Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez is a Mexican writer and educator living in Queens, New York. Her stories have been published in Strange Horizons, Acentos Review, Longreads, Okay Donkey, Reckon Review, Mixed Mag, Hobart After Dark, and elsewhere. Sonia’s writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fiction, and Best Microfiction. When she wants to avoid working, she makes paper flowers. You can follow her across all social media at @RodriguezSoniaA
by Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez
They carried me home from a shop not too far from here. I wrapped myself in the sun’s warmth while they held me against their chest like a baby. I saw their wide smile when they looked down at me. Their heartbeat a song of desire and need I felt in my roots.
“This is Snake-y,” they brought me pot to pot with the snake plant in a cerulean-colored pot. I felt naked in my black plastic container.
“This is Schmoney,” I shook my leaves at a money tree named “Schmoney”—who is this person?
They placed me atop a shelf next to the window, in front of Spikey and Joke-y.
“Oooh, this one’s not going to make it,” I overheard Spikey tell Joke-y. Succulents are the worst. They think they’re the only ones who survive. But they don’t know me. I faced the window without as much as greeting them.
“Oooh, se cree muy muy,” I heard one of them say, ‘They’re going to forget all about this new one in a few days.” From this position, the sun blinded me and I worried they might be right.
My tips were already browning and my soil drying out before they came to see me again. Lucky for me, I’ve never needed anyone to help me bloom. My kind have surprised many by surviving treacherous conditions.
“Good morning, Lily” they said as I drank from the cup of water they offered. They’d visit me every time I drooped my leaves, when the soil scrapped against my roots as I searched for droplets of life. They kept me barely alive and every day I surprise myself by surviving one day longer.
In the last few days since their last offering, I’ve noticed them change. They’ve been coming to the window, moving the sheer curtain, closing their eyes, and letting the sun hit their face. The creases around their eyes and on their forehead matching my lines. Their big head blocking my light.
Why are they home all the time? They’ve been watering me too much now. They dig their finger into the softest part of me looking for answers I don’t have.
They rest book after book in front of me in my new iris-colored pot. Posing both of us. Asking us to smile. For hours, they go from navy couch to the other navy couch and back to the first couch.
They’ve been wearing the same plaid pajamas for the last few days. They sing songs about being all by themselves and sing songs about baby sharks. They dance around the living room. And lay face down on the carpet—what is happening?
They lay across the double love seat reading Ordinary Girls. Their freshly painted nails match the pink and red and orange sleeve. More than once, I’ve caught them staring at the off-white wall in front of them—where are you?
They’re coming to me—again: “Lily! Lily! Lily!”
Their eyes droop a little, a new shadow around them. Maybe they need water too, nurturing too.
I’ve grown to need their touch. At the peak of the day, when the sun is the brightest, they come and stand by my window. When they’re done, they wipe my leaves. The warmth of their fingers similar and unlike the sun. Their touch always delicate, unsure. Their oily fingerprints, a map left behind for me to uncover. They don’t do this with the others, just me.
“Why so down, Lily? Want some more water?” Nooo! You moron, I yell. And they tilt their head, cup held midair. Can you hear me? I wonder. They press further into me and I cling to them. Bury myself underneath their fingernails, to be with them even when they leave me, even if only until they wash their hands, again and again.
“Alright, I hear ya. No more water.”
Weeks have gone by and they haven’t left the apartment. The last few days have been overcast and they haven’t come to stand by my window. Instead, they lay on the couch watching TV. Their vision somewhere farther away.
I wait for the next day and I don’t see them in my living room until midday. They grab water from the kitchen and am hopeful. They shuffle back down the hall, glass in hand. They don’t even look at me.
The day after that. Again. Midday. Water. Shuffle. Ignore.
I don’t panic. I can’t. I feel drained, weighted, lonely. The succulents are thriving. Growing new parts of themselves. They actually do better when they isn’t around. I don’t know how. It’s like I’ve forgotten I was me before them. Forgotten my roots, forgotten I’ve survived before. And, will again in the lilies after me.
“I’m sorry, Lily,” they say.
By the time they remember I exist, I’m already limp. My flower wilted and they haven’t noticed. I don’t look when they water me. The cold water a jolt on my drying roots. Life surges through me, like electricity. I’m vibrant again. I want to stretch and absorb and tell them I’ve missed them. But I don’t. They wipe the dust that’s made a home in me, seeped into my cracks. But I don’t look at them.
They go back to the ridiculous singing and dancing and couch hopping. They stand by my window, their big head in my way. My body remembers it’s full of life—new buds grow and soon my flowers will bloom.
They do half-assed yoga now. The instructor in a pretzel while they sits crossed legged shoving pretzels in their mouth before stretching their arms up. I lift my leaves with them. Stretch past the ceiling, past the blue sky, and add new stars to outer space for every day we’ve both survived. We’re painting a galaxy.
They’re coming to me: “hey, hey” they sing. Belting a song about surviving and knowing how to love. They hold my leaves in between their fingers. And we’re dancing. I smirk—who is this person?
Reprint: Hispanecdotes, May 2020.