I could paint a landscape from this.”
“Ugh. I hate art,” he says. “I’d rather read.”
We end up talking for a few hours. I don’t know that there’s much romantic potential there–I can’t imagine myself with somebody who hates art. I mean, I’m an artist! But Ray is a nice guy to have as a friend. I can always enjoy somebody that I can talk about books with for hours on end.
Then, just as I get ready to ride back home, Ray leans in and says, “I’m thinking of something. Fireplace, thick volume of Dickens, and you.”
Was that a flirt?