The Descent of Dionaea

The venus flytrap (Dionaea) had grown beautiful, even more beautiful than when it was taken home from the garden centre, plucked from a crate of its peers after some time of careful consideration, on a warm grey Sunday, compared against the others, its fine leaves in cool green, flawless, without even the blemish of weather, rosy in the middle, every inch of it firm and proud. It sung out to the perusing eye. The carnivorous splendour of flora must appeal to even the most amateur of gardeners! Over the tightlipped funnel of my watering can, I kept an eye on it, placed in the centre of my coffee table, next to coasters, a tray of tobacco scraps & papers, above a chess set (three moves into the Ruy Lopez, 4. O-O), comics (The Amazing Spider-man and Hulk, issues #1 and #6 respectively), the Aug. 15 issue of The New Yorker, 2 ½ by William Eggleston, The World of Apartamento, and two sizeable collections by Chris Ware. The pot was turquoise and had a large gecko molded into it; the last plant to live within died after my last flat was evacuated at the start of the pandemic; that was in January 2020, about twelve years ago; it was a tenderleaf that never stood a chance. I can still see it, can still measure my strength against its removal as I weekend afternoon dusted the gecko.
    I send my mother photographs to update her on the plants around my flat, especially when they begin to flower. She was vociferously jealous of my venus flytrap, for hers was not doing so well. It became a great source of pride to me, and in the evenings I would sit in my armchair, smoke many cigarettes, gaze at the plant, imagining myself some botanist born into incredible wealth, a figure of historical and scientific importance, a genius and innovator. The plant did not once twitch beneath the trails of my window.

   A single stalk emerged from the centre of all those jaws, a fist lifted to heaven. Buds grew; they formed little white purses ready to burst. I watched in anticipation. I wrote my mother—‘Any day now!
    But it was a busy week in which I lost track of days, as one is likely to do when life is dull and there is little to speak or write of. The budded stalk started to limp, started to lean. It leaned away from the east-facing window. I determined—This is not good. How many days had it been since I watered it? The instruction card was in a desk drawer:

  This bog plant prefers a bright position. Place the pot in a saucer with much water. / Diese Sumpfpflanze liebt einen hellen Platz. Es sollte viel Wasser im Untersetzer. / Cette plante des marais aime beaucoup de lumière. Placez la plante sur un plat avec beaucoup d’eau. / Deze moerasplant houdt van veel licht. Zet de pot in een schotel met ruim water.

    I watered it and cooed words of encouragement.
    It was not enough.
    The next morning, the venus flytrap had turned. Bruises bloomed all over it, most notably at the edges of its many jaws and up the stalk, every mouth had shut. Saddest of all: the buds, which were fit to blossom only a day earlier, had succumbed to this bruising also. It had overtaken the entire plant. I looked for flies; there were none, and to steal one from the spiders that webbed across my windows and the beds on my balcony seemed cruel, thieving. It was an upsetting sight.

    Who, I ask, can survive in such heat? It is unrelenting. The sound of a fan is now such that one cannot sleep without its drone! The whole country is floored. Every exclamation of rain, as declared by meteorological societies, is wept at! O, joy! They even announce the hour at which the rain will arrive, as though it were a delivery to be signed for, never left on the doormat, but welcomed into the home with open arms and smiles between deliverer and recipient. However, the rain never arrives. Maybe a drop punctuates the window, solitary and fading, but nothing more. And the heat laughs! The air does not move, it laughs without moving.
    One day the rain fell and it was glorious. Everyone in the office looked out as though it were fireworks. Imagine British people astonished and grateful for rain! The young man in the office next to me said—‘I heard that the ground is so dry that it won’t take any water and everywhere will flood.’ Another man in the row of desks opposite showed me a video of floods already appearing in our mutual hometown. ‘My friend just sent me this,’ he said. He was very tall and insisted he went home immediately before he was unable to. Between the rail strikes and the weather, I sat alone in a row of desks. The train station out of London was chaos, an immoveable mass of people staring up and sighing. A mother single-handedly pushed along a pram and pulled a suitcase; no one gave her passage. On the packed train, I asked a young banker to remove his jacket and water bottle from a seat so I might sit down. The young lady opposite slept with her head against a window on which rain fell and dragged across. Her skin was quite without imperfection, and she was very peaceful; she did not know it, but she compelled me to feel better about a great many things. The smell of rain rose off everyone in the carriage, and I was drunk off it as my nostrils chilled at the introduction.
    There are space photographs. Do you see them? They are minor bursts of colour in the middle of an incomprehensible abyss of black. I see them. When I am not looking for the space photographs, they are shown to me. Breeze them past! What nonsense! O, to look upon these captures of solar magnificence stirs nothing in me whatsoever! Am I obliged to gasp and revere? I behold them with the same indifference as I do advertisements. And for that I feel ashamed. I am here; they are many miles above, and I am indifferent.
    Next week, I turn thirty-seven. It will be my thirty-eighth year. There is no need to speak more of the age thirty-seven; I have written about it before, many times; the age at which my mother became mortal, and I, too, learned that I was aging away from birth and closer to adulthood, closer to death. Everything is marked against my interaction with a star. The number thirty-seven is thrust upon me as I swoop about a ball of gas; as I elevate towards the end, so, too, does my counterpart, the sun. To strangers, it is energy; to acquaintances, a star; to me, its on-off lover, it is the sun. We will come together face-to-face when I turn thirty-seven at nine-o-five on the twenty-fifth as we once did when I was covered in the detritus of my mother. My mother was envious of my venus flytrap before it began to die, now I dare not show it to her.
    There were flowers when my mother turned thirty-seven. There was me, invited and ungrateful. We crowded around the bed. Those days are the metallic blue of her Peugeot 406. Summer was different. Summer was the best time of the year. At some point, when the last dregs of daylight spilled away, the sky and automobile matched so that one blurred into the other. I never understood what it meant.