If you missed Part 1, click here.
I couldn’t sleep the first night at my sister’s house, the first night of my exile. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was the responsible one. I was supposed to be successful, too. That’s how this works. If you work hard and take care to proof-read your homework, you get better grades than your sibling who goofs off all the time and doesn’t take anything seriously. This had held true my entire life up until this point.
Why, in the unforgiving world of adulthood of all places, had the situation suddenly been reversed?
It wasn’t as if my sister was particularly successful either, drifting from one side-hustle to the next while relying on thrift stores and dumpsters to make ends meet. I’ve heard her brag about how little she spends on food or heating in a month. As if living like a peasant is an accomplishment.
And yet there I was, a dependent slug living on her charity after years of schooling, and several more of gainful employment. It was only temporary, of course. Tomorrow I would polish my resume, and start making calls to contacts. Within a month or two, I would be employed again and back in a modern, tastefully-decorated apartment in an up-and-coming area of the city.
The most productive thing I could do right then was get a good night’s sleep. But I couldn’t.
Not uncommon, for the first night in an unfamiliar environment. I should cut myself some slack. Since I couldn’t sleep anyway, maybe I should start going through online job postings, just to get a sense of the market. I grabbed my laptop and crept downstairs. There wasn’t a desk in my sister’s spare bedroom, and using a laptop in bed is terrible for the posture. I plan on having a long, upwardly mobile career and I do not intend to look like a hunched old granny just as I hit my peak.
I settled myself at the kitchen table. Light from my laptop screen irradiated my face and ensured the rest of the room would appear cloaked in darkness despite soft moonlight seeping in from the windows. I pulled up a job search site and began to consider search terms, but my gaze kept drifting to the plant on the table.
Everything about it annoyed me. It had no purpose; it was just clutter. Don’t get me wrong, I like decorative objects if they evoke something useful. Serenity, for example, as most self-respecting orchids do. This thing looked like it might already be rotting, an effect enhanced by the broken mug it was planted in. It didn’t evoke anything in me except disgust, which seldom enhances productivity.
This aesthetic did fit the room, which was both the only remotely positive thing I can say about it, as well as a sad commentary on the state of the kitchen. It wasn’t filthy, just messy and cluttered. Full of herbs hung up to dry and drop dead leaves on everything, and jars of other herbs or peppers left to soak and have their essence extracted like medical specimens in jars.
I considered one jar of herbs and vinegar. It had a considerably higher ratio of vinegar to plant material than the other jars. I picked up the jar, unscrewed the lid, and tipped some of the excess vinegar into the broken mug housing the orchid. I put the jar back exactly where it had been, and wiped up a few drops that fell on the table or slid down the side of the jar.
There. Now the orchid would be put out of its misery, and the herb/vinegar mixture would be more like the others. By any objective standard I was helping.
I packed up my laptop and headed up to the spare bedroom to attempt sleep again. I might not have accomplished much in the way of job searching, but I had done something. What kind of namby-pamby life form could be done in by a salad dressing ingredient anyway? If the orchid did die, it just proved how pointless keeping it around had been in the first place.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of my alarm clock, as I had for as long as I could remember. I’d gotten very little sleep, and the raucous chirping was particularly painful. Technically I could have done without it, as the hour was meant to accommodate a long commute and I had nowhere to go. Still, I saw no reason to dwell on that, and sleeping in would only encourage the kind of laziness that would extend this hiccup in my life. My sister wasn’t awake yet, and wouldn’t be for an hour or two.
I went down into the kitchen to get coffee brewing, hoping that there would be something decent available. My sister had said something alarming about dandelion coffee earlier. I paused as my fuzzy mind detected something wrong on the kitchen table.
The orchid was now at least twice its original size, its wide, furred leaves spilling down onto the tabletop and hiding the mug entirely. I blinked several times, commanding my sleepy mind to make sense of this. It wouldn’t.
I dug a nearly-empty container of instant coffee out of the back of a cupboard, made myself a cup of something tolerable, and hurried upstairs, leaving the orchid to its nonsense.