Whisper 1.32

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Shea arrives early the next morning in the pouring down rain.

It feels amazing to see him again.

“Shea! You haven’t changed!” I tell him. “Your head leaves are white, sure, but you look as fresh as ever!”

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I feel so excited. Shea is here! After all these years!

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“There’s really nothing I need to tell you about the baby,” he says. “He’s doing great. Anyway, you know, plants don’t really care for their sprouts. That’s what we have gardeners for. You’re a great gardener, so just, you know carry on!”

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“I do love veggies, you know this,” I tell him. “But truthfully, Shea? I never thought that I would be a mother to a life form in the vegetable kingdom.”

“Do you know why I’m smiling?” he asks. “It’s so artistic, like a wish come true. I have to confess, back in college, I always dreamed of you caring for a  little sprout of our own.”

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That night, while Marigold is upstairs doing her homework, before bed, I might add, like we agreed, Shea, Bobobo, and I spend time together in the front room.

“Did you really dream of this?” I ask Shea.

“In my youth, yes,” he says. “Didn’t you?”

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“I never knew what to dream,” I tell him. “I was confused and clueless. I was very much in love with you, and you were my first best friend in college, but I couldn’t understand your feelings for me. I felt it best just to go along with whatever happened.”

“I remember you used to ask me what plants thought of marriage. Do you remember that? I gathered that being faithful was important to you. You know it doesn’t work like that for plants. I was just so afraid of disappointing you. I couldn’t stand that I might break your heart and smash our friendship. But I dreamed of this! Of course, neither of us had white hair and laugh lines in my dream, but it still feels miraculous to me that it’s come to pass.”

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Funny, how I feel so comfortable with him, even after all these years. It’s not the same type of love that I feel for Dante, which is a love that feels like destiny. This feels more like being with kin, or maybe the way I feel so at home in the forest, among the ferns and trees.

“Your daughter is amazing,” he says. “So smart! I guess she’ll be heading off to college!”

“She’s just a freshman in high school,” I tell him. “We still have a few more years at home.”

“Let me know when you’re starting to fill out applications,” he says. “I know a few of the deans there. I can pull some strings.”

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Early the next morning, he’s out raking leaves. Oh, this brings back memories!

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“D0 you remember our squirrel friend?” I ask him.

“eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh?” he says. “Of course I do! You know, his great grand kits are still playing outside our old dorm!”

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“Look at all these leaves,” Marigold says as she comes home from school. “Did you rake these?”

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“Whee!”

And then she tosses them all up into the air, and Shea and I laugh.

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We feel like family, Shea, Marigold, Bobobo and I. What if I had let myself dream, back in those long ago days. If I had, then this would have been my dream, too.

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Whisper 1.9

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“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.”

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“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.

He nods.

“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.

“You.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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?

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Whisper 1.8

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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.

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I think phytohormones must make you smarter. At least they make me happier. And a happy student is a good student, right?

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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.

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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.

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Other living things seem to notice this, too. A little squirrel comes to watch us play, and it isn’t at all timid.

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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.

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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!”

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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.”

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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.

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Everything sparkles, lit up from the energy within.

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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.

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“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?”

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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.”

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I take off. I don’t need to be treated like that.

That’s for sure.

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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.

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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.

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