Love Kills: A Short Story
I’m worried I’m gunna die. No one has watered me in ages. My humans have forgotten me even though I’m right here on the kitchen windowsill. You’d think they’d notice that my leaves have turned brown and ugly. I’m hideous! Hideous and dying. If I had eyes I would cry. I would cry a whole lot, then catch my tears with my leaves and pour them onto my dry dirt to save my own life.
My humans, they used to love me. They bought me as a housewarming present to themselves. Sweet pair they were, so excited to own a heart-shaped philodendron. They’d done their research by googling Top 10 indoor plants and thought my species the prettiest on the list (I tended to agree). They took me home; the woman holding me in her lap while the man drove their white Corolla carefully around the corners. They placed me onto the kitchen windowsill next to a penguin saltshaker and a pump bottle of hand sanitizer. I acclimatized to the west facing sun while they unpacked boxes and clinked coffee mugs of champagne together.
They watered me, turned my pot once a week and wiped my leaves with a damp cloth. They opened the window for me, letting the breeze find it’s way to my private places. I grew leaves in places there hadn’t been any before. I was healthy and thriving.
If you’d told me back then I’d die neglected I would have called you crazy and kept twirling my leaves in the breeze.
I admit it wasn’t all peachy, but is life ever 100% perfect? The man had a mean streak, if I’m being completely honest. The way he murdered the roses in the garden with the kitchen scissors sent shivers down my roots. He left their remains in a glass beside me on the windowsill like a hunting trophy. I whispered to them I’m sorry even though I know the dead can’t hear.
He could be sweet though, when he wanted to be. Mean, and sweet. He bought the girl a cat after he yelled at her. The cat, which came in a box with a bow and an apology, made the girl happy enough to forgive him. The next time he yelled at her, he cooked her dinner. The time after that, he bought her a dangly bracelet with cat charms on it. The time after that he rubbed her back while she cried. See? The man was mean, but sweet too.
I never doubted they both loved me. The woman spritzed me with water and the man pulled off my dead leaves. I let him do it even though I know it’s gross, because it feels good when someone who loves you does something gross for you. I was happy and loved and had no way of seeing my death just around the corner.
The man and the woman made their life official. People hid in our house with the lights off and waited for the woman to come home. When she opened the front door they all jumped out and shouted ‘surprise’. The man got down on one knee and the woman covered her smile with her hands and everyone clapped and cheered.
It was around this time things started to change. They’d been wearing new matching rings for about a month when the man stopped going to work. Instead, he sat beside me and tapped his cigarette ash out the kitchen window. He slept a lot. He didn’t do the dishes in the sink. He grew more mean than sweet, ignoring the woman when she came home, even when she asked him what was wrong. He turned down her invitation to talk about it and didn’t bring her gifts when he yelled. She cried and he left her back un-rubbed.
The man ignored me too. Just the woman watered me now. That was okay because she was enough for me. I wanted to tell her when she cried at the sink after the man had smashed a glass at her feet and stormed out of the house. You’re enough. The woman sniffed up her tears and dumped a glass of cold water over me. I hate getting watered like that, it’s too much in one go, I can’t swallow it all. I liked the way she usually did it, trickling it gently and slowly into my soil. She was having a tough night, so I forgave her the deluge. Water is water is water, whatever way it comes.
That dumping was the last time I had water. I feel stupid about it, being all annoyed at the way it was delivered. I’d give anything to have water dumped on me now, all in one go, so much that I couldn’t swallow it all.
The man and the woman fought more, and the man always won because he’s louder and bigger and stronger. I wondered if the woman was getting enough water because just like me she was shrinking and wilting and loosing her colour.
I started to die. I don’t have vital signs like a human; you can’t put two fingers against my stem to see if I have a pulse. Maybe that’s why my humans didn’t realise? Maybe my shrinking and curling and browning and drooping were not enough of a sign for them. I should have groaned as I tried to photosynthesize, or developed a hacking cough.
The woman still went to work but sometimes she didn’t come home at night. The man smoked with the window shut and looked at his silent phone a lot and slammed the fridge door shut when he got his beer out.
When the woman did reappear I wanted to hug her. Hug her because I’ve missed her, but also because she looked like she needed someone to hold her up.
They don’t bustle around the house like they once did, they don’t call to each other from the other room, they don’t stop in front of the kitchen sink to fill a glass of water then tip it gently on me. Instead they let the air go silent, the food uncooked, the love un-given.
I photosynthesis to no effect.
So here I sit, on the windowsill, with no one to love me. Things are getting dire for me now, critical, I’m close to flat lining. I barely notice when the man shoves his clothes into garbage bags, collects his laptop under his arm and flings his ring at the woman who is standing in the kitchen holding herself. The man leaves, the ring and the woman fall to the floor.
Someone comes, a different man, and picks the woman up off the floor. The two of them talk into the air just in front of their mouths and hug a lot. The man gets the woman a glass of water and sees me on the sill.
“What’s happened to your philodendron?” this other man asks.
On hearing my name, I rouse a little, using the last bit of energy I have. The woman joins him at the sink and pokes what’s left of me.
“I’m not good at keeping things alive.”
Meaghan Cook is a photographer and writer based in Ocean Grove, Victoria. She has written for publications such as The Age and Mamamia, and has run her own photography company for 10 years. Check out her WEBSITE / INSTAGRAM