I have a plant, Chlorophytum comosum to be precise. You may know it as a spider plant. Scrolling through my camera roll, past the nail art, the food, the cat pics and of course the many pictures of my child’s new puppy and his interactions with my far from new (I will not call him the “o” word, I am not emotionally there yet) Australian Retriever (all of which are adorable) tells me that I purchased this plant on August 18th, 2021 as a baby plant in a 2-inch pot. At the time of writing this, it is April 24, 2022. A mere 8 months later. Hardly any time at all. This is why, when I was checking over the plant after watering this afternoon, the words “Are you fucking kidding me? Really? I thought we had been through this?” should not have come out of my mouth.
And yet, they did. Followed immediately by, “Oh look! Another one. Isn’t that just great?” Sarcasm fully intended. You see, my spider plant — which I would like to point out has a 20-inch leaf span and is only in a 4-inch pot. a.k.a. I do not think it is okay from whatever passes for a mental standpoint in a plant. That is a lot of growing in 8 months — Will. Not. Stop. Blooming!
The first time was fairly soon after I brought it home. Less than 2 weeks if memory serves. Soon after the emergency re-potting from the 2-inch pot it was breaking out of. It shouldn’t have been blooming. As a general rule plants don’t like having their roots disturbed, and I disturbed the roots … with a pair of clippers. I clipped away its death grip on its old, broken pot and then trimmed back the roots attempting to impersonate a slinky, wrapping around and around inside the pot until there was no space left. There was also no soil. Then I moved it into its current home: a bright purple, 4-inch, hanging pot with a drip tray. It hangs from a hook in the ceiling above my desk and, along with all the other plants, tends to give the impression I am typing in the world’s smallest, most diverse, forest. Suffice to say after the abuse of an extreme re-potting, I didn’t expect it to bloom. I didn’t even expect it to visibly grow for the next few weeks. I thought it would take some time and — like a sensible plant — focus energy on re-establishing the roots I had just so brutally cut off. Instead, it choose to bloom.
I left the scapes to grow and spent the next 5 months (yes, 5, out of 8) watching them bloom and grow the cutest little spiderettes before I cut them off in December. I gave the baby plants to my child, where I am happy to report they are doing quite well and thought that was that. December is not exactly the growing season here in British Columbia, nor is my house even remotely like a south African tropical rain forest (number of plants aside), so I shouldn’t see any more until spring at least.
Oh how very wrong I was! In the 4 months since I have cut off new flower scapes (plural, that’s an “s”) 3 times. At least 2 every time. Now today there are 2 more that have just emerged above the top arch of the leaves. (Update: 1 week later it is 3! Update the Second: Another week and it is now 4!) It is ridiculous. They are not supposed to do this. They need the right conditions and I just don’t have them. My house is cold, drafty, and dry and the windows are tiny. It hasn’t been fertilized since October and only gets 9 hours of supplemental light, at best. What I do have is a very stubborn plant that refuses to give up. It will produce baby spiders no matter what.
At this point, I have a confession to make. While I have been ranting about the plant that will not stop there was something I should have been doing instead. Sitting right there in the bottom left corner of my screen as I type this is another open file. The name of that file is “April_2022_Paranormal”, the working title of the novel I am supposed to be writing. Instead of telling you about my plant and its reproduction habits that would be deemed an addiction if it were human, I am supposed to be telling you about Micah and Azlyn and Rieve and Eshran. I am supposed to be working out what is going down between Eshran and an as-yet-unnamed informant at a busy coffee shop. I am supposed to be letting them have a conversation that if anyone else overheard they would be deemed insane and locked up. I have planned for one of these characters to have questionable mental health (let’s be real, everyone has questionable mental health and could benefit from some time with a therapist, even those who currently have time with a therapist could use more), I have not planned to get actual mental health professionals involved.
I can hear you thinking, “But Gen, if it would be so bad for their conversation to be overheard, why have it in such a public place?” and the best answer I have is “Because in the 3000 years Eshran has been walking this earth (well, not this earth, but one very similar) he has learned the best way to keep your actions secret is to make damn sure everyone sees you doing it.” He has learned that if he goes lurking in dark alleys and passing coded messages while dressed in a trench coat, sunglass and a fedora people are going to notice (or make a very bad joke about “deep throat” and there are only so many ways you can take that statement and this is not that kind of novel!). On the other hand, if you treat it like any other conversation no one will even look twice. Say the word “exterminate” in the middle of a crowd and anyone who over-hears thinks you are talking about your ant problem. The same word in a dark corner of a parking garage at 3 am and you are planning to assassinate world leaders.
I’ve been stuck though. For days now, and no, it is not with writer’s block. My ability to write is very much unblocked as evidenced by the 1091 words you read to get to this point (not this point, that one back there where the actual number is. By the point you will have reached when you get to the end of this little aside it will be 1132). I am stuck on things ever so much more sticky than the inability to find words. I can find the words. I can write all about the hows and the whys and the story leading up to characters revealing/learning (depends on which camp they are. The revealing camp is where the daemons are. The learning camp is for the humans.) the root force that has been driving their lives forward since time began (literally). I can go, right now, and write about the inner turmoil some of them have when they realize they are not the masters of their own destiny and all the ways that turmoil manifests in the outside world. I could tell you, without hesitation, that they actually have far more agency than they think they do, they just need to find it. And I could tell you right this very instant that the main theme of this entire story is communication. To be precise it is, “Just fucking talk to each other!” (I get very upset with them sometimes can you tell?)
What I can’t tell you is how I got to the point where I have a gay, brown man in the role of the unknowing divine hybrid. I can’t tell you how I arrived at the place of being unable to easily change that by switching his role with the other main character (who is less brown) because if I did he would be a magical battery for everyone else and somehow that seems so much worse. I can not tell you how I, a non-christian, disabled person, who is frequently outright dismissed because of gender, with undiagnosed until recently ADHD (and thus was just “lazy” rather than physically unable to make myself do that), who has been financially disadvantaged most of my life and ping-pongs around on the sexuality scale enough to know it is not actually a scale — it is a, previously unknown to the fields of mathematics and science, geometric shape that simultaneously occupies multiple points in space-time — and due to all of the above am well acquainted with discrimination on many levels, end up tangled in a sensitivity debate … with myself.
Intellectually I know I am probably overthinking the situation. I know the world in this story is not ours as it is today. I know that in this world racial tensions never really had a chance to develop because everyone was too busy worrying that the very real — actual, physical, likely to manifest in front of you at any moment and leave you an empty, mindless, husk very susceptible to the power of suggestion — gods were much more of a problem. I know that in my main cast I do not have a single straight, white person and none that come to mind in the larger world of named characters. I know all of this. And yet there is a little voice in the back of my mind going “Do not ‘other’ the gay man and, for fuck sake, DO NOT make the brown guy into a resource!”
I have no idea how to answer said voice. The bottom line is that in this story, in the world of this story, to make an appearance as a main character, antagonist, protagonist, some other sort of “tagonist” that won’t be appearing in this list, you kind of have no choice. You can be a divine hybrid or a battery. Take your pick. There are no other options. I mean, sure, I could just make him a straight brown man instead yet that feels like it would be gay erasure to make my life easier and just thinking that feels scuzzy to the point I feel I need a shower.
And that brings us, full circle, back to the spider plant that will not stop blooming. It was while I was staring at this plant, coming to terms with the knowledge I was never going to win, debating cutting the new scapes off or just giving in and letting it do its thing and worry about what to do with the baby plants later, that the solution presented itself.
Just write the damn book. (I feel I should mention this is not the first time those exact words have been the answer to an issue I was having while writing and I don’t imagine they will be the last. It is, not surprisingly, the answer to a staggering number of writerly issues. I should keep track of how many I come across.)
I am never going to make everyone happy. I know with 100% certainty that any fault others might find with my characters and their representation was absolutely not my intent. I know every decision I have made about the ethnicity (or lack thereof in this case) is based on real, in-world logic. If one parent is brown and the other is sort of a light-ish beige you are probably not going to get a very dark brown baby or a pale, pink one for that matter. Genetics doesn’t (usually) work that way and genetics plays a surprisingly large role in this story. I will never get it just right and please everybody. Just like this plant will never stop sending up flowers just to make me happy. It wants to make babies and it doesn’t care there is nowhere to put them. It does not care that I can not shove a single extra plant in the available space. Not even a tiny one. I know, I have tried. The problems created by this stubborn insistence on reproduction are for another time. For now, just bloom.
So, yeah. My plant is free to send up as many flower scapes as it likes. I am not going to argue with it anymore. And I am just going to go write this book. I have done my best. I will deal with the other issues later. Before I go though; does anyone want a spider plant? I have a feeling I am about to have a lot of them.