I put the idea of getting a dog on pause and returned to my more natural instinct of looking after houseplants – or at least convincing myself that I could probably keep a houseplant living for a while. On a recent afternoon I was walking the aisles of a local gardening outlet as I searched for something colourful to replace the plants I had thrown out last month when I noticed that there was an offer where I could buy two plants for around £4. Even though I felt uncertain as to whether I could sufficiently care for one plant, let alone two, the frugal part of me saw this as an opportunity to save some money should I buy one plant and it meets an untimely demise, leaving me with an immediate need to buy another. I convinced myself that if two hands are better than one then it is probably also true that two plants are better than one.
Shuffling around the dirty, soil strewn displays of various orange and yellow and violet and red flowers with only another lone, much older male in close proximity reminded me a lot of the days spent as a young adolescent loitering around the section in John Menzies where they kept the adult reading material. The awkward glances over the shoulder to see if anybody was looking; the sense of fear and shame and exhilaration and not really understanding any of it; the way that just as you reach to take a closer look at the glossy Gladiolus someone walks past and you hastily retreat and pretend that you have made a terrible mistake and you’re really looking to browse power tools; finding that the coast is finally clear and you throw the first two plants you can reach into your basket and quickly leave the scene, hoping that nobody notices the orange sunflower poking out.
As I took stock of the variety of plants on offer I became aware that my internal narrator was producing a running commentary on the imagined conversations between the foliage before me. I tried to block it out and focus my energy on finding the flowers I could most effortlessly care for, but of late my internal narrator has become incessant and I couldn’t help but hear what was being said.
“Look at this guy, attempting to substitute human intimacy with a potted plant…the poor sap!”
“It’s July and he’s wearing a shirt and tie in the afternoon; who does that? His socks are probably only vaguely matching the tie, too.”
“Best not laugh guys, if he takes any of you home you’ll be dead within a week.”
“Pffft — I can’t imagine he ever takes anything home!”
Then the plants all high-fived each other, or at least they would have done if chrysanthemums had hands and could perform a high-five.
I resolved with myself that the best practice going forward would be to incorporate the care of my plants into my morning routine – as I am washed and watered then so are my plants, although separately as I am not ready for that level of intimacy yet. In recent times my morning routine has been half a Hogan: I take my vitamins, but I grew out of saying my prayers many years ago.
In the shower my process has been hindered by the increasingly hot temperature of the water, which is making it difficult to wash off all of the Nivea Deep Cleaning face wash. I’ve heard of being left with egg on your face, but having Nivea Deep Cleaning face wash on your face is surely the 2018 metrosexual equivalent.
Feeling some satisfaction that my houseplants were still alive after a couple of hours in my care I walked along to Aulay’s for the first of the World Cup semi-finals between Belgium and France. The bar was busy and in the corner there was a table populated by somewhere between four and six young Belgian women, all dressed in the regal red kit and with their national flag draped over the stained glass. They each shrieked with a primal excitement every time Belgium carried the ball into the opposition half and the sound pierced the eardrum with such sharpness that I found myself siding with the trio of Frenchmen who were sitting nearby.
As the game kicked off I ordered a pint of Tennents at the bar and contemplated the continental comeliness of the ladies. As I brought the froth of the lager to my mouth my internal narrator began to comment on the situation, and upon glancing again at the ladies I immediately found myself regretting my decision to eat my homemade pasta sauce, which is heavy on garlic and onion. I tried to focus on the game and forget about the circumstances of my hygiene, but my internal narrator continued to press on the point of my fragrant blunder. It insisted that if I even dared to approach the Belgians they would only turn their noses up at me as I would surely smell to them as though I was wearing a ring of onions around my neck, and not even Joop! could mask that scent.
The screeches of the girls quietened to a dull bar chatter after France’s victory and I considered approaching them in a conciliatory manner, though the maths of the situation was troubling me. How does a solo man approach a table of five Belgian girls without it being any more awkward than such encounters usually are when the numbers are more even? I took a hearty mouthful of beer and looked with a longing gaze at the table of Belgians, who were deep in the throes of defeat, as I tried to figure out which would be the best angle to approach from and how I could possibly make my walk appear confident when inside my internal narrator was telling me that I was a fool for even contemplating such a move. I began to recite potential opening lines in my head, but I was uncertain which of the girls I would even direct them to. In the end it didn’t really even matter when it turned out that it was impossible to talk to them, although not for the usual reason of my social ineptitude, but because they didn’t speak very much English.
It was after another week of intense solitude that I started to appreciate how the desire for a woman is essentially the banana in the fruit bowl of life, because it seems to be what ages everything else around it. All I really find myself craving is a mango: something that is sweet and juicy, with an alluring rosy flesh and a heart of stone. A good mango seems to be increasingly elusive, and following another fruitless evening in the bars on Saturday I embarked on the long walk home without my earphones after absent-mindedly leaving them at home.
Everything was silent and still, besides the restless machine of monologue in my mind, and when I made it through my door I remembered that it would be a good idea to water the plants which hadn’t been nourished for at least forty hours. They sat patiently atop the mantel place and I wondered if plants ever feel anything other than patience. They only ever seem to be waiting. I poured myself a whisky and fell asleep on the couch listening to Lou Reed, and the plants were going to have to wait a while longer.