Rheya Tanner

The Silence of the Plants

An open letter—and an open threat.

Dear houseplants,

It didn’t have to come to this. I tried to be nice. I tried to get to know you, figure you out. I tried to do this the easy way.

But you don’t like doing things the easy way, do you? No. You like to be coy. You like to play games. You like to have care instructions that are equal parts excessively precise—“needs four hours and eight minutes of indirect sunlight delivered at a 68-degree angle from a north-northwest-facing window”—and cryptically vague—“water when soil is maybe sort of dry-ish.”

You watch me try so hard to meet your persnickety Goldilocks demands. And then, when I throw my hands up in frustration, you get all huffy and die. Honestly, pretty toxic behavior.

And I’m not giving you a free pass just because you “don’t have a mouth” or you’re “biologically incapable of communication.” I’ve heard it all before, and I don’t buy a word of it. You’re clearly talking, since each of you comes with a little care card that somebody had to have written.

Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time, there was a plant. A vibrant Song of India, perched regally in a royal blue flowerpot that made her playful yellow hues shimmer like sunlight off the ocean.

From the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew it was love.I brought her home. I named her Tilly. I ran my fingers through her slender, leafy leaves and told her every day how excited I was for the life we had ahead of us.

Then, things changed. It was subtle at first—a twinge of brittleness at the tips of her highest leaves. But then it spread, day by day like frostbite on a limb. I scoured generic plant wikis and obscure 2005-era gardening forums on a modern-day internet Odyssey searching for the source of Tilly’s suffering. One site said it was from too much water. Another, from too little water. Too much sun. Too little sun. Pot too big. Pot too small. Pretty much the only consensus is that it was an obvious solution and it was my fault for not knowing how to fix it.

How? Why? How do these people know what I don’t know? Unless their plants were telling them.

I turned to Tilly and told her I was sorry for letting her down. I told her I’d do anything for her and asked her, just this once, to help me understand. And her only answer was silence.

So here’s the deal. I’m gonna buy another plant. I’m gonna name her Tilly. I’m gonna put her in that same beautiful, blue pot the original Tilly died in. I’m gonna place her on the windowsill. I’m gonna watch her die, slowly, agonizingly. I’m gonna let her sit withered and dead for weeks, both to symbolize my anguish and because I keep forgetting to take out the trash. And then I’m gonna waltz back into Lowe’s with a smile on my face and get a new one—maybe another Song of India, but maybe not. As long as she fits in the pot, she’s Tilly.

Do you want to be Tilly? I imagine you don’t. And really, it’s the easiest thing in the world to prevent. All I want, all I’ve ever wanted, are some answers.

I eagerly await your reply. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the pot.

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