What grows beyond
One day she wheeled herself into the office bearing two plastic grocery bags. Each one made a crinkling noise as she offered them over to me. “Now I brought you these,” she said, handing me the bags.
I took them gently, as one would handle a baby. There were two small plants peering out - green, alive, with roots clinging to wet dirt. The sterile examining room filled with the lives of two people and two plants. “Oh my goodness,” I said to her. “Are these from the house plants you showed me over the video?”
She smiled, and gave a worn out nod. Six months ago, in the depths of isolation, sheltered away from a disease that would easily uproot her, she had given me a tour of the beautiful plants in her small apartment. In her wheelchair, legs no more, at the end of a long review of ailments and sufferings, she had turned the camera on her iPhone to face forward. “Aren’t these plants beautiful, doctor?” she had asked, knowing that I would appreciate them. “The next time I make it into the office, I’m going to bring you a couple volunteers.”
And then across field and valley, contagion and disease, beating heart and winded breath - she had endured long enough to fulfill this small quest.
We talked about problems I could not fix. I tended to them with gloves, like a gardener believing that his tinkering might grow the garden.
The garden grows.
We ended our visit talking about our plants. She knew I had about five in my back office. Fellow voyagers in a windowless submarine, a space capsule, a primary care office blocking external cues of daylight.
She’s been gone for over a year now. A life lost in the pandemic, passing during the illusory days when everything that happened was not quite real.
I see those two plants each day that I go to work. I help keep them alive. I wouldn’t say they are thriving, but like me, they are ever searching, ever hoping for light.
Carbon she once borrowed, carbon she exhaled, carbon that still holds the leaves together.
I did not make it to her funeral. I know that she would not mind.
Instead we glimpsed what grows beyond, our mundane small talk an oblique glance at blinding light. What grows beyond is like the majesty of an ordinary houseplant standing upright, without legs. An impossible flourish.